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Dead fish will be replaced by city

Janet Urquhart

The city of Aspen plans to stock the Roaring Fork River with 300 trout to replace fish that died, apparently, as the result of a water department mistake.

The water department has received a proposal from the Spring Creek Trout Farm near Meredith, in the upper Fryingpan River Valley, to purchase 300 rainbow trout for $900, said Phil Overeynder, department director.

“We’re dealing with the Division of Wildlife to see when the appropriate time to release them is so they’ll survive,” he said.

The city contacted the state DOW after the accidental fish kill earlier this month and offered to take whatever action the agency advised, according to Overeynder.

“We offered to replace them to mitigate the loss and to do whatever [the DOW] wanted. This was their request,” he said.

The DOW asked for a two-for-one replacement of the fish that were killed when chlorinated water was released into the river. Top estimates placed the fish kill at about 150 trout, so the city will arrange to have 300 new fish put in the water.

Stocking with either brown trout or rainbows was acceptable to the DOW, Overeynder said. The rain-bows from Spring Creek are 11 to 12 inches long, he said.

With river flows unusually low during this hot, dry summer, the city will arrange for release of the trout whenever the DOW says it is best for the fish, Overeynder said.

The water department is also taking action to make sure the unintentional release of chlorinated water into the river is not repeated, he added.

The fish kill occurred Aug. 4 when the water department dumped 3,000 gallons of overchlorinated water into a storm drain. The water, which received too much chlorine when a pump stopped, was expected to flow into a pond near the Theater in the Park tent.

A map used by water department employees showed the storm drain, at Hunter Street and Durant Avenue, emptied into the pond. But a follow-up test using dyed water showed the drain leads to Mill Street.

From there, the water flowed straight into the river through a culvert some 100 feet east of the Mill Street Bridge. Anglers in the area noticed dying fish almost immediately.

Though the water had been treated with a dechlorination agent, it apparently had not mixed thoroughly with the water and some chlorine remained. The dechlorination process was to be completed in the pond, according to Overeynder.

The water department is now double-checking its maps of the city’s storm-drainage system, he said. Overeynder hopes the task can be accomplished without the use of dyes to track water flow.

“When the river is running red, though it’s not toxic, it’s not aesthetically pleasing,” he said.


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