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Fish barrier in Hermosa Creek to be cleared to support Colorado cutthroat populations

Those recreating on trail may experience delays during project
As part of the Hermosa Creek Colorado River cutthroat trout reintroduction program, the San Juan National Forest will be excavating debris from the fish wall at the Hermosa confluence to protect cutthroat habitats. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

San Juan National Forest will begin work next week on a project to protect native Colorado River cutthroat trout habitat in the Upper Hermosa Creek Drainage on the Columbine Ranger District.

An excavator will be used to remove natural material that has built up downstream of the Hermosa confluence fish barrier in Hermosa Creek. A barrier was placed in the stream in 2017 to prevent non-native fish species that out-compete native fish for food and habitat.

Material buildup below the barrier has created deep pools that make it more likely a non-native fish could pass the barrier and travel upstream.

Monitoring over the last two summers has detected non-native fish upstream of the barrier, which necessitated work on the existing barrier.

This project is part of the Hermosa Creek Special Management Plan and supports the the Hermosa Creek Colorado River cutthroat trout reintroduction program.

Colorado cutthroat were stocked in Hermosa Creek upstream of the barrier in both 2020 and 2021. A conservation population of cutthroat trout has been established in the Upper Hermosa Watershed, where anglers can now catch and release native cutthroat trout, many exceeding 12 inches in length.

The U.S. Forest Service said those planning to use the Hermosa Creek Trail, especially ATV users, may experience delays Monday. Forest managers will be walking the mini-excavator one-third of a mile down the creek trail. The excavator will require about one hour to travel on the trail. Another delay will happen occur Sept. 29 or 30, when the project is finished and the excavator is removed.

Forest Service personnel will be onsite to direct traffic and minimize trail user impacts.

njohnson@durangoherald.com

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