Biologists on Wednesday will continue studies on the effect reduced flows in the Provo River could have on the stream's blue-ribbon fishery.
Low flows from Deer Creek Reservoir - reduced from 100 cubic feet per second to 60 cfs - were ordered by the Utah Department of Natural Resources and will last through Friday. Officials hope to use data to project the impact that long-term low flows would have on fish habitat.Permanent reduced flows would enable storage of additional water in Deer Creek Reservoir. Previous studies, however, recommended that flows be maintained at 100 cfs along the seven-mile stretch between Deer Creek Dam and Olmstead Diversion Dam.
The study originally was to be done last winter, but officials postponed it to better prepare. The delay resulted in an improved study design expected to produce valuable information, said Barry Wirth, spokesman for the Bureau of Reclamation's Upper Colorado Region.
The delay also prevented any damage to redds - areas where trout lay their eggs - because at the time some fish still were spawning and laying eggs in shallow water near river banks.
"There will be two studies going on simultaneously," Wirth said. "They'll be looking at the fishing habitat as well as the insects the fish eat."
Wirth said a team of biologists contracted by the Bureau of Reclamation began studying Tuesday the impact the lower flows have on insects along the river banks. On Wednesday, biologists from the state Division of Wildlife Resources,U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation and Central Utah Water Conservancy District will begin studying how fish are affected by lower flows.
Data will be used to extrapolate the effect permanent reduced flows would have.
Wirth said officials have no plans to reduce flows further and any decision on permanent reductions would come after a report on the study is completed Dec. 1.
Even if the study shows that the fishery could handle reduced river levels, flows would not necessarily be reduced unless a request were made to and granted by the Bureau of Reclamation, Wirth said.
"You can't really speculate on what the future holds. Right now nobody knows."
He said officials don't believe four days of reduced flows will have a major impact on fish or their food chain.
"Over the short term, a couple of days time . . . we're not going to create stress on the fishing population or reduce that population," Wirth said. "They'll be OK between now and Friday."
In December, the Provo River Water Users Association ordered Provo River flow cut to 40 cfs because of concerns that low snowpack and runoff wouldn't fill Deer Creek Reservoir. The Bureau of Reclamation, however, overrode that decision and ordered flows increased to 100 cfs to protect fish.
Provo River water users and others have questioned whether flows as high as 100 cfs are essential to protect the fishery. Reduced flows would allow increased storage in Deer Creek Reservoir, which likely would drop below its current low level if Utah experiences another dry year.