Friday, February 3, 2012

Conservancy, ranchers to restore pond

Project largest ever on Silver Creek

Express Staff Writer

The Nature Conservancy is partnering with Picabo rancher Nick Purdy to help trout populations in the Silver Creek Preserve.

Matt Miller, spokesman for the conservation organization, said it has entered into an agreement with the Purdy family to restore Kilpatrick Pond, a sediment sinkhole that drains into Silver Creek. He said it has become a wide, shallow pool unsuitable for fish.

The pond covers three-quarters of a mile, making it one of The Nature Conservancy's larger projects so far.

"The pond is very large, so it's definitely a more involved project," Miller said.

The project is not set to get under way until late 2012. Miller said winter construction is least intrusive for fishers and wildlife.

He said that since the organization is still accepting proposals from design firms, its cost is uncertain, but it would likely be funded by private donations. However, The Nature Conservancy has received federal funding for similar restoration projects in the past.

The shallowness of the pool has contributed to higher water temperatures downstream. The goal of the project, according to the organization, is to clear sediment from the pool and restore the stream to a more natural path.

Excavated sediment will be used to create islands in the area.

Purdy and his family have been avid supporters of conservation for decades, and have worked on the family's Double-R Ranch near Picabo to improve areas of Silver Creek where banks have widened and vegetation has died due to many decades of grazing.

As banks widen, water temperatures rise due to falling water levels. Fish flee areas like this—a circumstance worrisome in an area known for its fishing.

According to the organization, the pool became a sediment trap due to the location of an irrigation diversion dam on Purdy's property. The diversion dam will be altered to allow more natural water and trout movement.

Silver Creek Preserve Manager Dayna Gross said the project would have long-term benefits for Silver Creek's wildlife.

"This restoration effort will lower water temperature and create great wildlife habitat, ensuring that Silver Creek remains one of the West's finest spring creeks," Gross said in a news release.

Katherine Wutz:

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