New fish ladder at the Watson Lake Diversion

In a collaborative effort, Morning Fresh Dairy, Northern Water and noosa yoghurt are partnering with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) to put in a fish ladder at the Watson Lake Diversion. Photos courtesy of Jason Clay/Colorado Parks & Wildlife

Bellvue launches a project that reconnects a fragmented Poudre River. Morning Fresh Dairy, Northern Water and noosa yoghurt united with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) to put in a fish ladder at the Watson Lake Diversion. This is the first of many ladders along the Poudre River that allows fish to travel freely, improving the health of the fishery and the ecosystem.

“We appreciate the collaboration from the project partners on this important fishway that will reconnect over two miles of stream habitat for the aquatic species,” said Kyle Battige, aquatic biologist for CPW. “Supporting fish passage at Watson Lake aligns with CPW’s goal through improving several facets: ecosystem health, angler access, public safety, and public education.”

OneFish Engineering created the structure in hopes that the fish ladder will provide upstream fish movement through the diversion structure for all species present. These include longnose dace, longnose suckers, white suckers, brown trout, and rainbow trout.

The Watson Lake fish ladder reconnects over two river miles which contain important spawning habitat and deep pools that provide refuge for aquatic life. This is a channel spanning structure that composes a barrier to fish and their upstream movement within the Poudre River. TWatson State Fish Hatchery receives water from the structure which is owned and operated by CPW.

This is a hotspot for fishermen, birders, and families opting outside adventures. There will be onsite education about the project. Open to visitors, community members, and school children.

“The Poudre River has been an integral part of our family farm for over 100 years. We would like to be part of the solution for fish passage along the Poudre River, starting at Watson Lake,” says Rob Graves, owner of Morning Fresh Dairy and co-founder of noosa yoghurt. “We would like to find additional community partners and reconnect the river from Fort Collins all the way up through the Poudre Canyon.”

The new fish ladder also fulfills outlined commitments to the NISP Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan.

“This project shows the commitment of project participants to address the overall health of the Poudre River,” said spokesman Jeff Stahla. He noted that participants have committed to spending $50 million on a state of Colorado Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan that includes a minimum daily flow on the Poudre River through downtown Fort Collins, the construction of fish bypasses and other measures throughout the area

The project started in December 2018 and will be completed in March 2019. The goal is to complete before spring runoff begins on the Poudre River and to move other fish passage projects forward on the Poudre River.

Local ditch companies will observe one of these projects overseeing there is no negative impact on water delivery. This is a vital resource to move fish passage initiatives forward. It opens the doors for future structures.

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