Below is the latest information from the Lower Mountain Fork River Foundation. If you are not a member of this organization, you should consider becoming a member. They are doing great work with the river and need our help now more than ever.
The June meeting of the LMFRF was held last Saturday night at the Forest Heritage Center in Beavers Bend State Park. In attendance were 10 out of 12 board members as well as representatives from U.S. Forestry, Oklahoma Game Wardens, and Beavers Bend State Park. Dinner was catered by Cielo Lindo Restaurant and was exceptional.
After the beginning necessities were dispatched with, the Park Rangers started it out with an update: The aquarium in the Nature Center is fixed and up and running again. The green boxes in the upper and lower spillway parking lots have finally been resupplied with trash bags (use them, please). Frank Griffith is getting ready to mark spillway creek with GPS tags so that people can let the park know where they are in case of emergency. When other things from the flood are taken care of, they have agreed to install benches in the parking lots so we have somewhere to sit and put on or take off our waders. It will be years before the cold hole bridge is redone.
Then Mike Carter came and asked for some new belt radios. This came out of a discussion that law enforcement had on how they could better respond to calls from the river. It turns out that all the agencies have different systems and cannot contact anyone outside their own agency. Cell phones are spotty, at best. So there was no good way for them to talk to each other to find out who was closest and best suited to respond if we called in a complaint. This was true for everywhere.
Mike came prepared and showed us some radios that are both digital and analog, work on all systems, and will allow all the agencies working McCurtain County to talk with one another over the awesome tower repeater we bought them. With one phone call from us, they can decide who is better able to respond; Ranger, Warden, Forestry. And all can write tickets!
Motion was made, seconded, and unanimously approved to purchase 8 new radios and chest mikes for Law Enforcement (No, the agencies could not afford them).
Dru Polk, Game Warden, was up next to give us a demo and speech on the drone he had asked for back at the February meeting. After many ensuing emails, the board wanted a demo and some questions answered before deciding on this. Since that time, Mike Love had made some great drone videos of the flooding and posted them. By the time Dru needed to sell us, everyone was already sold on the idea. He answered all questions posed to everyone’s satisfaction. Motion was made, seconded, and approved unanimously to purchase a drone for the Game Wardens.
The ODWC was not in attendance but Don Groom sent me an update email explaining the best he could, at this time, where the State stands on river repairs. I also had the chance to talk at length with him last Thursday. Every idea and thought that I have had or has come to me from y’all, Don has already thought about and is aware of. It was the most positive meeting that I have had with Don in two years. Below is the email in it’s entirety:
Thank you for your patience as we continue to evaluate recent impacts to the trout stream. I know there are a few rumors floating around, and I hope that the following will ease concerns.
After the releases our main priority was to resume stocking as soon as possible. In the recent weeks we have conducted maintenance at existing stocking locations to facilitate continued stocking, and we have replaced sections of pipe on the stocking tube above the cold hole area. This pipe is temporarily supported by rock, and we will be going through the appropriate compliance channels to secure the pipe long term as well as any other improvement or repair activity. We had temporarily suspended stocking during the flood releases, but have since resumed stocking on June 18th and again on June 26th to make up for the postponed stocking. Stocking will now resume as usual (every two weeks). We begin our new three year contract period July 1, 2015, and Crystal Lake Fisheries is once again our vendor for the Lower Mountain Fork.
In the past week, I have toured the trout stream with our new Commissioner, Assistant Director of Operations, Law Enforcement Division Chief and Fish Division Chief to discuss the recent impacts and future management options. Discussions were positive and supportive in regards to: increasing and improving stocking locations, improving fishing access in the cold hole area, improving flows in the evening hole and the respective bridge area, and dealing with the Lost Creek diversion structure. In the immediate future, I will be working closely with USACE Project Managers, the State Park, and my leadership to further explore these options. As you are aware, Lost Creek is buried under a mound of sediment. I can confirm that this section of the stream will not be rebuilt.
Any regulation changes that are necessary surrounding the loss of Lost Creek will go through our normal rule change procedures. I know there are many rumors surrounding regulation changes, but we have not started working on any regulation changes as internal discussions continue. Again, any rule changes pertaining to the trout stream will be going through the normal rule change process and public input will be sought before any changes are made. I do not foresee any emergency rules at this time. I will update the group with more information as it becomes available.
We are also monitoring the water temperatures closely. The wider channel, exposed bedrock and loss of canopy all contribute to warmer water. The remote temperature monitoring station at the swim beach bridge is intact and operational, and we are still able to remotely monitor water temperatures. We manually checked water quality from the spillway down to the powerhouse this past week to better understand the heating. It appears that some of the heating is coming from lake conditions as a result from the recent flood event. I have requested that 150cfs be released through the spillway to maintain flows and water quality in response to new channel properties. The 150cfs request appears adequate; therefore, there are no plans to alter the flows at this time. Actually flow will vary slightly from the request depending on lake levels. We will continue to watch it closely.
Other notes of interest- We are tentatively scheduled to remove the bubble diffuser project week of July 27th. Also, our hatchery staff is currently working out a trade for brown trout this fall from Wyoming in return for hybrid bluegill. I will provide the group more information as it become available.
We are not considering any new projects such as low flow pipe extensions at this time. Please continue to be patient as we systematically work through the challenges the flood releases have presented. I appreciate your continued support, and will communicate our intentions, progress, and any help that we could use from the Foundation as things become more final.
We lost one of the new bear-proof trash cans to the flood. Well, we found the back panel to it. Anyway, motion was made, seconded, and unanimously approved to purchase 2 more bear-proof trash cans for the park. The second one will go down in the Zone 2 parking lot.
There were a bunch of other little things discussed but that is the big stuff that was taken care of.
Please join us for the meeting in October. It is a cookout meeting at Steven’s Gap Pavilion and the weather is always nice then.