A chub — by any other name — still smells fishy. But in this case, we suspect there’s less than meets the eye in the thrashing about in the waters of Fossil Creek inspired by the recent “wrong chub” debate.
Thanks to a wonderful series of events, Fossil Creek has become one of the state’s great treasures — and a refuge for native fish being harried toward extinction everywhere else.
The Arizona Game and Fish Commission, Arizona Public Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made a visionary decision four years ago to shut down a historic hydroelectric plant and return water to the bed of Fossil Creek. In the process, they eliminated the non-native fish, such as catfish, bass and sunfish, and transformed the creek into an endangered fish refuge.
The 300 chubs removed and then returned to the stream four years ago have now increased to an estimated 15,000 native fish in 14 miles of creek between a gushing spring and the junction with the Verde River.
Game and Fish figured it would build support for these native fish and offer a unique angling opportunity by creating an off-season, catch-and-release fishery along 4.5 miles of creek. At the time they made the decision, the biologists assumed people would mostly hook roundtail chub, also known as Verde Trout.
Turns out, the more rare headwater chub dominates most of the creek, according to recent genetic studies.
Environmental groups who oppose a recreational fishery in Fossil Creek seized on those findings to seek the continued closure. The Game and Fish Commission this week rejected that claim, reasoning that the catch-and-release fishery would do no more harm to the headwater chub than it would do to the roundtail chub.
Granted, the whole effort could turn into an expensive ecological disaster if some idiot deliberately drops bait fish or some other non-native fish into the stream.
Still, we suspect catch-and-release anglers are less likely to do anything that foolish than are the crowds of trash-spewing yahoos down there every weekend. In fact, responsible anglers might set a good example and report violations.
But that doesn’t mean the state is off the hook when it comes to protecting Fossil Creek — precious beyond price for both its scenery and its ecology. So far, the state has failed to control those beer-guzzling, trash-wallowing knuckleheads from running amok.
Proving that the problem’s not the chubs, it’s the chumps.
Pine water: End of the beginning
Finally. It’s done.
The residents of Pine and Strawberry own their own water company — after a long, bitter, sometimes bewildering struggle. Many people deserve credit for the seemingly happy ending of that struggle, which will enable those communities to regain control of their own destiny.
Hopefully, the deep divisions caused by the fight and the legitimate differences on the right solution will now be washed away. After all, water can heal or it can destroy — we hope the community will bind up its wounds and join forces for what lies ahead.
Make no mistake, it’s not over.
We feel inspired to quote Winston Churchill, on the occasion of the Allied defeat of German Field Marshall Edwin Rommel’s forces at El Alamein in North Africa — the first notable Allied victory after a long string of disasters.
Churchill said: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end, but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
Residents now own an inadequate water system, which nearly goes dry in the summer, can’t supply perhaps half of the vacant land and comes complete with years of deferred maintenance. Backers of the takeover have repeatedly promised not to raise water rates, but we’d be surprised if they can keep to that intent for very long.
Moreover, vacant lots that have long lingered in the limbo of the building moratorium imposed by the Arizona Corporation Commission just jumped in value — and we suspect builders will line up as soon as the economy begins to recover. That means the new water district will have to consider the politically explosive topic of impact fees, which would help raise the money to drill new, deep wells and upgrade the system.
In truth, the sale didn’t actually solve any of the water supply problems that have plagued the community for a decade — it merely put the responsibility and the freedom to act in local hands.
So let us celebrate, the end of the beginning.