A Utah plan to stock Lake Powell with rainbow smelt is netting opposition from Arizona Game and Fish officials.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department says introducing the new type of fish into Lake Powell might cause more problems than it would solve.Utah biologists Wayne Gustaveson and Bruce Bonebrake have prepared a report that recommends introducing rainbow smelt into the waters of Lake Powell as forage, or food, for the lake's striped bass population.
Bruce Taubert, chief of Arizona's Wildlife Management Division, said there hasn't been enough study and evaluation of the results of rainbow smelt introductions in other reservoirs around the country.
Taubert called the Utah recommendation shortsighted. He said the introduction of rainbow smelt into Lake Powell will have an unknown effect on the native and exotic fisheries in the lake, the Colorado River below the lake, and in other rivers and lakes along the Colorado south of Lake Powell.
Gustaveson and Bonebrake said the smelt would help take some of the pressure off other species of food fish in the lake.
They also said the rainbow smelt would not move far upstream from Lake Powell. The Utah biologists also don't believe the rainbow smelt would breed in the Colorado River and reservoirs downstream from the lake.
Introduction of the new fish into Lake Powell could come only with the approval of the Colorado River Wildlife Council, which represents not only Arizona and Utah but also California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming.
Arizona Game and Fish officials said they want a full environmental assessment conducted before the introduction of the rainbow smelt into Lake Powell is considered.
Paul C. Marsh, associate professor of research at Arizona State University's Center for Environmental Studies, says the fish should not be introduced until it can be demonstrated that the rainbow smelt would not have a detrimental affect on other fish in the lake.
James E. Johnson, chief of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Endangered Species Office in Albuquerque, N.M., believes smelt could establish themselves in the colder backwater areas of the Colorado River, and perhaps jeopardize the continued existence of at least one endangered species, the humpback chub.