CBS 5's Allyson Blair herds fish alongside SRP crew in canal - Tucson News Now

CBS 5's Allyson Blair herds fish alongside SRP crew in canal

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(Source: Ricky Bougrand, (Source: Ricky Bougrand,

On a warm January day while most people are at the office, CBS 5's Allyson Blair suited up alongside a Salt River Project crew in preparation of getting dirty.

"We're in the first couple days of our north side dry up.  That's where we get in and do maintenance on the canals," said SRP spokesman Justin Schonhoff.

But before that can happen, Blair and the crew repelled into the canal to catch some fish.

"It's definitely not an easy job," Schonhoff said. "There are a lot of things you have to contend with down in the canal itself." 

With mud up to their knees and a wire fence in hand, the crew trudged forward.  Conditions were so difficult workers could only walk a few feet before getting out of breath. 

Soon fish trapped inside the fence started to splash and leap out of the water.

"It's a white Amur, which is an Asian grass carp," Schonhoff said. "They eat the vegetation and algae. They can eat up to 3/4 of their body weight a day in vegetation keeping the canals clean." 

The white Amur can grow to 48 inches and weigh as much as 20 pounds.

Once the fish were inside the fence, crew members took hand held nets and plucked them from the water.

"Once we corral the fish we load them in the trucks that have tanks in the back with water and oxygen," said Schonhoff. "We'll take them upstream where we're still holding water. That way when they are released they will naturally come back down to where they were."

SRP said they've tried other ways to remove the fish, but this way is the fastest and most effective.

Schonhoff said it ensures the utility continues to deliver reliable water service to the Valley.

All total, the crew caught between 500 and 600 fish Monday afternoon. Crew members will be working to remove the fish from canals for the rest of the month.

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