Endangered fish are making a comeback in the San Juan River thanks to habitat restoration.
The San Juan River is getting a habitat make-over, and it’s benefiting struggling fish species and the Navajo community. The Navajo Dam has inhibited seasonal flooding, which has allowed invasive plants to consume the banks.
The Nature Conservancy, with like-minded partners, is taking action to reverse the invasion and restore the river to its original state. The dam has changed the flow of the river, creating fast, deep channels unsuited as nursery sites for fish like the Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker, according to a release from The Nature Conservancy.
Habitat restoration is a main priority. The Nature Conservancy is doing this by creating restoration channels mimicking those that the fish would have used before the dam was built. So far, its working.
“Over time, we think it’s going to get better and better,” said Dave Gori, who is The Nature Conservancy’s director of science for the state.
Ideally, plant growth and shaping of flows will return the San Juan to a more natural, varied state.
In addition to fishes, the Navajo community is also benefiting from the habitat improvements. Better access to the river was created with the removal of non-native flora. Jobs and wood products are also supplied from the removal.
The Nature Conservancy is far from done, according to the release. Wetlands connected to the river will be the focus in the future. These wetlands will provide habitat that fish larvae need to grow and thrive.