Fish in West Slope creek will be studied |

Fish in West Slope creek will be studied

Phillip Yates
Glenwood Springs Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

PARACHUTE, Colorado ” The Colorado Division of Wildlife has begun sampling of fish species in Parachute Creek in the wake of four large water spills and reports of sediment pollution infiltrating the creek.

The agency is analyzing the current population and species distribution of fish in the creek ” which include native Colorado cutthroat trout and brook, brown and rainbow trout ” and will compare that data to historical records the agency has on the creek, said Randy Hampton, a spokesman for the DOW.

The results of the sampling will not be released until additional sites are sampled, Hampton said. Those additional sites that need to be sampled are near where Parachute Creek meets the Colorado River.

“We are doing that sampling as conditions allow,” Hampton said. “We appreciate the private landowners both on the affected site and private landowners downstream who have granted us access for this sampling.”

The tracking of fish species comes almost three months after the four spills by Berry Petroleum Co. and Marathon Oil Co. occurred on private lands of the Roan Plateau. Environmental Protection Agency and the state’s Water Quality Control Division sampling of the area, which also occurred about two months after the spills, revealed that they did not cause any lingering environmental impacts.

Work on a natural gas pipeline in the area also reportedly caused sedimentary pollution in Garden Gulch and in Parachute Creek, according to court records filed by the Colorado Attorney General’s Office.

The agency will conduct ongoing monitoring throughout runoff and at the end of the runoff season.

Hampton said the DOW is analyzing the fish by conducting “electro-fishing.” That means an agency employee will carry a long probe that sends “an electrical stimulation” that stuns fish momentarily.

“The fish then float to the surface. You can grab the fish, you can measure them and figure out what species you are dealing with,” Hampton said.

The fish revive from the shock and are released back into the water. The DOW employee is protected from the shock by wearing specially-made waders ” waterproof boots fishermen use while fishing in a river, Hampton said.

Ken Neubecker, president of Colorado Trout Unlimited, said the DOW’s efforts to sample the fish population in Parachute Creek was a good idea, especially in light of sediment allegations raised by the Colorado Attorney General.

“Sediment is some of the worst things that can happen to a stream, especially a trout stream,” Neubecker said. “It is a situation that can resolve itself over time, but it’s something that can do a lot of damage in the short term.

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