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Willwood cleanup

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CODY, Wyo. -

Months after a sediment release killed fish and dumped debris into the Shoshone River between Cody and Powell, there’s some good news. A Wyoming Game and Fish biologist said fewer fish were killed than they feared. And, a large group of people came together to clean up the river Saturday.

Shortly after sunrise, the cars, boats, and big equipment started rolling down the hill below the Willwood dam near Ralston. They came to pick up trash from the Shoshone River. It was running mostly clear on this day.

But, it had turned chocolate brown, and was dotted with debris after the Willwood Irrigation District dropped the reservoir above for repairs in October. The release from the dam also killed fish. Anglers and a homeowner complained. In November, the Department of Environmental Quality issued a notice of violation to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which owns the dam, and the Willwood Irrigation District which operates it.

But the Game and Fish fisheries biologist, Jason Burckhardt said later surveys found the fish population fared better than expected.

Burckhardt said the population “Was down about ten to twenty percent…The good news is that there is fairly a good number of fish left in the river.”

On this day, all the parties came together. The Trout Unlimited volunteer who helped organize the effort says it wasn’t just anglers who came to clean up the river.

Dave Sweet pointed out, “This is a cooperative effort between Game and Fish, the Willwood Irrigation District, the D-E-Q, Bureau of Rec. Everybody is cooperating on this effort today.”

Sweet expected fifty people to show up. At least 75 reported for duty early Saturday morning. They hit the water in their boats, and boots, and picked up the trash.

Farmers left their work in the fields to bring the dump truck, and bulldozers to clear mud from the boat ram, and put the trash in the dump truck. By noon,  the volunteers had filled the big truck to the top.

About a dozen boats brought the trash to a take out point, where it was picked up and loaded by the Willwood Irrigation District volunteers. They’ll take the trash to the landfill.

Irrigation Manager Todd Singbeil said people are also working together behind the scenes.

Singbeil explained, “… unfortunately it took this for everybody to come together.  But all the meetings and stuff I’ve been in everybody’s coming together as a team.  We all realize we have problems now and everybody’s helping.”

D-E-Q Keith Guille would not talk about the specifics of the negotiations, but he said talks on the settlement agreement among the D-E-Q and the Irrigation District are ongoing.

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