SPARKS, Nev. (AP) - A new whitewater park for kayakers could conflict with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's long-term strategy to re-establish the threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout in the Truckee River, agency officials warned.
Bob Williams, chief of the agency's Nevada office, said the Sparks park was built in a largely undisturbed section of the Truckee that offered some of the area's best fish habitat.
"We really don't like to be opposed to things, but a continuation of this is going to put the Fish and Wildlife Service in a difficult position," Williams told the Reno Gazette-Journal.
The $2.2 million project at Rock Park, expected to open next spring, includes five whitewater features along more than 1,500 feet of river.
It's designed to build upon the success of Reno's whitewater park, which enjoys a national reputation among kayakers and has given a boost to the city's downtown revitalization efforts.
"They took a functioning piece of river and turned it into something pretty unnatural" that could interfere with the free passage of fish, Williams said.
"We view the entire river as important to the recovery of the fish," he said, adding that continued changes could make the Lahontan cutthroat trout's recovery "difficult, if not impossible."
Sparks Mayor Geno Martini said the project's designers bent over backwards to address all concerns expressed by federal and state regulators, and that the city has complied with all permit requirements.
He said both whitewater parks represent progress in tapping the river's long-neglected recreational opportunities.
"We have done everything those folks have asked us to do in spades," Martini said. "Sparks has always been a good steward of the river."
Consultant Jim Litchfield, who managed construction of the park, said its design was modified significantly "to make every effort to allow effective fish passage."
"The thing is, they just don't like the project, and they're trying to do everything they can to poke a hole in it," Litchfield said.
The city is gearing up a $300,000 program to monitor fish in the area as requested by biologists, he added.
Williams said he's most concerned that Reno and Sparks will seek to build additional whitewater parks, which would further degrade the river.
The Truckee flows eastward about 120 miles from Lake Tahoe to its terminus at Pyramid Lake, about 30 miles northeast of Reno.
Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal, http://www.rgj.com
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)