Citizen group presents at algae meeting

"Rock Snot"

RBC | More than forty people, including quite a few faces new to the algae issue, gathered at the Fairfield Center May 2 for two hours, listening to “updates and discussions on everything White River algae related.” White River and Douglas Creek Conservation Districts are under contract with the county to manage action on the algae issue. Their executive director, Callie Hendrickson, facilitated the session, pointing out that, “This river is the heart of our county.”
Hendrickson reviewed the Technical Advisory Group’s (TAG) mission, process and progress in “ascertaining what is driving the algae growth in the White River [in order to] improve the overall health of the watershed.” The 15-member, multi-agency TAG recommended a plan of action for the U.S. Geological Survey to lead in compiling existing information and conducting of new research. Ken Leib, the Western Colorado Water Science Center office chief in Grand Junction, made this first full public presentation of the scope of work that USGS is embarking upon.
USGS itself is putting forth 35 percent, approximately $39,000, of the funding for this next year’s work which has already started. The entire work plan is for three years of research and one year of data review and reporting. Annual reports will also be made.
Leib reported that the Survey will be looking at previous algae-related work done on the White and other places such as on the Clackamas River in Oregon. Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Mindi May, a freshwater biologist, gave a new presentation remotely from the Front Range. May is a member of the TAG. Her new report put more emphasis on concern and interest in the macro-invertebrate (larger instream insect) populations in the White, advising that there seems to be a steep drop off in diversity and population numbers coming downstream. The USGS study does not particularly focus on this question. There is a belief that macroinvertebrates and smaller invertebrates are significant grazers on algae and the loss of their numbers in the system could allow blooming algae growth.
At the last TAG meeting in March, local outfitter Shawn Welder reported that a citizens’ group, calling themselves the White River Alliance, had formed. He’s currently the chair and he presented a letter from the group. The letter described the organization as wanting to be all inclusive of folks concerned about the river and emphasized the need to look at historical information on the White River and to be proactive in the pursuit of actions intended to improve the health of the river.
Hendrickson had asked Welder to give a presentation on what the group was up to at the May 2 meeting. Welder did so, indicating the group’s intention was to use a community-based approach in moving forward with promoting improved management practices. He reported that members of the group have been spending time “in the river,” looking, for example, at the macroinvertebrate populations and finding that there are robust and healthy insect, “fish food” populations, above where aerial spraying for insects has occurred as well as intensive agricultural uses, fertilizers, fish feeding and river manipulation activities have happened.
Welder said the group is urging that consideration be given to discontinuing the aerial spraying of the chemicals malathion and permethrin which have been used in recent years, perhaps looking at the alternative of using the Bti, a bacterium effective as a larvicide for mosquitoes.
“We’re comparing our experiences here,” he said, “with those of the Gunnison River Basin’s where they have banned the use of these chemicals to the great improvement of river health. We also want to push for the consideration of improved management practices involving instream and pond manipulations, fish stocking, sediment transport and nutrient load, feed stations and the need for riverbank vegetation. We believe there’s enough information at hand to do some things now.”
Anyone interested in being a part of the White River Alliance can contact Welder at 970-314-5923 or packtrip@cmn.net. Regarding the USGS work, Leib can be contacted at 970-628-7150 or kjleib@usgs.gov.