Project to restore Bonneville cutthroat trout to Mill Creek Canyon

Published: Sunday, June 23 2013 1:50 p.m. MDT

Officials from the Forest Service and DWR talk about the improvements they plan to make up Mill Creek Canyon. One of those improvements will be remove the aging dam seen at right.

Stuart Johnson

MILLCREEK — Several agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service and Utah's Division of Wildlife Resources, want to change Mill Creek Canyon back the way it used to be.

"We have an opportunity to restore, if you will, a whole watershed," said Mike Slater, DWR aquatic program manager.

They want to restore native Bonneville cutthroat trout back into Mill Creek and improve fish habitat. The restoration area focuses on the upper nine miles of Mill Creek and the lower mile of Porter Fork in Mill Creek Canyon.

"The Bonneville cutthroat trout used to live in Lake Bonneville,” Slater said. “They used to run up these streams all along the Wasatch Front, spawn, reproduce, do their thing, and be able to return to the lakes.”

But in order for the Bonneville cutthroat trout to do well in these waters, agencies need to remove the fish that are currently there, such as the brown and rainbow trout, as well as cutthroat-rainbow hybrids.

"One of the best management tools we have to use to remove fish or to restart a system is called rotenone,” he said.

It's a chemical put into the water that Slater says only affects fish. “It's nothing we need to be concerned about, our dogs, our pets, us as individuals,” Slater said. “It's a root-based substance that basically inhibits the fish’s ability to utilize the oxygen in the water."

The substance also does not contaminate groundwater.

People may notice a temporary odor, less than one day, and presence of dead fish, which will be removed by volunteers. The water may change color while a neutralizing agent is added into the water and diluted.

The project will begin in the fall in the upper reaches of Mill Creek Canyon, with the lower and final section of Mill Creek Canyon to be treated and restocked in 2016.

Besides changes to the fish population, an old dam will most likely be removed and public access to the water will be improved.

Robert Dibblee, with the group Trout Unlimited, thinks the entire plan is a good one. He said it's not so much changing Mill Creek Canyon, as it's just bringing it back to what it once was.

"This is a great opportunity to really enhance the cutthroat population and enhance the beauty of the creek,” Dibblee said.

An open house will be held at Skyline High School on June 27 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Email: vvo-duc@deseretnews.com

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