Native Aquatic Species of the Gila River Basin
in Arizona and New Mexico
What's NewNew Fish Barrier in Hot Springs Canyon
In December 2010, Reclamation completed construction of another concrete fish barrier intended to prevent upstream movements of nonnative fishes into native fish habitats. This one is located in Hot Springs Canyon, a tributary to the San Pedro River in Cochise County, Arizona. The barrier protects the existing five native fishes, including the endangered Gila chub, plus four additional threatened/endangered species that have been restored (repatriated) to the drainage (loach minnow, spikedace, desert pupfish, Gila topminnow). This is the sixth fish barrier Reclamation has constructed in the Gila River basin to assist with recovery of federally-listed native fishes.
Bubbling Ponds Native Fishes Conservation Facility Upgrades
The Bubbling Ponds Native Fishes Conservation Facility located at the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Bubbling Ponds Hatchery in Cornville, Arizona, provides protected environment for populations of the rarest species of native fishes in the Gila River basin. The facility was designed to house and propagate (reproduce) those populations as insurance against extinction in the wild and to help restore them to new streams. Federally-threatened loach minnow and spikedace are two current-loving fishes that are held at the facility, and we have found that they reproduce best when placed in artificial streams as opposed to circular tanks. The facility has built several streams for this purpose, and propagation output has been expanded significantly. Some of the artificial streams are built from used military missile containers that are outfitted with high-capacity pumps to create swift currents.
Blue River fish barrier construction is underway
Following completion of many environmental compliance requirements, including Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act, and Wild & Scenic River Act, a contract to construct a fish barrier on lower Blue River, Greenlee County (northeast of town of Clifton, Arizona) was signed in late September. The purpose of the barrier is to prevent nonnative fishes in the San Francisco River from invading Blue River and having a negative impact on the federally-threatened loach minnow and other native fishes that reside there. In addition, the barrier will help with the planned reintroduction of the threatened spikedace and the candidate-for-listing roundtail chub. A 1/26 scale model of the proposed barrier was built at Reclamation’s Denver Technical Center to assist with selection of a final design that would minimize erosion and increase barrier function in preventing upstream movements of nonnative fishes. Construction access to the site will be entirely by helicopter, as no roads are present. Construction began on October 24, when the bulk of the construction machinery and tools were flown to the site, and the project is expected to be completed by May of 2012.
Fossil Creek fish barrier updates
1. Barrier compromised by flooding - A major flood occurred in Fossil Creek in early 2010 that deposited a large pile of sediment immediately below the left side (looking downstream) of the constructed fish barrier. This sediment pile increased the depth of water below the barrier and decreased the height of the barrier crest below designed specifications. Reclamation removed some of this material in May of 2010 using hand tools, but was unable to completely restore the barrier to full function. In July of 2011, nonnative smallmouth bass were found upstream of the barrier, likely a result of its compromised condition. Reclamation anticipates awarding a contract in 2012 to completely restore channel configuration and barrier function by removing the remainder of the sediment pile and the large boulders that created the channel constriction. Once the barrier function is restored, the smallmouth bass will have to be removed.
2. Temporary fish barrier construction - In order to prevent the invading smallmouth bass from traveling too far upstream in Fossil Creek, Reclamation and numerous other agencies and volunteers constructed a temporary barrier of sandbag-filled wire baskets at a site 1.9 miles upstream of the permanent barrier. This emergency action was accomplished in less than two months following the initial detection of smallmouth bass above the permanent barrier, requiring Herculean efforts by a multitude of people to complete the necessary environmental compliance, engineering design, equipment purchases, and logistics planning. Approximately 50 people assisted with the barrier construction operation. Once the permanent fish barrier function is restored and the smallmouth bass have been eradicated, the temporary barrier will be removed.
San Pedro Refuge Pond Update
The two refuge ponds reconstructed by Reclamation on The Nature Conservancy’s Lower San Pedro River Preserve near Dudleyville, Arizona, were both lined in the last couple of years to minimize seepage losses and control cattail encroachment. Currently, the smaller pond serves as a refuge site for endangered desert pupfish (El Doctór, Mexico lineage), and the larger pond for endangered Gila topminnow (Bylas Springs lineage) and Gila chub (O’Donnell Canyon and T4 Spring lineage). All species are reproducing abundantly, and already have served as source stocks for several repatriations of the species into wild sites including Redfield Canyon, Hot Springs Canyon, Bonita Creek, and Fossil Creek. See conservation projects 40 and 53 on the Conservation Efforts-Projects page for more information on these ponds.
Updates to the website
November 29, 2011
Joseph J. Billerbeck - firstname.lastname@example.org