Native Fish Return To Fossil Creek

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Arizona Game and Fish biologists will use helicopters and 55-gallon drums Friday to return native fish to Fossil Creek.

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When the Irving and Childs power plants are shut down at the end of this year, Fossil Creek will flow at an increased rate of 410 gallons per second. The creek is expected to become a pristine fishery.

"The fish will be lowered in the drums on a long steel cable attached to the helicopter," AGF officer Rory Aikens said. "The fish will then be taken out of the of the container by hand, by biologists, and placed back in the creek."

The fish were removed from the creek about two weeks ago as a part of the effort to restore Fossil Creek to its historic streambed and return native fishing populations.

According to Aikens, the Red Rock Fly Casters Club used hooks and lines to help remove the fish.

"We also backpacked electro-shockers in and used nets," Aikens said. "After we collected the fish, they were taken out by helicopter and have been kept in several holding tanks."

Following the native fish's removal, a short-lived chemical (Antimycin) was added to stretches of the stream to remove any exotic fish remaining.

Officials from the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, Arizona Public Service and the game and fish department will be on hand to witness Friday's return of the fish.

The extraction and return of native fish to the creek is part of the decommissioning of the Childs-Irving hydroelectric plants that will take place at the end of this year.

The shutting down of the two plants, Aikens said, "will result in historic flows being restored to Fossil Creek, which is a rare travertine stream."

According to Arizona Public Service Gila/Navajo Customer Service Manager Jan Parsons, the shutdown of the Childs and Irving power plants will take place about 12:01 a.m. 2005 when employees will lift gates that will restore water to the creek.

"Then, there will be no water to turn the turbines," Parsons said.

When the plants are shut down, full flows of water, about 410 gallons per second, will be restored to the creek.

Ban proposed

Although native fish, including roundtail chub, will be returned to the creek Friday, the game and fish department has proposed a 2005 regulation that could close Fossil Creek to fishing for about two years.

According to AGF Fisheries Branch Chief Larry Riley, the closure is needed to allow fish populations to reproduce and restore themselves.

The fishing ban, along with the decommissioning of the power plants, could mean the pristine beauty of Fossil Creek would be restored to what it was 100 years ago.

At the conclusion of the proposed ban, should it be approved, game officials are predicting Fossil Springs could become one of the unique and productive fishing spots in the nation.

Fossil Creek restrictions

During the on-going restoration project at Fossil Creek, Arizona Game and Fish officers have issued closures for several sections of the waterway.

Closures in effect until Friday include no contact with creek water from the Fossil Springs Dam downstream to the bridge below Irving.

From Nov. 7 to Nov. 15, no contact with creek water will be allowed downstream from the Irving Power Plant to the Verde River.

From Nov. 28 to Dec. 6, no contact with creek water will be allowed downstream from Sally May Wash.

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