Clean-up starts at SRP's canals - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Clean-up starts at SRP's canals

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Posted: Tuesday, November 22, 2011 4:04 pm | Updated: 4:41 pm, Wed Nov 23, 2011.

No doubt plenty of Valley residents are anticipating a certain day in December when they'll be surprised by a bicycle, a computer or perhaps even a car.

But for a select few, that day will arrive this week.

Salt River Project has started draining its canals, the annual ritual where receding water delivers surprises to maintenance crews and the people who exercise along canal banks.

The clean-ups reveal lots of shopping carts, signs, small safes, bicycles, electronics and more, said Brian Moorehead, an environmental scientist with SRP.

"Pretty much anything you can think of gets tossed in the canal by somebody," Moorehead said.

SRP fishes cars out as soon as it learns one is in the water to avoid contamination. But one year, workers discovered a Corvette. The car had been stolen and dumped in the canal, with only the thief aware of the event until the clean-up.

The maintenance also involves fish wrangling.

SRP relocates white amur, a carp from China, from dry areas to parts of the canal system that still have water. Moorehead estimates the canals are populated by at least 35,000 white amur and perhaps even more of other varieties.

SRP used to drain more of the canal system, but more recently has focused the dry-ups to areas that need maintenance. This is less stressful on the fish.

"We aren't draining very many sections because it is a logistical issue of trying to get the fish picked up," Moorehead said. "By not moving the fish, the white amur do a better job in the weed control. Once they find their home, they tend to stay in that area."

SRP introduced the fish in 1989 to eat weeds and moss, which had previously been removed with costly chemicals or physical labor. SRP asks residents not to fish the white amur or to dump aquarium species in the canals.

Workers will also check for quagga mussels, an invasive species that can clog pipes. The mussels have been found in the Colorado River and Salt River lakes that feed the canals, but not in the urban canals, SRP spokesman Jeff Lane said.

The dry-up for areas south of the Salt River began Monday and will wrap up Dec. 8. Canals north of the Salt River will be drained beginning Jan. 6.

People who live near canals or exercise on their banks will notice extra activity, but should still have access, Moorehead said. The workers tend to attract attention, he said.

"We get a lot of people stopping and looking and asking questions," he said. "Most of them are happy to hear that we are relocating the fish."

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6548 or ggroff@evtrib.com

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