Steamboat Springs Fish ladders are commonly known as a way that spawning salmon are able to circumvent giant hydroelectric dams in the Pacific Northwest. Now, the Yampa Ranger District of the Routt National Forest plans to build a concrete fish ladder in Poose Creek, a small stream that flows out of the Flat Tops about 32 miles west of Yampa.
The fish ladder will be part of an ongoing effort to support spawning of native Colorado River cutthroat trout. It would be built in an existing box culvert beneath an unpaved road that crosses the stream. The culvert prevents spawning and trout reproduction in the upper reaches of the stream.
Poose Creek flows off the flanks of Dunckley Pass in Rio Blanco County before flowing into Vaughn Lake. Routt County residents who drive to Trappers Lake in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area via Phippsburg are familiar with Vaughn Lake.
A document released by the U.S. Forest Service this week reports that Yampa District Ranger Jack Lewis would sign an environmental assessment required before construction of the fish ladder could go forward.
Cutthroat trout, named for the pair of crimson streaks beneath their lower jaws, spawn successfully in late spring in the northern Colorado Rockies. However, Forest Service documents state the culvert under Rio Blanco Country Road 8 where it crosses Poose Creek prevents spawning by the Colorado River cutthroats. They are a native species whose populations are not as numerous as they once were.
“The culvert on Poose Creek is a complete barrier to aquatic passage thereby eliminating access to 1.3 miles of stream habitat upstream of the culvert,” a Forest Service summary of the fish ladder reads. “The project would restore natural movement patterns and genetic exchange within the (trout) population.”
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com