A large-scale collaborative effort that will prevent future losses of migrating cutthroat trout and other native fish by installing a fish screen on the Spread Creek irrigation system has begun.
It will also make much-needed improvements to stabilize the diversion structure and canal in the project area, which were damaged by flooding.
Phase 2 of the Spread Creek Fish Passage project is a partnership between Grand Teton National Park, Trout Unlimited, Bridger-Teton National Forest and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
In 2010, the Spread Creek Dam – an obsolete and crumbling irrigation diversion dam located just outside of Grand Teton National Park on Bridger-Teton National Forest lands – was removed, opening well over 50 miles from the Spread Creek watershed to the migratory slaughterer of the Snake River. trout for the first time in over 50 years.
Since the dam was removed and replaced with a fish-friendly diversion structure and a new water distribution system, project partners have documented the successful movement of fish in the Spread Creek watershed – but have also found that native fish are trapped in the Spread Creek irrigation system. as they migrate downstream.
“It has been exciting to see Spread Creek being used by Snake River fish,” said Diana Miller, fisheries biologist at the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. “Not only have we documented the movement of Cutthroat Trout from the Snake River into Spread Creek, but also other native species like the Blue Sucker, which are a species of special concern in Wyoming. Unfortunately, along with this movement upstream, we have seen juvenile and adult fish become trapped in the Spread Creek ditch system, and we are eagerly awaiting the installation of the fish screen to eliminate this loss of fish.
Additionally, Spread Creek is a very dynamic system and water users including GTNP, Triangle X Ranch, Moosehead Ranch, and Pinto Ranch have experienced problems with the irrigation water supply over the years. flooding due to infrastructure damage, scour and sedimentation. The second phase of the Spread Creek Fish Passage project not only addresses native fish trapping issues, but also addresses the needs of irrigators and public land managers.
The three components of the project include 1) installation of a fish screen in the Spread Creek irrigation system that supplies water to ditches while returning trapped fish safely to Spread Creek via a bypass pipe; 2) rehabilitate the irrigation bypass structure for long-term stability and optimal fish passage conditions; and 3) adding structures in streams to protect riverbanks and irrigation infrastructure in the project area.
“Spread Creek is a vital part of the Upper Snake River ecosystem, and we are committed to protecting iconic and important fisheries across agency and jurisdictional boundaries,” said Chip Jenkins, National Park Director. from Grand Teton. “This project is the culmination of more than a decade of efforts to remove a dam and restore this important fishery, while maintaining the water supply to local irrigators. Thanks to the unwavering support and collaboration of several agencies and partners, we continue to move towards and ultimately achieve this noble goal.
More than 20 partners have contributed to the success of the project, which has a budget of over $ 1.5 million in financial and in-kind support from partners.
Funding was provided by the Jackson Hole Community Foundation, Desert Fish Habitat Partnership, Jackson Hole Trout Unlimited, Jackson Hole One Fly, National Forest Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation: Bring Back the Natives, Snake River Fund, Teton Conservation District , US Fish and Wildlife Service Fish Passage, Vail Resorts Epic Promise, Western Native Trout Initiative, Wildlife Tourism for Tomorrow via The WYldlife Fund, WorldCast Anglers, WY Department of Environmental Quality, WY Game and Fish Department, WY Water Development Commission, WY Wildlife and Natural Resources Trust and private donors.
GTNP, BTNF and WGFD provided technical and in-kind support in the form of project administration, management, review, monitoring and authorization. Over $ 300,000 in large boulders needed for structures in project streams was donated by GTNP, and trees with roots were donated by BTNF.
“I think the most energizing part of the project is the incredible support we have received from partners and community members, many of whom were not only involved in the dam removal phase of the project over a decade ago. ‘a decade, but also doubled and tripled to provide funding as reach and costs increased, ”said Leslie Steen, NW Wyoming program manager for Trout Unlimited. “They have truly stayed true to us and our shared vision of a healthy and thriving Spread Creek watershed with no barriers to the migration of native fish.”
Phase 2 of the Spread Creek Fish Passage project is expected to be completed by spring 2022 and includes volunteer support for fish rescue and restoration work. This is a project of TU’s Snake River Headwaters Home Rivers Initiative, an ambitious initiative to restore and protect the sources of the Snake River and its fishery, in collaboration with a diverse group of communities, landowners and partner agencies.