New grow-out ponds constructed near Fruita
Part of Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program
By Kathleen Goddeyne
The Bureau of Reclamation in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has completed construction of a complex of grow-out ponds at the Horsethief Canyon Native Fish facility near Fruita. The ponds were constructed as part of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program and the San Juan River Basin Recovery Program to hold and raise endangered fish.
The team started looking at designs for the grow-out ponds two years ago. After finding a location and deciding on a design, the construction took about a year to complete.
“We wanted to find a location close to the Colorado River so we could take water out of the river for the ponds,” Hock said.
The need for the grow-out ponds was initially identified as an essential component of the recovery programs to ensure the successful reproduction of the endangered Colorado River fish and genetic monitoring efforts. Without the ponds, production of endangered fishes of optimal size and numbers for stocking cannot be ensured. This would cause certain research in the area of genetics and propagation to be hampered.
Kissner General Contractors Inc., of Cedaredge, Colo. constructed the 22 ponds. Funding for the $5.3 million ponds came from the recovery programs to rear endangered razorback suckerfish and Colorado pike minnow. Bonytail and humpback chub will also be raised in the ponds in the future.
The five to six feet deep ponds are lined with a geo-membrane fabric to reduce seepage and range in size from 0.1 acres to 0.5 acres. Altogether, the ponds make up 6.2 acres of land.
The geo-membrane fabric also allows the ponds to be drained as well as maintain the water levels during operation and provides an area for the fish to be concentrated when the time comes to be relocated.
Reclamation’s Western Colorado Area Office designed the ponds and will complete mitigation and re-vegetation of the site.
Currently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service produces approximately 28,000 razorback suckers annually at the Ouray national Fish Hatchery, Grand Valley Unit in Grand Junction. Approximately 75 percent of those fish are taken to private ponds leased by the Service and the remainder of the fish is kept at the hatchery.
“We take fish from hatcheries when they’re one or two inches long. They’re outside and we feed them so they have the chance to get bigger, said Justyn Hock with the Bureau of Reclamation. “When they are bigger, they have a higher survival rate.”
The new Horsetheif Canyon Native Fish Facility ponds will greatly reduce, if not eliminate altogether, the need for leasing private ponds. Since the facility will be operated and maintained by the Service, the facility will provide greater numbers of fish to be returned to the river. The Service’s annual goal is to release a minimum of 15,000 fish back to the rivers.
The facility was designed to prevent flooding and is fenced to prevent river otters from entering ponds.