ELKO — Barrick Gold Corp. employees and community members gathered at Willow Creek Reservoir to construct fish habitats, the final phase in the reservoir’s restoration.
Volunteers worked Sept. 8 to install nearly 100 different fish habitats, including gravel spawning beds, as well as fish structures for catfish, crappie and small and largemouth bass. The habitat improvements are made possible through a partnership between Barrick and the Nevada Department of Wildlife.
“Barrick was committed to offering our employees and the community the opportunity to be involved in the restoration efforts at Willow Creek Reservoir,” said Shane Moss, project manager and general supervisor for Barrick Conservation Council. “Through the help of our dedicated volunteers, we were able to implement the proper fish habitats now so that when the reservoir is filled, the fish habitat structures are already in place.”
Willow Creek Reservoir, which is owned by Barrick, has been undergoing restoration since December 2017 after a gate and actuator valve malfunction. Since then, Barrick has dedicated 20,000 man-hours and invested $1.7 million into the restoration project.
Several Barrick and NDOW employees volunteered on Saturday, as well as community members and contractors who donated equipment including Raintree Construction, United Rentals, GSI, Remington Construction, Truckin’ Water and partners from the Nevada Bighorns Unlimited Midas Chapter.
“A lot of really great work was performed by volunteers who helped to install fish habitats on the three northern coves of the reservoir,” commented Chris Drake, NDOW fisheries biologist for Elko County.
Drake shared that “Barrick donated pallets used for “crappie condos” and PVC which will be submerged to imitate hollow logs for catfish habitat. Rock-filled spawning rings were also installed for small and largemouth bass habitat. Next spring, NDOW will install an additional 200 fish habitat structures to imitate trees and shrubs, a method currently being successfully used in the South Fork and Wildhorse Reservoirs.”
Willow Creek Reservoir holds up to 10,000-acre feet of water, and when full, provides fish with a natural spawning habitat.
“On average, the reservoir reaches its maximum capacity following a regular or large winter season every five to six years like we experienced in 2011 and 2017 when Willow Creek, Nelson and Lewis tributaries fill the reservoir, thereby allowing fish to spawn naturally,” Drake said.
The fishery may take time to return to original levels, the company stated, but Barrick plans to reopen public access to the facility in early 2019.