Fish kill numbers hit 43,000 in 23 species

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Aug. 9, 2002

Charlie Farmer, Springfield News Leader

Fish kill numbers hit 43,000 in 23 species

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, large numbers of dead fish began surfacing in Lake of the Ozarks and Osage River on May 23.

For most Missourians, there have been scant reports since then about the month-long carnage that was among the state’s most damaging, killing more than 43,000 fish. Twenty-three species were affected, with the valuable paddlefish by far the hardest hit.

According to Bill Turner, MDC policy coordinator, “Fish were killed when trapped against the steel bars designed to keep large debris, like logs, out of the power generation turbines. Those fish that pass through the steel bars and enter the turbines are chopped up.”

Fish also are killed as they are battered in the spillway area on the dam when excess water is released into the Osage River. The fish are following their instincts to go with the flow of the water and then injured and killed from the impact of the high velocity water.

Over 4,300 paddlefish were killed and many of these were large fish at least 15 to 20 years of age. The size that anglers dream of catching.

Paddlefish are found only in two river systems worldwide. The North American variety occurs only in the Mississippi River Valley. The other species occurs in the Yangtze Valley in China.

Missouri’s paddlefish population depends on stocking, as dams on the Osage River prevent them from successfully spawning.

Bagnell Dam provides electricity to customers throughout Missouri and IIIinois. In the past its owner, AmerenUE, operated a fish hatchery to supplement stocking of the lake. Now, it makes annual financial contributions to MDC hatchery operations.

According to Turner, the fish kill will have a serious, long-term effect on the paddlefish population. It will take many years to restore the large number of fish killed.

New MDC director John Hoskins pointed out that the department has worked hard over the past two years to advise AmerenUE on how to address fish kill problems and other damages caused by operations at Bagnell Dam.

In this case, the problem began after heavy spring rain raised lake levels, causing AmerenUE to release large volumes of water from the lake into the Osage River.

MDC Policy

MDC has approved a policy for public use of department areas.

The primary uses include hunting, fishing, nature observation and conservation education.

Inappropriate uses include paint balling, hot air ballooning, hang gliding, radio-controlled boats, airplanes or vehicles, car shows, music festivals, nongovernmental military training, commercial audio, video and movie making, modeling and catalog shoots, off-road use of motorized vehicles, rock climbing, rappelling and mineral prospecting and extraction.
 

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