White Amur fish in the East Valley have begun a monthlong trip away from home.

Salt River Project began moving the fish this week from canals in the East Valley and south Phoenix to temporary homes elsewhere upstream or downstream in canals.

The process takes place each fall in the SRP canal system. The fish-free water will allow SRP to drain the canals to make room for annual maintenance projects. SRP brought triploid white Amurs, also known as grass carp, to the canals in the mid-1980s to control underwater weeds. Now, there are about 91,000 Amurs in the entire canal system.

SRP controls that number because it purchases only nonfertile fish from a fish farm in Arkansas.

Amurs, which cost about $15 to $20 each, are virtual eating machines when it comes to aquatic vegetation.

Without them, excessive weeds could block the 326 billion gallons of water delivered to the Valley every year, said SRP spokesman Jeff Lane.

Lane said the Amur transfer procedure is relatively simple. SRP crews began draining the southern area canals Nov. 21

They started removing the fish with nets Saturday. From there, they will completely drain the canals and begin the work.

Lane also warned residents of the hazard that construction vehicles can cause near the canal.

"If they're out there running or driving around where there may be activity, they should keep their heads up to that," he said.

Construction projects include repaving some areas and replacing any damaged or worn-down equipment, such as fish grates that keep Amurs in the canal system. For more information on Amurs and SRP, go towww.srpnet.com/environment/amur.asp

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