The DWR is moving almost a million pounds of rotenone to locations around Strawberry Reservoir in preparation of the treatment scheduled to begin Aug. 21, 1990. The operation will take 240 men and women.
Before the main reservoir treatment, however, the tributaries to Strawberry will be poisoned, beginning Aug. 6. This is quite a complicated process.
In all, about 190 miles of stream must be treated, said Bruce Schmidt, DWR fisheries chief. The streams will be treated in sequence, drainage by drainage.
Drip barrels will be set up at the headwaters of streams that meter out slurried rotenone into the water. Every few miles downstream a booster barrel will be set up to replenish the rotenone in the stream.
Some beaver dams will have to be breached to allow the chemical through. In the meantime, DWR personnel on foot, equipped with heavy backpack sprayers, will spray rotenone into dead water pockets and marshy areas that may hide fish.
The stream treatment will take most of the month of August.
Rotenone will be used far up to the headwaters of the streams, as far as there are fish, Schmidt said. If some fish are missed up high, it is likely they will be trout because trout usually live higher in the mountains than do chubs or suckers.
However, the DWR wants to get all the trout, too, because it doesn't want any leftover trout interbreeding with the Bear Lake cutthroat that will be stocked after the treatment. It is hoped the cutthroat in Strawberry can be maintained as a pure strain. Sterile rainbow and kokanee will be stocked to supplement the Bear Lake cutthroat.
Because the aquatic insects will die in the rotenone treatement, Schmidt said it is important that some headwater areas be left untreated so the various insects will multiply and repopulate the streams. That won't take long, he said.
Schmidt said that while some people have been concerned about the beavers, the end result of the project will be 2-3 times more beavers than-now exist in Strawberry Valley. The elimination of grazing along the streams will result in the growth of willows, which in turn will mean lots more beaver habitat. "The beavers will move back in with the willow growth," he said.
Already, the elimination of cattle is having positive effects, Schmidt said. "There are some areas in the valley heavily used by cattle that have just been bare dirt for years. Now we see grass and shrubs growing even in those places.
After the streams are treated, the reservoir itself will be poisoned beginning August 21st. Originally, cement trucks and conveyor systems were to be used to mix the rotenone. The rotenone slurry was to be pumped from the cement mixers into barges. The barges were to transport the slurry out onto the lake were it would be sprayed or dumped at designated sites.
Now, a Venturi system will be used to spread the rotenone. Four bags of dry rotenone (1,000 pounds each) will be loaded onto each of the small barges owned by the DWR and up to 24 bags will be loaded onto each of the two large barges provided by the National Guard.
A special pump system on each barge will pull water from the lake and through a large pipe then dump it back into the lake. A strong vacuum will be developed in a small flexible hose attached to the large pipe (at the Venturi), by the water rushing through the large pipe. This vacuum hose will be used to suck the dry rotenone from its bag and to mix it with the water rushing through the large pipe. Then it is a simple process to vacuum all the rotenone from each bag while covering a carefully measured portion of the lake. An entire 1,000 pound bag of rotenone can be emptied in about 15 minutes using this system. This method is faster, less messy (and less dusty) and doesn't require the expensive cement mixers and conveyors.
It will take six full days to cover the entire reservoir with the rotenone. It is estimated that the reservoir will remain toxic for about four more days and then gradually begin to return to normal. During the poisoning process (August 17 to August 31) the entire lake will be closed to all access. This has been done by special order of the Forest Supervisor. If you trespass into the closed area during this time you could be fined up to $500 and spend up to 6 months in jail.
Two observation points will be provided for the public so if you want to come up and see (smell) the process, you should be able to get a fairly good look without trespassing onto the closed area. You will not be allowed to go down to the reservoir and pick up any of the fish killed by the rotenone. The Food and Drug Administration has specifically prohibited the consumption of fish killed by rotenone because rotenone has not been studied by the FDA and its effects on humans are not known. Those people working around the rotenone will be required to wear protective clothing and respirators.
The treatment of Strawberry could be touted as the best thing to happen to Utah fishing in 20 years. The treatment of Strawberry Reservoir and the restoration of Strawberry Valley will be looked back upon as one of the milestones in Utah fishing history.
It will be as important as the impoundment of Lake Powell or Flaming Gorge, or the development of the Green River.
By 1993 Strawberry will once again be both a family and trophy fishery — a place where you can catch big cutthroat from shore or boat. Strawberry is big enough to withstand tremendous pressure. And, with the streams restored, it will be self-perpetuating. The future looks bright.
1905 Strawberry Reservoir Construction began
1923 Trout stocked for first time. Reservoir water capacity 283,000 acre feet
1930 State record cutthroat caught (26.5 lbs.)
1940 Fish traps used to take trout eggs
1945 Anglers introduced nongame fish
1948 18,000 anglers kept 10,000 fish
1949 Original fishing camps constructed. 700 tons of nongame fish commercially removed
1956 One trout kept for every five hours of fishing
1958 61,500 anglers kept 105,000 fish
1960 90 percent of fish were nongame
1961 Treatment of reservoir and tributaries — all fish removed
1962 One million trout stocked
1963 One trout kept for every three hours of fishing
1972 Anglers reintroduced nongame fish
1973 Soldier Creek Dam constucted
1974 155,000 anglers kept 303,000 fish
1981 140,000 anglers kept 460,000 fish
1982 Marina and concession constructed
1984 Fishing camps removed
1985 Strawberry and Soldier Creek Reservoirs combined 93 percent of fish were nongame
1986 Water level 650,000 acre feet
1989 New fish trap constructed
1990 Treatment of reservoir and tributaries to remove all fish. Restock with 1,500,000 cutthroat and rainbow trout
1991 Projected water level 560,000 acre feet
Copyright Dave Webb, 2005