River barrier erected to protect endangered fish
WASHINGTON COUNTY – A new and improved seven-foot wall spans the Virgin River along the Utah and Arizona border.
The concrete barrier is designed to keep invasive fish out of the Utah section of the Virgin River, specifically the red shiner. The red shiner was introduced into the area by fisherman several decades ago and is a threat to the endangered woundfin minnow. The Washington County Water Conservancy District spent close to $400,000 to improve the structure.
“The goal is to save the woundfin minnow going downstream, all the way through its habitat in the Virgin River,” WCWCD Associate General Manager Barbara Hjelle said. “In order to do that, we have to stop that upstream migration of the red shiner.”
Major efforts over the past 10 years have completely eliminated the red shiner, at least from the Utah section of the river. Meisner saidd barriers like this will go far in keeping that fish out and protecting the fragile ecosystem that exists along the Virgin River.
“This whole area in Washington County is kind of the convergence of different geographical regions,” Meisner said. You’ve got The Great Basin, The Colorado Plateau, The Mojave Desert. All are very close to Washington County.
The wall is actually an upgrade to one that’s spanned the river since the 1980s. The upgrades are meant to improve the function, while also keeping the minnow in from being washed downstream.