Paul Birdsey, the Division of Wildlife Resources southeast region aquatics manager told the Emery County Public Lands Council how the brown trout in Huntington Creek are responding to the changing water levels in the stream. "The Electric Lake dam is operated under a special use permit from the US Forest Service. PacifiCorp requested reduced stream flow to build up the amount of water being stored in Electric Lake. This request was approved on the conditional monitoring of this blue ribbon fishery," said Birdsey.
Birdsey stated this reduced stream flow began in 2002 and the monitoring was contracted to a private firm. In 2005, PacifiCorp contracted with the DWR for the monitoring services. Each year, two surveys of the brown trout are completed. One is done in July and one is done in September. These surveys are taken over a one-tenth section of the stream in two separate locations. One site is just below the Electric Lake dam, and the lower section is near Old Folks Flat.
For the past two years of surveys, the indications are that the population of brown trout may be declining slightly in both areas. This data is very susceptible to interpretation but the numbers appear to be declining. During the sampling, the fish at the upstream site are approximately 10 millimeters larger, more robust and healthier than the downstream fish, and the numbers of fish are larger in the fall than in the spring.
"One big problem that we are experiencing now is the filamentous algae in the stream. This may be negatively impacting the brown trout population by hampering insect feed growth. Another reason may be spawning behavior," stated Birdsey. "We are recommending a flushing flow sometime during the spring of 2007. This flow would need to be at least 300 cfs to get the rocks rolling to remove the algae."
Members of the lands council asked Birdsey if fishing pressure could be reducing the numbers and he stated that fishing pressure typically does not contribute to the lower numbers. He also said they encountered very few cutthroat trout during the samplings.
Cody Allred from PacifiCorp added to the presentation. "Electric Lake's storage capacity is 31,000 acre feet. In January of 2003, the lake was at its all time lowest level since it began filling in 1974. With the reduced flows since 2002, the level of the lake has been on an upward trend. Without a doubt, Electric Lake would have been dry for six months in 2004 without the varied stream flows. Without the James Canyon pumps, the estimates are that Electric Lake would have been dry for a total of 25 months since 2003."
Reg Soepnel, manager of the Hunter and Huntington Canyon power plants, said, "This has been a cooperative project that needs to keep going. We need to continue monitoring the fishery."