Paiute Tribe plans fish project

Posted on April 14th in News

They hope to bolster the native bull trout population by suppressing brook trout

By Debbie Raney
Burns Times-Herald

The Natural Resources Department of the Burns Paiute Tribe (BPT), in cooperation with the Malheur National Forest (MNF), Prairie City Ranger District, has spent over a year making a plan to eradicate the brook trout population from High Lake. This fall, they hope to see their plan reach fruition.

High Lake is located in the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness in Grant County, at the head of Lake Creek drainage.

According to BPT, the area above Lake Creek Falls was historically fishless before brook trout were introduced in the 1930s. The brook trout pass over Lake Creek Falls into the spawning habitat for the threatened bull trout, where they have the ability to out-compete and hybridize with the native bull trout.

At the April 7 meeting of the Harney County Court, Chad Abel and D.J. Brown of the BPT, and Elaine Kohram of the MNF, explained the plan for the brook trout suppression in High Lake. According to Abel, the BPT is committed to saving the native species, the bull trout, which is on the Federal Endangered Species List.

Three phases of the High Lake project will take place in 2010. Beginning next month, BPT will temporarily install wire mesh in an existing log jam below High Lake. This barrier will inhibit the brook trout’s ability to move between the lake and Lake Creek during the spring freshet. BPT’s plan includes the removal of the wire mesh during the summer months.

In July, BPT will perform brook trout population estimates in both the lake and the stream networks below. The stream population will be obtained using electroshock methods, and the lake count will be made by using mark recapture, over a two-day period, repeated twice.

The actual removal of the brook trout will take place in September. Using gill nets over a two-week period, BPT will remove the fish and pack them out of the wilderness area. Abel said autumn will be the best time to perform the removal, as this is when the brook trout are staging for spawning. All of the trout removed will be used by the BPT.

Because this is a wilderness area, all of the equipment to be used during the project will be packed in and out, manually.

Jon Gutcher from the Hines Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife office, told the court that the lake will be restocked annually, using triploid rainbow trout. Triploid fish are sterile so there will be no threat to the native fish downstream. Both Abel and Gutcher said the triploid rainbow should improve the fishing opportunities at High Lake, as the current population of brook trout are stunted and deformed due to overpopulation. At present the largest fish in High Lake is 8 inches long, with the average being about 6 inches.

Abel assured the court that the problem with brook trout is isolated to High Lake, and doesn’t affect the other lakes in the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness Area. Brook trout occupying other lakes in the Strawberries do not have the ability to move into bull trout spawning habitat.


In other county court business on April 7, Karen Moon from the Harney County Watershed Council presented a grant proposal that the council will be submitting to the Oregon Water Enhancement Board, to continue the next portion of the basin groundwater study.

Moon told the court this was the third phase of the study process. A hydrologist will be hired to interpret the data that had been gathered during the second phase. An outside company will be used for the data interpretation. Moon said the grant required a 25 percent match, which means the council will need to contribute $10,500 in funding or in-kind matches. She asked the court if they could help with the grant match by giving the council $500. The court told Moon that the $500 would be considered during the budgeting process.


Guy McKay, Harney County Veterans Service Officer, gave the members of the court a quarterly report and update of recent activities. He also told the court that a “welcome home” celebration for the local National Guard Unit was being planned for June 5. To date, a street dance and block party are on the schedule of events, with more plans to come.


The court discussed the replacement of the veterans van, which was totaled in an accident on the Crane Buchanan Road. The van was a donation, and Judge Steve Grasty had discussed with the donors whether they would want reimbursed with the insurance money — both said they wanted the $22,000 to go back to purchasing a new van. Grasty said he had been in communication with the Disabled American Veteran’s (DAV) and an offer had been  made by the DAV to supply a van for the new Veteran’s Administration Clinic in Burns. If this would come to pass, the county, through the Harney County Senior Center, would no longer have to find funding for fuel and maintenance. The court decided to wait until the end of the fiscal year, June 30, to see if DAV does in fact put a van at the clinic. If not, a new van will be purchased with the insurance money.


Jerry Hensley, from the United States Forest Service, discussed the Secure Rural Schools funding with the court. Hensley suggested that continuing with the Title II projects prioritized for 2009 would make the most sense for both the county and the Forest Service. Projects would include continued hazardous fuel reduction, long-term stewardship, thinning and aspen restoration.


Six people have submitted resumes for the business development coordinator position, which will be vacated in June by Mark Maliwauki. Six have also shown an interest in the Senior Center director position, that Ann Lessar retired from last month.

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