Work underway for cutthroat restoration on Bar BC

JACKSON, Wyo. — Trout Unlimited (TU) announced last week that on-the-ground implementation for the Bar BC Spring Creek Fish Passage & Channel Restoration Project is currently underway. The project is a collaboration between agency partners and private landowners to improve fish migration into an incredibly important spawning stream for native Snake River cutthroat trout in the upper Snake River watershed.

Bar BC Spring Creek’s crystal-clear springs (Little and Lower) flow together into the Gros Ventre River near its confluence with the Snake River entirely on private land, providing vital spawning habitat for native Snake River cutthroat trout. Modifications to the culvert at the outlet of Bar BC Creek in late 2017 spurred project partners to investigate conditions for fish migrating through the culvert and highlighted the existence of a seasonal passage barrier – which together with proposed future levee maintenance work for flood protection would place the future of this important spawning run at even greater risk. In addition, the stream immediately upstream of the culvert is extremely wide, stagnant, and shallow due to the undersized culvert, making fish more susceptible to high stream temperatures and predation by raptors in this section.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) has monitored spawning activity in Bar BC Spring Creek since the 1950s as an indicator of valley-wide spring creek trends. “Lower Bar BC Spring Creek is a significant spawning stream that holds a lot of value to the Snake River cutthroat trout fisheries in the Snake and Gros Ventre rivers, and is the source of wild genetics for all hatchery-raised Snake River cutthroats. Addressing the undersized culvert at its outlet and restoring the stream channel in this area can only benefit the fishery further,” said Clark Johnson, WGFD Fisheries Biologist.

Construction equipment at work on the Bar BC project. Photo: TU

Project partners, private landowners, and technical experts have collaborated on a project design that will reconnect fish passage and improve habitat at this location for the benefit of Snake River cutthroat and other native fish. Through the project, the undersized culvert under the Gros Ventre levee will be replaced with a much larger culvert that provides passage for all life stages of cutthroat trout while still upholding the integrity of the levee for flood protection. In addition, the currently wide, shallow, and exposed ponded area above the culvert will be transformed into a narrower, deeper channel with improved protection and cover for migrating trout. Over time, wetland vegetation will be re-established adjacent to the restored channel,

Pre-project fish monitoring documented fewer cutthroat trout returning to spawn in Bar BC Spring Creek in 2019. When completed, the project will improve and ensure connectivity to 2 miles of stream and restore 0.5 miles of fish habitat. “We hope to see cutthroat trout spawning activity in Bar BC Spring Creek bounce back and continue to thrive long into the future as a result of this partnership project. We are grateful to everyone that came together to respond to this urgent and timely need to preserve this important spawning run – our funding partners and private landowners for their generous investment in the project, the staff time committed by partners and regulatory agencies, and the consultant team that skillfully navigated the complexities of the project,” said Leslie Steen, TU Snake River Headwaters Project Manager.

The BC Spring Creek Fish Passage & Channel Restoration Project received funding and in-kind support from private landowners, the Jackson Hole Trout Unlimited chapter, Teton Conservation District, Trout Unlimited, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resources Trust, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and was designed in coordination with regulatory agencies for the levee system including Teton County and the US Army Corps of Engineers. It complements previous stream restoration work on Bar BC Spring Creek completed by private landowners upstream of the current project area.

The BC Spring Creek Fish Passage & Channel Restoration Project is a project of TU’s Snake River Headwaters Home Rivers Initiative, an ambitious initiative to restore and protect the headwaters of the Snake River and its fishery, together with a diverse group of community, landowner, and agency partners.

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