Fish Habitat Enhancement Discussed During Meeting
The Huntington North Reservoir Resource Management Planning work group met on May 29 at the Huntington North Reservoir.
Chris Sands is the Bio-West, project team leader and their company is assisting the Bureau of Reclamation with the resource management plan.
Sands distributed copies of a proposed fish habitat enhancement project for the reservoir from Louis Berg, regional aquatic program manager. Berg was not present at the meeting. Sands reviewed the document with the group. The proposal describes several phases of improvements to the reservoir with the objective being improved fishing opportunities. Berg points out that in the initial years after the filling of the reservoir it was an outstanding fishery. Shoreline vegetation which provided fish habitat has decomposed and disappeared.
Phase one of the proposed project involves removing the old fish habitat structures, which are tires from the reservoir so that further problems do not occur. These tires in the past have come loose and been sucked into the outlet works.
Phase two of the project would deal with establishing artificial fish habitat structures. The proposed plan would be to dig trenches approximately three feet wide and three feet deep, and 150 feet long. The trench will contain a cabled gang of about 50 fish habitat structures. Each habitat structure will consist of several strands of floating rope attached to a concrete anchor.
Phase three involves placing an oversized marker buoy, connected to a weighted fish habitat structure, at the mouth of the southwest cove area. The buoy will indicate the presence of a fish habitat structure and will state that boats must travel at wakeless speed within 150 feet.
Phase four of the final phase of the project consists of placing 50 fish habitat structures in the deepest portion of the reservoir. Having these types of structures in place in the deepest water will ensure that when the reservoir is drawn down to its lowest levels that the fish will still have appropriate habitat. Monitoring of all phases will be done to check for sedimentation levels and increase of fish populations. Also limited creel surveys to determine angler harvest and catch rates will also be performed during this period. If an improvement in the fish population or in angler catch rates is not documented by 2006, the fish habitat structures installed in phases two, three and four of the project will be removed from the lake by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
Sands pointed out this proposal from Berg is just that, a proposal and the work study group would not approve or deny it; but simply review it and become familiar with it. He said none of Berg's proposals would be approved until the resource management plan is complete. Tim Wagner from Bio-West pointed out that the resource management plan is more general and that detailed projects come after the resource management plan has been approved.
Jamie Dalton, from the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation said, Berg probably has to plan in advance for funding and needs to begin that process.
Jay Mark Humphrey from the Emery Water Conservancy said they had not been contacted with regards to the fish enhancement project. He pointed out their office would need to approve any projects for the reservoir. He felt Berg was acting prematurely because the resource management plan is not scheduled for completion until summer of 2003. He mentioned phase one of the proposed project has a start date of August-October 2002.
This phase was the removal of the tires. Humphrey explained that the tires need to be removed in a certain way by people who know what they are doing so as not to cause any damage to the reservoir. He stated the water conservancy district could be hired to do the work and he did not see a problem with that.
Humphrey said the public survey part of the resource management plan has not been done yet. The DWR wants a fishery he said, but maybe the public wants boating and recreation. The public has a right here. If the DWR wants to move forward they need to discuss this first with the district and the bureau of reclamation, I think they are moving too fast, said Humphrey.
Dalton, was next with the subcommittee report. He spoke about the southwest cove area and what should happen there.
Ron Taylor, Huntington State Park Manager, mentioned the southwest cove area is under the water conservancy district's primary area of jurisdiction. If any improvements or changes in status were to take place it would have to be changed to park jurisdiction. Taylor said their only jurisdiction in the cove is limited to law enforcement. Humphrey pointed out for any change in jurisdiction to take place for developed recreation, the park service would have to commit time and resources and do it properly. The water conservancy district could not allow it to be taken over if the money is not there to develop it properly.
Sands added that yes, it would take considerable money to develop facilities in the cove. Current access to the cove will be maintained. It was determined that it is a county road leading to the cove, but it is in poor condition. Humphrey pointed out the need for some access areas to remain fee free.
Dalton pointed out the need to formally adopt a boating limit. "Ron Taylor, Tim Smith and I will look at a draft policy," he said.
Wagner was next with his report. He said they have been pulling together baseline data to serve as a foundation for the resource management plan. He said they will look at different alternatives and management strategies. He said they have gathered a brief history of the county and statistics on the reservoir. He gave a brief description of the climate and the air quality of the reservoir. He listed shoreline erosion as a problem, it is due to wave action and fluctuations in water levels. They are identifying areas around the reservoir which are most susceptible to erosion. There are no shallow ground water hazards in the area, with the ground water 30 feet below the surface.
There are some seeps south of the dam which have contributed to a wetland area. The soil is a clay loam and soil erosion is not a big issue. Wagner mentioned that by law, threatened or endangered species within the project area have to be identified. He said there are some occasional sightings of bald eagles and peregrine falcons. Birds are the most consistent form of wildlife at the reservoir.
The only historical value of the project area was identified as the old Mohrland ditch which was built between 1898-1907 and served five families in the area. It was abandoned in 1962-63. Fossils have been identified in the area. No Indian trustland has been identified. The recreation and visual qualities of the reservoir include fishing, camping and water based activities such as swimming and boating. The reservoir has been divided into five major use areas: the dam, the state park, the northern section, the inlet and the southwest cove.
A history of the usage of the reservoir was also discussed. In 1992, 85,743 visitors were recorded. In 1995, 58,264 visitors. Taylor said a good average is 60,000 visitors per year. Bio-West has also been identifying any records to find management agreements and permits and anything that could have an effect on management. They have found that Utah Power has an easement for right of way for a power line. They have identified six other permits like the one with Utah Power.
The existing management will be part of the phase one document. A visitor survey has been started at the park and will continue through Labor Day. This survey will help to detail desired recreational interests at the reservoir.
Jim Jensen, reclamation team leader, said that the contracts for the management of the 11 reservoirs by the state parks is in the renewal process and they will be finalizing the state park agreement. They are trying to lump these reservoirs together under one contract.
It was pointed out that NEPA requires a wide range of alternatives that spell out land use in all categories. Sands said they will be putting ideas down to react to. There are no specific alternatives yet. Peter Crookston, from the bureau of reclamation mentioned that when looking at alternatives things go from one extreme to the other and things usually fall into place somewhere in the middle.
Sands said at the next meeting the phase one document will be distributed and the alternatives will be refined. The next work group meeting will be held in July. This will give the necessary time for the draft document to be completed.