Glacier National Park announced yesterday the beginning of public scoping for a proposal to construct a fish passage barrier on lower Akokala Creek, in the vicinity of the Akokala Creek Bridge. The proposed barrier will help protect native fish in the Akokala system from potential invasion by non-native fish species. Public scoping is the first step involving the public in the environmental assessment process.
Akokala Lake lies at the headwaters of the Akokala drainage in the park's North Fork District and supports a small population of bull trout. Genetic testing conducted in 2008 suggests genetically pure westslope cutthroat trout are present in the upper portions of the drainage, including Akokala Lake. Both bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout are native to the park. A direct tributary of the North Fork of the Flathead River, the Akokala drainage is susceptible to invasion by non-native fish, such as lake trout, rainbow trout, and possibly brook trout. Akokala Lake is one of the last bull trout supporting lakes on the west side of the park that is accessible to but has not yet been colonized by lake trout.
Lake trout have already invaded nine of the twelve lakes they are able to access on the west side of the park and are known to have severe detrimental effects on bull trout populations. Rainbow trout are invading North Fork tributaries and threaten westslope cutthroat trout populations with competition and hybridization. Genetic samples collected in 2009 indicate that hybridization between rainbow trout and westslope cutthroat trout is beginning to occur in the lower reaches of Akokala Creek. Brook trout can out-compete westslope cutthroat trout and hybridize with bull trout. While brook trout are not currently known to occur in the North Fork, they are present in tributaries of the Middle Fork and the potential exists for the species to invade the North Fork and its tributaries, including Akokala Creek.
The proposed project area is within the Wild and Scenic River corridor. The Akokala Creek Bridge is a non-contributing resource along the historic North Fork Road.
Two alternatives have been identified to date:
1) Alternative A - construct a fish passage barrier at or near the Akokala Creek Bridge, and
2) Alternative B - do not construct a fish passage barrier at or near the Akokala Creek Bridge (no action).
The public scoping brochure contains additional information about this project and is available on the NPS Planning, Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC) website. Comments can be posted to this website or mailed to Superintendent, Glacier National Park, Attn: Akokala Fish Barrier EA, P.O. Box 128, West Glacier, MT, 59936.
Comments are due September 4, 2012.
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