Victory over whirling disease |

Victory over whirling disease

A statewide effort to rid fish hatcheries of whirling disease has succeeded, and the victory over the destructive little spore is especially sweet at the Rifle Falls Fish Hatchery.

The fight against whirling disease was necessary, since it threatened to wipe out almost every wild and hatchery-raised rainbow trout stock in the West.

That the Colorado Division of Wildlife jumped on the effort so quickly and so effectively speaks well for the agency, now run by Rifle native Russell George.

Whirling disease hasn’t gone away. The spores are still present in many Colorado streams, including Rifle Creek, and continue to threaten wild trout hatchlings.

But DOW spent more than $10 million to exclude the disease from its trout hatcheries scattered across the state, including more than $2 million spent at its showcase hatchery at Rifle Falls.

Basically, the projects isolated pure spring waters at their source, piping them directly to hatchery systems. Infected creek water is excluded from the hatcheries.

This job was particularly challenging at Rifle Falls, where the spring sources lie right along Rifle Creek. DOW engineers and Bogue Construction of Grand Junction designed and built a collection system using waterproof membrane. This spring, 14 months after the project was complete, Rifle Falls hatchery fish tested clean.

Production numbers for 2003 are impressive: 700,000 10-inch “catchables” and about 2 million fingerlings. Production growth is expected, but the hatchery will never reach its historic production of 1.3 million catchables a year.

When the modernization project started in 2000, DOW wanted to extend a pipeline farther upstream into Rifle Mountain Park. The Rifle City Council and Rifle residents refused. They wanted to keep the warm spring water in Rifle Creek, where it feeds a unique creekside ecosystem. Without the added spring water, the hatchery had to scale back production.

Rifle was right to stand its ground. While trout fishing is important for Colorado, the mountain park is an irreplaceable resource.

Luckily, the good work of isolating spring flows and making the hatchery safe from disease could be done anyway, and the hatchery is back in business producing strong, healthy fish.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User