California G&F moving forward with plans to detonate pike

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Officials don't like state's explosive plan to kill fish

By DON THOMPSON, The Associated Press

SACRAMENTO - No one particularly likes the state's plan to crisscross scenic, mountain-rimmed Lake Davis with explosives in order to save it.

But officials in Plumas County say that's a lot better than poisoning the Sierra Nevada reservoir, as the state Department of Fish and Game did a few years ago in a futile effort to eradicate voracious foreign northern pike that are eating the local trout.

The department plans to lay 1,000 feet of detonation cord around an acre of the lake northeast of Sacramento April 24, weather permitting, then light the fuse.

There won't be fish flying through the air, said spokesman Steve Martarano, but ³it'll still have pretty good bang for the buck.

Pressure from the underwater explosion will kill nearby fish and amphibians of all kinds. If it works, the department wants to blow up 10 acres at a time, as many as 15 more times over the next two years, aiming for the shallows where little pike grow into big toothy pike.

³We're optimistic, in a strange sort of way, said Portola Mayor Bill Powers. This, even though ³rumors abound that the det cord itself will contaminate the entire drinking water supply or that it might even contaminate the air somehow.

State officials have been careful this time to publicly address those concerns. For instance, a government scientist told residents the pollutants in the thousand feet of clothesline-like explosive cord are about the same as if a 12-ounce beer can full of gasoline was poured into the more than 4,000-acre lake, Powers said.

The test shot is to make sure there are no lasting environmental effects, said Martarano. Water and air samples will be taken, the dead fish will be counted and each dead trout quickly replaced with two catchable-size hatchery trout.

The response has been far better than when the department dumped 50,000 pounds of the chemical rotenone into the lake in 1997, killing most animal life - but not the resilient pike population.

For a time, signs in restaurants warned that Fish and Game employees weren't welcome. Portola's school children were bused into Sacramento to protest at the state Capitol.

The poisoning cost $2 million, and residents and local governments won $9.2 million in reparations from the state. Nearby wells still are being monitored to make sure the chemical doesn't show up in residents' drinking water.

State officials learned their lesson, said former county supervisor Fran Roudebush, who chairs the public Lake Davis Coalition as well as the Lake Davis Steering Committee made up of federal, state and local officials.

The department opened an office in Portola and staffed it with four professionals, including Powers' wife, Lori, a longtime resident.
 





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