Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Native trout returning to Shingle Creek

Photo by Tod Williams

One of Utah's native fish, the Bonneville cutthroat trout, will soon be returned to the Shingle Creek drainage. Shingle Creek is one of the primary tributaries of Clear Creek, located on the north end of the Tushar Mountains in Piute and Sevier counties. The stream originates near the Piute-Beaver county line and flows north for approximately 9 miles to where it meets the much smaller Clear Creek. The entire length of Shingle Creek lies within the boundaries of the Fishlake National Forest.

The drainage above the Shingle-Clear Creek confluence will be chemically treated with rotenone on Sept. 22, 2010, in order to remove non-native fish. This area includes: approximately 8 miles of Shingle Creek, beginning 1.2 miles upstream (south) of the end of Forest Road 114 and extending to the confluence with Clear Creek; Snow Canyon, a small tributary, from its confluence with Shingle Creek upstream approximately 2.5 miles; and Clear Creek, from its confluence with Shingle Creek upstream approximately 1.5 miles. In addition, two ponds on the Nowell property in Long Valley will be treated with rotenone on Sept. 20 or 21. To ensure that non-native fish are completely removed from target waters, a second rotenone treatment is planned for Sept. 2011.

General plans to conduct native trout restoration projects were formalized in The Conservation Agreement and Strategy for Bonneville Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarki utah) in the state of Utah. Specific details of the Shingle Creek project were outlined in the Final Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact for Native Trout Restoration and Enhancement Projects in Southwestern Utah.

Liquid rotenone (Prentox Prenfish toxicant) will be applied to target waters using nineteen 7-gallon drip barrels. The drips will be set on the morning of the Sept. 22 and run through the afternoon. Most drips will run for 3 to 8 hours, depending upon the location, to ensure that all fresh water sources are simultaneously treated. Charges for drip stations are calculated to apply the 5% active ingredient liquid rotenone at a concentration of 1.5 parts per million in the target reach. Rotenone applied by backpack sprayers will be mixed at a ratio of approximately 8 ounces of 5% rotenone to 3 gallons of filtered water.

To deactivate the rotenone downstream of the target area, potassium permanganate—an oxidizing agent—will be applied to treated waters below the Shingle-Clear Creek confluence.

Although rotenone is relatively benign to humans, fish treated with the chemical have not been cleared for human consumption by the FDA. Consequently, the salvage of fish during the project will not be permitted. Bonneville cutthroat trout may be stocked in the treated section as early as fall 2011. Similar restoration projects involving Utah's native trout are underway throughout the state as part of conservation strategies designed to prevent their listing under the Endangered Species Act.

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