Assuming Peru can settle some of its unrest, the once-delayed treatment of this central Utah reservoir will happen as planned in August 1989.
If, and it is still very iffy at this point, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources can get the needed quantity of chemical, called rotenone, the reservoir will be treated next year to remove all fish. Presently non-game fish - mainly chubs and suckers - outnumber game fish - trout - almost 20 to 1.Following the treatment, an aggressive rebuilding plan will be undertaken that would have the reservoir reopened to fishing by the summer of 1990, and back on the fishermen's preferred list by 1991.
Original plans called for the treatment of Strawberry, which now includes the old Soldier Creek Reservoir and dam, to occur in August 1988. Because of political unrest in Peru, where most of the world's rotenone, a naturally occurring toxicant, is produced, the required 1.3 million pounds of chemical needed for the job couldn't be acquired in time for the 1988 date.
If treatment plans are completed next year, it would be the largest undertaking of this kind and the most expensive, costing more than $1.3 million.
According to Bruce Schmidt, fisheries section chief, the DWR is preparing to complete the treatment in 1989.
"We're doing what we can to prepare, but we are not stockpiling rotenone. What we don't want is to end up with, say, 60 percent of the needed rotenone, then have to go to an alternative program and end up being rotenone dealers for the next 10 years trying to get rid of it. We need to arrange to get the whole amount before we commit.
"But we are trying to do everything we can ahead of time. We have two of the three boats equipped and ready. Also, we're doing some preparatory work to handle the 800-pound bags. Working with large bags like that will speed up the project," he added.
"We're walking a tightrope, though. We don't want to delay work, find the rotenone is available, and then find we won't have time to complete the project. Also, we don't want to do the work and then find we can't get the rotenone."
In the midst of all the doubts, the current dry spell may possibly offer another answer for the DWR. Back when the decision was made for total treatment of Strawberry, rather than partial treatment that would mean taking years longer to cure the problems, it was decided that the last possible opportunity to complete the project would be August 1989.
After that date the combined lakes - old Strawberry and Soldier Creek - would be too large to treat.
"The bright spot is that there is talk of stopping the water flowing out of the Stillway Dam and into Strawberry, which would slow down filling the reservoir. Also, with the current dry spell there may actually be a drop in the water level. If this happens we could possibly look past '89," he said.
If the reservoir were to go down, it would be best for the DWR to hold off treatment. Less water would mean less rotenone would be required, and more chance for a total kill.
This is not the best news for fishermen, however. Fishing success has held steady because of the rising water. New habitat has allowed trout to move into areas without competition from the chubs. When the water stops rising, or begins to fall, trout will be forced to compete with the chubs, and chubs, biologists say, are better at surviving under these conditions than the Strawberry rainbow.
"Fishermen, to this point, haven't really felt pressure from the chubs," Schmidt said. "With no new habitat being flooded, I think they will begin to see a real drop in success toward the end of summer and, if the water does go down, will really feel it next year."
While total treatment was preferred, it was felt that the size of the combined reservoirs wouldn't allow it. DWR studies, however, found that in August there is a stratification and that water below 30 feet is too low in oxygen for fish to survive. It was therefore felt that by treating the surface area, with the fish concentrated in the top 30 feet, a total eradication of fish life was possible.
Six weeks after treatment, DWR would begin restocking with lines of fish that could, if the chubs and suckers returned, better compete, fish such as Bear Lake cutthroat, kokanee salmon, sterilized rainbow and smallmouth bass.