Silver Creek’s New Purdy Pond

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The view looking North over the newly dredged and redesigned Purdy Pond. Photo- Huskey

 

There are two restoration projects underway on Silver Creek, both of which aim to remove silt and reduce soaring summertime water temperatures. The first project which has taken place on the Purdy Pond below Kilpatrick Bridge began in October and is now close to completion. The second is upstream of the bridge on the Silver Creek Preserve and began work in January.

 

Nick Purdy stands along the canal diversion created to temporarily divert Silver Creek allowing equipment to excavate the silt and mud. Photo- Huskey

There are two main objectives of the Pond project- first to remove silt and second to replace the dam thats restricting downstream silt transport. The bulk of work has been completed on the Purdy Pond. One hundred-plus years of backed up silt has been contained into islands within the pond. What’s resulted is an entirely new footprint for the famed fly fishing destination. Gone is the large open space of shallow water with feet of soft-silt bottom, and in it’s place is a network of islands separated by what (once filled) will be deep, cold water.

Once excavated, the mud was given time to dry, then used to construct the new islands. Photo- Huskey

The islands, which are lined with many rocks and boulders were constructed of silt material that had accumulated behind an irrigation dam. For over a century, this restricted water has provided irrigation for the farmers and ranchers of the Picabo community.

The new dam provides several important new features, including fish passage and discharge from deep in the water column. Photo- Huskey

The dam has been replaced by a custom engineered structure, designed to not only facilitate fish passage, but also pass the coolest water from the bottom of the pond. The new design aims to rejuvenate miles of lower Silver Creek,  historically a cold water fishery.

Sections of Silver Creek that are downstream of the Purdy Pond will benefit from cooler summertime water temperatures. Photo- Huskey

There is a great deal of public access in the miles of Silver Creek below the Dam and the RR Ranch. In the past, summertime water temperatures increased by as much as 10 degrees after leaving the pond, making this downstream section of river a noticeably less productive trout fishery during warmer summer months.

Trout of all kinds rely on the shade and cover that vegetated shorelines provide. Photo- Huskey

Back up in the new shorelines of the pond, the newly dredged channels and creation of islands have not only increased the water depth (8-10 feet in some areas) but also created hundreds of yards of new shoreline- areas that will become sheltered and productive areas for both anglers and fish.

TNCD2O

Silver Creek Preserve Manager Dayna Gross of The Nature Conservancy describes features and benefits of side new channels, including habitat for juvenile trout. Photo- Huskey

Construction is now well underway upstream of Kilpatrick bridge on the Nature Conservancy’s Silver Creek Preserve. A deeper channel and expanded wetlands are main objectives of this project which is scheduled for a 2015 completion, although fishing will remain open throughout the 2014 season.

3 Comments on “Silver Creek’s New Purdy Pond”

  1. I visited sun valley this winter and took a look at the so called restoration project project that was railroaded in by the nature conservancy and Purdy. This is one of the saddest things I’ve seen in my life. The total destruction of one of if not the finest fly fishing spring creek in america. The areas that they have “restored” were some of the best places to fish on the entire creek. The pond was a priceless gem that allowed for some of the most challenging fishing as well as some of the biggest fish in all of silver creek. When I saw what they have done it brought tears to my eyes. It is amazing to see the unbridled stupidity that went into this project. However I’m not surprised, as a man much wiser than me said it is the nature of men and women to be given something great and turn it into shit with the best intentions. The loss of this fishery is a tragedy and to those people who made these decisions, SHAME ON YOU!!!!!!!!!

    1. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and concerns for Silver Creek. Of course only time and nature itself will be the judge of the success of this project. That said, we all look forward to the long term benefits of cooler water, silt transport and restored fish passage.
      Bryan Huskey

  2. Thank you for your reply. However I would like to address some of the points you have brought up.
    You said in your reply,”Of course only time and nature itself will be the judge of the success of this project”.
    The point I was making in my original comment is there would not be any necessity for time and nature to be the judge had the pond been left alone. Now that it has been destroyed of course time and nature will be the judge because that is all there is left. I agree that cooler water through out the entirety of the creek would be a benefit. And surely the fish ladder that existed was dysfunctional and needed to be addressed. Had the project just focused on that, it could have kept the best fishing areas in tact. Removal of the silt could have been done over time by using floating dredges thus having a much gentler change for these two areas. Floating dredges have been used all over the country to successfully remove excess silt from water ways. This idea seems much more in line with the idea of conserving and preserving nature. I do not believe in this case that the benefits you list above warrant the action taken. We must also try to calculate the fish kill that has gone on by making such drastic changes. I read that the people doing this project relocated 1500 fish. I have fished extensively in the eastern sierras. The upper Owens river has one of the highest density fish counts per mile, 7500, of any river in the western U.S. This river averages 20-25 feet wide at any given point along its expanse. If one took the pond and cut it into 25ft sections from the bridge to the fish ladder it would probably be at least a mile of river. My experience of the amount of fish in the entirety of the pond was far beyond 1500 and probably much closer to 5000 or 10,000. With this in mind we are probably looking at the largest and most significant fish kill in the history of Silver creek. I’m sure over time that nature will bring the creek back to a healthy fishery but with the options of not being so invasive and taking a gentler approach it begs one to think what were the actual motivations of the people that approved and under took this project. I have taken quite a bit of time reading all that has been available on line and have talked with my local friends about this. My initial comments were not made without this understanding and I am still actively collecting information about this so called “restoration”. Unfortunately the train has left the station and will not be returning any time soon. It is with a sad and heavy heart that these topics must be discussed and my hope is, with all that has gone on for this restoration, that it will be successful and positive and improve everything about silver creek. And in that only time and nature will tell. It still remains to be seen if man and woman will poke there grubby little fingers back into silver creek for more “restoration”!!!

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