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Trout Unlimited, Westmoreland Kemmerer partner on stream restoration

Posted: Friday, Jan 25th, 2013

Rock placed to improve diversion, fish habitat on North Piney Creek in western Wyoming. Courtesy photo

LANDER — Sportsmen’s group Trout Unlimited this week praised Westmoreland Kemmerer, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Westmoreland Coal Company, for its help to restore Wyoming streams and river systems — work that has reconnected nearly 100 miles of stream habitat to wild and native fish, and promises to boost fishing opportunities for anglers.

“With the generous donations from Westmoreland, we have made great strides in helping native and wild fish populations thrive in western Wyoming,” said Nick Walrath, Trout Unlimited’s Green River project manager. “The improved habitat will further enhance Wyoming’s reputation for world-class trout fishing.”

In 2012, Westmoreland Kemmerer, Inc., partnered with TU on seven projects to reconnect migratory corridors for Bonneville cutthroat trout, Colorado River cutthroat trout and other native and wild fish in the Bear River and Green River drainages in western Wyoming.

Tributaries, including Spring Creek of the Bear, and Horse, Piney, Cottonwood and Gooseberry creeks of the Green, serve as critical migratory corridors for Bonneville cutthroat in the Bear River and Colorado River cutthroat trout in the Green River drainage.

Over the years, however, these fish passageways have become blocked and fragmented by irrigation dams and diversions, which prevent the upstream movement of native fish into historic spawning and rearing areas.

Besides their impact on wildlife habitat, these old diversions require significant annual maintenance by landowners.

TU has spearheaded projects in western Wyoming opening and restoring these fish corridors, while modernizing irrigation infrastructure for landowners. Projects include the Horse Creek diversion improvement project, the Cottonwood Diversions Improvement Project, Piney Creek Diversions improvement project, Gooseberry Creek head-cut project and the Spring Creek Diversion Improvement project — all located in western Wyoming.

The projects replace decrepit, obsolete diversions with new structures designed to provide fish passage throughout the year and virtually eliminate maintenance, while continuing to deliver the landowners’ full amount of appropriated water. 

Six of the projects are complete and one is ongoing, with a scheduled spring 2013 completion date.

Westmoreland has donated about 1,000 yards of rock for the projects — more than 60 semi loads. The rock is used to construct new, permanent structures used to divert water and reduce or eliminate maintenance for landowners. These diversions typically replace push-up style dams that require water users to rebuild the structure each year and maintain it throughout the summer. Not only do the diversions improve operation efficiency, they allow passage throughout the year for fish attempting to access upstream habitat to meet life cycle migratory needs.

Westmoreland’s donation of large rock made possible the completion of numerous diversion upgrades for landowners that improve habitat conditions for fish and provide low-maintenance solutions for water use on private land. 

“TU’s projects are designed to provide win-win solutions for all stakeholders,” said Cory Toye, director of TU’s Wyoming Water Project. “We are pleased that Westmoreland values our work, and is willing to participate in watershed-scale efforts to improve native fish habitat conditions. With their help, it’s working.”

Restoring streams at a watershed level can be complicated and involve multiple challenges, according to TU. Partnerships with diverse stakeholders and interests provide the most effective means to address these challenges and ensure Bonneville cutthroat, Colorado River cutthroat and wild trout populations remain healthy in the future. 

“Habitat improvement is a very important part of Westmoreland’s operations,” said Don Lamborn, environmental and engineer supervisor of Westmoreland Kemmerer, Inc. “Working with Trout Unlimited gives us the opportunity to help improve stream habitat in western Wyoming.”

Other project partners include the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Fish Passage Program and Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative and private landowners.

Wyoming is one of six state programs in TU’s Western Water Project, which works with ranchers and landowners across the West to restore streams and protect trout and salmon habitat.

For more information about stream partnership opportunities with TU, contact Toye at (307) 332-7700 x14, or ctoye@tu.org.

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