Feds: Palisade whitewater park is possible | AspenTimes.com

Feds: Palisade whitewater park is possible

Marija B. VaderGrand Junction correspondentAspen, CO Colorado

PALISADE, Colo. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will support the construction of a whitewater park in the Colorado River at Palisade, but only if the design allows enough water to flow to accommodate endangered fish, said the director of the federal endangered fish recovery program.Weve always supported this project, if it can provide adequate passage for the endangered fish, said Bob Muth, director of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program.If it can work for the endangered fish and we have all the answers to our questions, nobodys saying no. Theres a process they have to go through, Muth said.At some point, there will be a decision made, Muth said.But the town of Palisade is running out of patience after spending 30 months and $125,000 spent working on designs, studies and modeling to build a whitewater kayak park, said Town Manager Tim Sarmo.They have enough information, and its time for them to make a decision, Sarmo said.Also, the town now has a one-year-old bid, and it stands to lose funding from the state and city of Grand Junction, Sarmo said.Weve raised short of $1 million, Sarmo said. So many people have been behind this project and have supported it and would like to see it happen.The town needs permission from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will issue a permit for the western Colorado town to build the park. These actions are necessary because the park is proposed in the middle of critical habitat for four species of endangered fish Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, bonytail chub and humpback chub.The U.S. government just spent $18 million building four fish ladders, noted Patty Gelatt, fish and wildlife biologist for the Fish & Wildlife Service. Fish ladders are canal-type bypass structures designed to allow fish to swim around dams in a river.Since 1996, when the first fish ladder opened on the Gunnison River around the Redlands diversion canal, 127 endangered fish and 90,000 other native fish have used the Redlands fish ladder, Gelatt said.The last thing the federal government wants to do is permit a structure that would impede the movement of endangered fish, Gelatt said.So, the federal agency wants a model of the whitewater parks latest design, which was submitted in June.Sarmo said the town shouldnt need to take that step and spend the money because all the information the federal agency needs has already been provided.The board basically concurred with my suggestion one more letter asking them to take action as soon as possible, Sarmo said.It doesnt have anything to do with whether we want the whitewater park, Gelatt said. We think we can have a whitewater park and endangered fish. We just need to make sure the design meets the criteria.mvader@gjfreepress.com

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