GATEWAY – Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists and wildlife managers assessing the damage to aquatic wildlife following a Jan. 25 tanker accident on Highway 141 in West Creek near Gateway have recovered a large number of dead fish, including brown and rainbow trout, sculpin and crayfish.
Officials with the Grand Junction Fire Department say the tanker, carrying 6,000 gallons of gasoline and 2,000 gallons of diesel fuel, left the highway and landed in West Creek, where it ruptured, spilling “an unknown amount of petroleum product” and starting a fire that destroyed vegetation for several hundred yards along the creek's banks.
"Based on what we have seen so far, it appears the dead aquatic wildlife in West Creek experienced severe stress, likely from a combination of the petroleum product in the water and the extreme heat from the fire," said CPW Senior Aquatic Biologist Sherman Hebein, of Grand Junction.
Approximately two hours after the incident, CPW personnel inspecting the area detected a strong smell of petroleum in the water several miles downstream from the accident, and observed a visible petroleum sheen on the water's surface and numerous dead and dying fish.
"The public is understandably concerned about this fishery," said Hebein. "Once we are satisfied with the cleanup and restoration of this stretch of the creek, our goal will be to restock it and return the area as close to its previous state as possible."
Colorado Parks and Wildlife, which works with other state and federal agencies to determine the scope and severity of hazardous material spills that impacts wildlife, is authorized to assess and collect fines for loss of wildlife.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife manages 42 state parks, more than 300 state wildlife areas, all of Colorado's wildlife, and a variety of outdoor recreation. For more information go to cpw.state.co.us