New Castle works to improve fish habitat
New Castle town officials and natural resource consultants are working to make the stressed habitat of lower Elk Creek more fish-friendly.Increased summer water use, the continued drought and the flat layout of the creek that runs through the western edge of town combine to degrade the fish habitat. Lower summer water levels drive away various species of fish that prefer cooler, deeper waters, said Brian Gray, Colorado Division of Wildlife district manager.”The water gets drawn down so bad that there are not that many pools for the fish to live in during the summer,” Gray said.The creek is home to rainbow trout, brown trout and native mountain white fish that spawn in the fall, he said. Without slow-moving, deep-water pools, the fish retreat to other waters in the Colorado River or East Elk Creek and do not spawn in the tributaries.To give the fish a fighting chance, the town decided to take advantage of some necessary water pipe work that crossed Elk Creek. While working on the town’s pump station project that pipes a backup water supply from the Colorado River north along Elk Creek to the water plant, the town created deeper water pools at the new water line crossings.”The town worked proactively with the local Army Corps of Engineers to use this opportunity to re-establish these portions of Elk Creek as a fish-friendly environment,” said Jim Stevens, town project coordinator.Two water features were added this summer in narrower sections of Elk Creek, one just north of Riverside School and one south of the school near the town ‘s wastewater plant.”Putting in the structures protects the water line and provides a pool below to hold fish,” said consulting hydrologist Bill Johnson with Earth Resource Investigations in Carbondale. “Right after the construction … the fish moved in.”The habitat improvement eventually should lead to the increase in the number, size and mix of fish in the stream. The structures also improve the riverfront aesthetic and provide a place for families to explore, Stevens said.Town officials hope to add more water pools to improve the stretch of the creek and are researching possible funding sources.Town officials hope to add more water pools to improve the stretch of the creek and are researching possible funding sources.
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The city of Rifle plans to allocate grant funding for improvements to Railroad Avenue and Third Street.