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Creek closes for fish poisoning

The Camp Verde Journal of Camp Verde, Arizona

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The U.S. Forest Service is closing Fossil Creek to the public so that the Arizona Game and Fish Department can attempt to remove a nonnative population of smallmouth bass.

The creek was closed earlier this week, according to the Coconino National Forest, which manages the area in conjunction with the Tonto National Forest.

The closure is expected to last through Friday, Sept. 28, or until the fish are completely removed.

The bass were found in the creek earlier this year despite a barrier erected downstream intended to keep nonnative fish out. The barrier was erected in 2004 following flooding. Another barrier was put up following flooding in 2010 along with another concerted effort to remove fish that had managed to infiltrate upstream.

The state is now working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service to remove the new fish.

Since the century-old Childs and Irving hydroelectric power plants were decommissioned in recent years, the unique waterway has been restored to its natural flow.

Native fish have been doing well there since water flows have returned.

It's also possible someone could have deliberately put the bass into Fossil Creek, according to the game and fish department.

Nonnative fish like the small-mouth bass compete for resources and make it more difficult for native species to successfully survive.

The fish have infiltrated 2.6 miles of the creek.

State wildlife officials held a public meeting last week in Camp Verde to discuss their plan, which involves poisoning the fish with a chemical called rotenone, which kills animals with gills and soon deteriorates into nonpoisonous substances.

"The meeting went well," said Scott Rogers, game and fish department program manager. "Everything has been signed off on."

Rogers said the past week has been spent in preparation of the event, which should begin this week barring any changes to the weather.

The treatment area will be in an area of Fossil Creek between the temporary fish barrier where Sally May Wash meets the creek and the original fish barrier located in the Mazatzal Wilderness.

Environmental groups and the Yavapai-Apache Nation petitioned APS to consider closing the power plants in the early '90s in order to restore natural flows to Fossil Creek.

APS determined that, although the plants played a crucial role in the development of Central Arizona with their four megawatts of power, they no longer provided enough power to the APS grid that shutting them down would have an adverse effect on electrical service.

The flows were restored in 2005.

In 2009, the creek was granted Wild and Scenic River status by the U.S. Congress, a classification that provides important federal protection to Fossil Creek. Fossil Creek and the upper Verde River are the only

Arizona waterways to share that distinction.

The creek is home to more than 300 species of plants and supports more than 175 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and other animals, especially important as more and more riparian areas have disappeared from the deserts of the Southwest over the last century.

For information about the closure, call the Fossil Creek hotline at 226-4611, the Red Rock Ranger District at 203-2900 or visit www.coconinoforest.us.

Fossil Creek Closure

Nonnative species threaten fish habitat

Schedule from now through end of month

Government agencies to poison fish



Copyright 2012 The Camp Verde Journal, Camp Verde, Arizona. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: September 12, 2012



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