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Saturday, February 24, 2018

Corps' weir doesn't appear to be fish friendly



A recent Ranger Review article “25 years ago” noted the Montana Legislature approving a bill to allow the paddlefish caviar program at Intake.  It is sad to reflect on what the paddlefish population was then, what it is now, and what the future is for the species. Running the gauntlet every other year for 20+ years has proven to be fatal for many of the older adult paddlefish.   

Until we start managing for a healthy age structure in this population things are not likely to improve, especially if the Corp’s proposed plan for Intake does not work.  

Instead of installing an extended rock ramp and making the ramp more fish friendly which is what was communicated as the preferred alternative a couple of years ago, the Corp is now planning to install a concrete weir dam that will result in a steeper, higher and longer dam than we had prior to installing the new screen and intake structure.  

There doesn’t appear to be anything “fish friendly” about this weir, at least not compared to what we had.  They do plan to mitigate the dam effects by installing a 15 percent flow bypass channel that they hope all of the fish will use.  We are now planning on impacting ALL fish species on the Yellowstone River and not just the pallid sturgeon.  Imagine what this bypass channel will look like in August?  

The filter system recently installed now requires a higher elevation to pass sufficient water for the canal therefore we now have to deal with a higher dam requirement. 

I do not know why the irrigation folks are in favor of this plan if they ultimately will have to maintain screens, weir, rocks below the weir, and a three mile long bypass channel.   If they do not maintain these new structures who will?  The big question still remains “will the fish even use this bypass channel”?  No one  can answer this question. 

Also can boats use the bypass channel or will this scare the fish? What is to become of the slough around Intake Island? Should this be the preferred alternative now planned at Intake?  

This plan is the Corp’s response to mitigating the effects of their dams on Pallid Sturgeon on the whole Missouri River System. Wouldn’t you think they could build something that works for everyone, including the fish.   

Those of you who have an interest in the Yellowstone River may want to attend the Corp’s public meeting on April 23 at  6 p.m. at DCHS.    

Craig Wagner

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