Mammoth Flyrodders ask your help to move Rush Creek restoration forward
By Richard Dahlgren, past president, Mammoth Flyrodders
March 1, 2020 -- Clearly, the restoration of the Rush Creek trophy trout fishery as it existed before the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power 1941 water diversions… has not taken place.
After endless legal battles in the courts beginning in 1984, the California Third District Court of Appeals ruled against the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, declaring lower Rush Creek had been destroyed by mid century water diversions. The court ordered State Water Resources Control Board to modify LADWP’s licenses in the Mono Basin to maintain water flows to sustain fish downstream of the diversion at Mono Gate #1 and restore stream habitat and the fishery to pre-1941 conditions. The instructions were set forth in SWRCB Order 1631.
An amendment to Order 1631 titled WR 98-05 was recorded on September 2, 1998 allowing for the termination of the stream restoration program.
The same strong language exists in WR 98-05 concerning restoring the fishery to pre-1941 conditions as in SWRCB 1631.
WR 98-05 states under “Stream Monitoring”, paragraph 4, item (a), that before any consideration be given to terminating restoration efforts, the following factors must be determined.
“Whether fish are in good condition. This includes self-sustaining populations of brown trout and other trout similar to those existed prior to the diversions of water by licensee and can be harvested in moderate numbers.” The fishery that existed then was a trophy trout fishery.
Recent arguments have been presented by LADWP biologists suggesting the goal of restoring the fishery is unattainable, and no statistical evidence, or other evidence exists proving there ever was a trophy trout fishery. The DWP biologists further state that testimony by revered California Department of Fish & Game scientist of the late 1930’s and 40’s, Elden Vestal, plus five other witnesses, was remiss and simply was a recollection of youthful fishing experiences of 50 to nearly 70 years prior.
Vestal testified that brown trout weighing from three-quarter’s to two pounds were common in Lower Rush Creek, with other trout weighing as much as five to six pounds.
Efforts appear to be underway by the LADWP to declare the stream restoration as complete. And, all that remains to be accomplished are finalizing recommendations for future stream flows.
After twenty-six years of searching for proof acceptable to LADWP that a trophy trout fishery existed pre-1941, irrefutable evidence has surfaced. Burton Frasher, a professional photographer of the day, an avid Rush Creek angler, left a legacy of photographic prints and 60,000 negatives taken in the 1930’s. Included are historic Rush Creek photos of trophy trout by the dozens. These photos from the Frasher Collection illustrate why Burton Frasher was so enamored with Rush Creek. The stream had an abundance of large trout.
The attached photographs document the numbers and size of the fish being caught in Rush Creek during the 1930’s and 1940’s. More pictures exist in the archives.
Burton also carried a 16mm motion picture camera with him on his photographic trips. It has recently been discovered that there exists motion picture footage of trophy brown trout being caught on Rush Creek during the same period. Two of these 16 mm movies are in the process of being transferred from film to videotape.
Further, the Mammoth Fly Rodders request that present failed efforts to restore the trophy trout fishery are reevaluated, and a new approach be adopted, one that provides the deep water component so necessary for the existence and survival of a trophy sized trout population.
“Please request that Los Angeles modify the passive fisheries restoration underway on lower Rush Creek in Mono County, to include the construction of several deep pools at least 100m X 30m and 3' to 5' deep at locations below the "Narrows" to satisfy the pre-1941 fisheries termination requirements in SWRCB 1631 and WR 98-05. The language states before termination of restoration there must be "...self-sustaining populations of brown trout and other trout similar to those existed prior to the diversions of water by licensee and can be harvested in moderate numbers."
Mr. Steve Herrera, California State Water Resources Control...
Mr. George Shillinger, Executive Director, California Trout...
Mammoth Fly Rodders