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A public fish salvage at Beaver Creek Reservoir near South Fork began last Saturday, Feb. 1.
Beaver Creek Reservoir occupies 114 acres of a 2,000-acre state wildlife area owned and managed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW). At full capacity, the reservoir holds approximately 4,400 acre feet of water used to maintain, conserve and fortify various wetland habitats, manage wildlife populations, and support recreational activities.
The salvage is being held in order to prepare for draining of the reservoir in early April for dam and infrastructure repair. From last Saturday until the reservoir is empty, anglers will be able to harvest all the fish they can catch — bag, possession and size limits have been temporarily suspended. After the reservoir is drawn down in early April, remaining fish will either perish or end up downstream.
According to Joe Lewandowski, a CPW public information officer based in Durango, the reservoir is filled with brown trout, rainbows and Kokanee salmon and licensed anglers can take fish by hook and line — netting, use of explosives and commercial fishing is prohibited.
Most of the reservoir is currently frozen and anglers are urged to be cautious when climbing down steep, rocky slopes to reach the water line and while navigating onto the ice, ensuring it is thick enough to hold their weight. According to Lewandowski, recent warm temperatures and resulting runoff flowing into the reservoir have effected ice thickness at the water’s edge more than in the center of the reservoir. As such, anglers should be especially cautious when making their way out onto the lake.
In 2010, CPW staff noted a leak in the approximately 100-year-old earthen dam at Beaver Creek Reservoir. After locating the leak on one side of the dam, an engineering plan was drawn up to repair the dam and work began last summer. In order to allow for dam repair and alleviate pressure on the weakening dam, the reservoir was drained to half capacity.
This year, the reservoir will be drained completely so repair work can be done on the lower part of the dam and so operating structures can be rebuilt and restored. According to Lewandowski, this work is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014, at which point the reservoir will be refilled to full capacity and restocked. The water level upon refilling will depend on available snowmelt.
When the reservoir is drained, some wetland areas will receive less water, although the flowing water from Beaver Creek will naturally fortify many of those areas. Although some management areas may be more heavily impacted, dam repair is critical for safety and water management reasons. According to Lewandowski, the temporary change in reservoir water storage will have little to no significant impact on wildlife habitats managed by CPW.
The estimated cost of the dam and operating structure restoration project work at Beaver Creek Reservoir is $15 million and will be funded by Colorado tax dollars.
Beaver Creek Reservoir is located approximately five miles south of South Fork and can be accessed via Forest Service Road 360, just west of South Fork off of U.S. 160. There is a forest service campground (Lower Beaver Creek Campground) near the reservoir, as well as a picnic area. The campground is closed for the winter, but four sites remain open for dispersed camping and campers staying at these sites will have access to toilets. Campground guests must pack in their own water during the winter months.
For more information about the fish salvage, visit www.cpw.state.co.us.