Fairbanks & Soda Springs
Ash Meadows, located within the Amargosa River system in southern Nevada, is a unique desert wetlands complex supporting one of the highest levels of species endemism in North America. Designated a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance in 1986, Ash Meadows contains at least 25 unique species and subspecies dependent on these isolated spring and wetland habitats, including three endemic fishes; the Ash Meadows pupfish, the Warm Springs pupfish, and the Ash Meadows speckled dace. No where else on earth will you find these three species.
Through historic development for agriculture, this project is intended to support the restoration of Fairbanks and Soda Springs. A component of the Upper Carson Slough (UCS) restoration project. The surface hydrology and aquatic habitats of the UCS hasin Ash Meadows have been highly modified by spring diversion, peat mining, irrigation ditches, and water storage impoundments. Anthropogenic landscape alteration has resulted in the loss of aquatic habitats vital for the recovery of the Ash Meadows speckled dace and Ash Meadows pupfish and has resulted in the alteration of hydrologic processes that create and maintain those aquatic habitats.
This project supports the restoration of Fairbanks and Soda Springs as a component of the larger Upper Carson Slough restoration across the northern extent of Ash Meadows NWR. The restoration actions will restore hydrologic processes and create critically needed aquatic habitat for native species within the Fairbanks and Soda Springs spring brook outflow systems which historically supported important populations of Ash Meadows pupfish, speckled dace, endemic aquatic invertebrates and spring snails, and provide connectivity to Carson Slough downstream to enhance genetic exchange and increase habitat for the Ash Meadows pupfish.
The Ash Meadows pupfish occupies numerous springs and outflow channels within Ash Meadows and. P populations also exist in Crystal Reservoir, Lower Crystal Marsh, and Peterson
Reservoir, but these populations can vary by several orders of magnitudeb. Because the habitats of the Ash Meadows pupfish comprise most of the surface water in the area, they were the most altered during agricultural development. The entire habitat of this species has been affected by diversion into earthen or concrete channels, impoundments, drying caused by groundwater pumping, or elimination of riparian vegetation (USDI 2000); however, populations within most of the major springs appear to be faring well.
Ash Meadows Speckled Dace collection records show that the species once shared many of the same springs and outflows that the Ash Meadows pupfish inhabits (U.S. Dept of the Interior 2000), but they are now only found in two springs (Bradford Spring and Jackrabbit Spring) in stable populations. Several hundred speckled dace were introduced into the combined outflow of the Point of Rocks springs in 2004 and 2005, and into Forest Spring in 2006. Current status of these populations is not known, but from recent surveys by the U.S. Geological Survey, their numbers appear to be minimal. Loss of faster-flowing, cool water because of habitat alteration, along with introduced aquatic species has prevented the reintroduction of the Ash Meadows speckled dace into most of its historic habitat, including the Fairbanks Spring system.
This project will implement aquatic habitat enhancement and restoration activities including spring source re-shaping/modification, stream channel excavation and construction, installation of fish barriers for future invasive fish species control, road improvement, and the installation of stream crossing structures, improving drainage and restoring hydrologic processes within the Upper Carson Slough complex. These actions to be completed in 2010 will promote fish passage, habitat restoration, and species recovery, including creation of approximately 4.2 miles of stream channel, restoration of approximately 180 acres of emergent marsh and wetland habitat, and allowing re-establishment of Ash Meadows speckled dace in the Fairbanks Spring outflow system to restore a population of this endangered fish which was extirpated more than 50 years ago.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge)
Nevada Department of Wildlife
USGS Western Fisheries Research Center
Death Valley Natural History Association