A project is underway this week to replace a fish ladder on Elkhorn Creek in Lane Ranch subdivision so trout can migrate from the Big Wood River to tributary habitat.

According to a press release from Trout Unlimited, fish cannot jump into the upper pond near the Lane Ranch clubhouse, and the new fish ladder will have larger pools and space for juvenile fish to pass through, enabling access to spawning and rearing grounds

The project is an effort by Trout Unlimited, the Lane Ranch Homeowners Association and public supporters.

Keri York, Big Wood project manager for Trout Unlimited, said that when unaltered, small streams and tributaries are rich in nutrients and have cooler temperatures and submerged aquatic vegetation that provide habitat for insects and juvenile fish.

“Tributaries to larger rivers, like the Big Wood, are vitally important to maintain trout and other fish populations,” York said. “Most of our tributaries have been altered by infrastructure, fire or development, so we are excited for this opportunity to open up important habitat for our fish populations.”

Several years ago, Trout Unlimited member Bob Law noticed that fish were unable to jump up a fish ladder at the outlet of the upper pond near the Lane Ranch clubhouse.

“The fish ladder was built so that trout could swim upstream into the pond, but over time, the pond level had been raised with checkboards, and fish can no longer jump into the pond,” Law said. “This was a huge concern for me, as a Lane Ranch homeowner and Trout Unlimited member.”

Law initiated a multi-year effort to raise funds and build support to replace the nonfunctioning fish ladder. The new fish ladder is designed to allow trout of all age classes to pass through year-round.

“We designed a fish ladder with pools that are larger and with adjustable steps,” said Gary Ashby, a water resource engineer with Forsgren Associates in Meridian, Idaho, who designed the fish ladder. “As water levels change throughout the year, we can adjust the steps so that fish can swim upstream even during the summer. In each step, there are notches so that juvenile fish can also swim through.”

The Lane Ranch Homeowners Association is providing access to the creek to remove the current fish ladder and build a new one.

“Lane Ranch is proud to be a part of this project that will improve our streams for adult fish in the Big Wood, and throughout Elkhorn Creek,” association President Paul Lees said. “Many of us live here because of the outdoors, and we want to have healthy streams and fish populations.”

Replacing the fish ladder is expected to take one to two weeks.

Portions of the bike path along Elkhorn Road are being temporarily closed so equipment can access the creek. For specific day and time closures, contact Keri York at Trout Unlimited at keri.york@tu.org or the city of Sun Valley.

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