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Environment

State Officials: Trout Restoration Planning 'Ongoing' Since 2013 Floods

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A view of state infrastructure destroyed by heavy rains, with some areas receiving as much as 18 inches in a 24-hour period, during flood rescue and recovery operations in Boulder, Colo., Sept. 16, 2013.

On the heels of a story published in the Coloradoan linking declining trout populations to road reconstruction after the 2013 floods, the Colorado Department of Transportation said it did not disregard the impact that repairs have on the natural environment, and the trout population.

In an interview with KUNC, the Coloradoan's Ryan Maye Handy said that post-flood surveys by Colorado Parks and Wildlife show trout numbers decreasing in some places from 5,000 fish per mile to hundreds. In the days following Colorado's historic flooding, many choices had to be made quickly in order to reopen roads that were vital links for cities that had been cut-off by flooding. U.S. 34 and U.S. 36 also happened to be major roads that ran parallel with the Big Thompson and St. Vrain rivers.

Those hard choices, Handy's story contends, led to damage to river ecosystems and harm to the trout population.

In a letter signed by CDOT Executive Director Don Hunt, Colorado Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Mike King and Colorado Chief Recovery Officer Molly Urbina and published by the Coloradoan, the parties involved said that "From the moment that each of our state agencies assessed the damage to our roads and our rivers, we agreed on one thing — that it was critical to restore both the roads and natural environment back to better than what it had before."

The letter continues:

At no point during the temporary repairs of the mountains canyon roads of SH 7, US 34 and US 36 did our teams, especially the Colorado Department of Transportation, dismiss or disregard the impacts these repairs might have on the natural environment and the rivers. All of us, working together, discussed the impacts on the river and what we could, and just as importantly, could not address during the temporary repairs. Lastly, our collaboration ensured that the temporary improvements would not preclude the full restoration of these river environments.

The complete response can be read at the Coloradoan.

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