Last week Trout Unlimited was granted a $78,000 Fishing Is Fun grant from Colorado Parks and Wildlife for a fish passage project on Elk Creek near New Castle, Colorado. TU partnered with CPW to design and build a fish passage channel around the Ware and Hinds irrigation diversion structure on Elk Creek, a tributary to the Colorado River main-stem with its confluence at New Castle, CO. The Ware and Hinds diversion structure spans the width of the channel and presents a barrier to spawning fish moving out of the Colorado River main-stem
This project is intended to serve as an additional source of fishes to the Colorado River by providing access to spawning, nursery, and rearing habitats above the dam- roughly 3.3 miles of currently unused spawning habitat. Native and non-native fishes will have the opportunity to recruit both within the Elk Creek drainage and downstream to the Colorado River. The completion of this project would increase public angling opportunities for wild trout, and in doing so, has the potential to benefit local businesses that rely on these increased recreational opportunities and associated revenues.
The total $166 thousand project is slated to be completed in June 2017 with the passage construction beginning this November.
The fish passage project could not have moved forward without the work from the Ferdinand-Hayden Chapter by raising $3,000 that allowed for the preliminary engineering to be completed. "This came at a critical time when I needed to finalize our design drawings," said Richard Van Gytenbeek, Colorado River Basin Outreach Coordinator. "Their contribution allowed me to pay the engineer and complete the drawings which kept the project going."
TU also acknowledges the Fishing Is Fun review committee for funding a project that has a different approach to their stated program goals. "Normally successful grants improve habitat, facilities (ramps, docks, bathrooms, etc.) and public access. The key is that they all have a direct link to public access," said Van Gytenbeek. "In this approach TU made the case that if we could get these fish upstream to spawn that their progeny would, over time, increase population numbers in the Colorado River main-stem; one of the most publicly accessible river sections in the state. The project will effectively create a wild fish hatchery that feeds the main-stem and benefits all anglers."
The Elk Creek passage also demonstrates the growing relationship between TU and agriculture partners. The fish passage is actually cutting through the Ware and Hinds irrigation and diversion structure. "We got the cooperation and unanimous support of the Ware and Hinds Ditch Co. board and shareholders and the underlying agricultural landowners (Burning Mountain Cattle Co. and William Family Partnerships)," according to Van Gytenbeek. "This continues to demonstrate the importance of sportsmen and agricultural interests working together for the betterment of local rivers and streams and the communities that depend on them."