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January 23, 2007
California Dept. of Fish & Game to re-poison Lake Davis
QUINCY, California (STPNS) -- The California Department of Fish and Game announced Tuesday, Jan. 23. that it plans to apply a liquid form of rotenone to Lake Davis and its tributaries after Labor Day in another effort to eliminate northern pike.
The plan calls for using CFF Legumine, according to the department's Steve Martarano.
?We?ve been pleased with the alliance working with the steering committee and residents,? said Martarano. He said the agency feels this option is the ?most safe and effective? for ridding the lake of pike.
?We looked at everything feasible,? said Martarano.
The poison will be applied at a lake level of 45,000 to 48,000 acre-feet. Martarano said there would be ?virtually no recreational downtime.?
Since 2000, $21 million has been spent on pike eradication efforts, according to Martarano.
Fish and Game has a full-time team of 35 employees working on the pike effort.
The chosen approach was one of seven options explored in the agency's environmental review process.
The department, which manages the trout fishery in Lake Davis, along with the Plumas National Forest, which owns the lake and its surroundings, worked together with scientists and community members on the Lake Davis Steering Committee to determine the best way to eradicate northern pike from the lake.
Officials hope that better science and more community involvement will be the keys to success this time around.
Five of the options proposed poisoning the lake again with the fish poison rotenone, but with different amounts of water in the lake. A sixth option involved removing all the water from the lake but using no poison. A seventh option of taking no action was also described in the plan so that the effects of poisoning could be better evaluated against doing nothing.
Option 1: No action
This option involved continuing the management strategy that had been implemented at the lake since 2000, even though it had proven to be ineffective. The danger is that pike will escape from the lake and find their way down the Feather River to other areas of California.
Under this option, Lake Davis would no longer be stocked with trout since the pike would feed on the trout.
Options 2-6: Poison the lake
Five different combinations of poison and water volume were evaluated. At its capacity, the lake holds 84,000 acre-feet of water and covers an area of 4,000 acres. An acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover an acre of land one foot deep, about 326,000 gallons, which means that Lake Davis is capable of holding over 27 billion gallons of water.
Under Option 2, the lake would be drawn down to 15,000 acre-feet and a liquid formulation of rotenone would be applied to all the open water surfaces of the lake, shoreline and tributaries.
Option 3 calls for the lake to be drawn down to 15,000 acre-feet and both liquid and powdered rotenone to be applied ? liquid to the smaller areas and shoreline, and powder to the larger volume of the lake. The powder version of the poison does not have an odor.
Under Option 4, the lake would be drawn down to 5,000 acre-feet and liquid poison applied.
Option 5 would draw down the lake to 35,000 acre-feet and treat it with liquid poison.
Under Option 6, the chosen approach, the lake will be drawn down to 48,000 acre-feet and liquid poison applied.
All of these options require that the Forest Service close all the areas around Lake Davis while the poison is being applied.
Option 7: Empty the lake
This option could be an effective way to kill all the fish in the lake if the lake could be emptied and kept dry long enough to ensure that all the pike were dead. For a lake the size of Davis, this option is difficult, because the outlet is too high and would leave pools of water. In addition, the creeks that run into the lake can't be easily diverted.
All of the options evaluated involve removing a significant amount of water from the lake and killing all of the fish in the lake, actions that will have a major impact on the physical environment and the ecosystem of Lake Davis for years to come.
Using rotenone to poison the fish will also have a major impact and is associated with environmental risks if not transported, stored, used and neutralized properly.
Timeline of events
1988: Northern pike are first discovered in Frenchman Lake, the result of illegal introduction by sport fisherman. These fish spread to waterways in the Sierra Valley and the headwaters of the Middle Fork Feather River but are successfully eradicated by the Department of Fish and Game using poison.
The fear is that the northern pike, a large, aggressive fish, will take over the ecological niche occupied by the native California trout and salmon.
1994: Pike are first observed in Lake Davis, once again the result of illegal introduction by a sport fisherman.
The northern pike is a popular sport fish in the Midwest, where it can grow to sizes that make its catch a fun challenge for anglers.
The ecosystem of Lake Davis limits the growth of northern pike, which have not been seen there at sizes greater than 24 inches in length.
1995: The Department of Fish and Game decides that eradication of the northern pike is critical to protecting the salmon and trout fisheries of Lake Davis and downstream areas, including the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The department releases its plan to use rotenone, a fish poison, to kill all the fish in Lake Davis.
1997: After clearing a number of legal challenges and hurdles, the Department of Fish and Game gains approval to conduct the poisoning.
When the time comes to implement the plan, the community erupts in protest. Candlelight vigils, angry protests and one law enforcement officer for every 10 residents in the area accompany Fish and Game officials as they spread poison throughout the lake in October.
The poisoning effort fails. The water temperature proves too cold and the amount of poison used is likely too little for the quantity of water in the lake.
The event becomes a national story, pitting bureaucratic officials against local residents, who fear the effects of the poison on their drinking water supply, on the long-term health of the lake, and on the livelihood of many businesses that depend on tourists and fishermen to make a living.
1999: By mid-1999, northern pike are again observed in Lake Davis. Were they re-introduced by angry locals or did they survive the poisoning? Despite genetic testing that shows the fish are descendents of the original population, that question is never answered.
Meanwhile, the City of Portola is forced to find alternate water sources for its residents. There is ongoing concern that the improperly applied poison has migrated into wells and springs.
Multiple lawsuits against the state and federal governments result in millions of dollars in damages to the City of Portola and to local businesses that have been hurt by the poisoning.
Amid the accusations and recriminations, the Department of Fish and Game forms a group of scientists and community members to provide advice on how to deal with this latest development.
2000: The Lake Davis Steering Committee issues a plan to limit the population growth of the northern pike, and the Department of Fish and Game switches its official policy from eradication to management in an effort to contain the pike within Lake Davis.
Techniques such as electroshock fishing, explosion of detonation cords and net fishing are used to remove about 55,000 fish from the lake after the plan goes into effect. Fishing for pike is made illegal, as is removing live pike from the lake.
2003: Despite all of the management and control efforts, the population of pike in Lake Davis continues to rise. By 2003 the steering committee is convinced that it must once again change strategy.
The committee and the Department of Fish and Game, coordinating with the Plumas National Forest, start working on a new plan to eradicate the pike. This time, the plan includes more community involvement and a complete review of all the eradication options.
The Department of Fish and Game and the Plumas National Forest initiate a joint environmental review under both the California Environmental Quality Act and the National Environmental Protection Act.
September 2006: A joint environmental impact report is issued by both agencies for public review and comment, presenting six options to completely eradicate northern pike from Lake Davis and its tributaries.
A seventh, do-nothing option is also presented to show what could happen if the pike continue to reproduce in Lake Davis.
With input from the public gathered between September and December, the state and federal governments will publish a formal decision, selecting their preferred poisoning option out of the seven proposed in the joint environmental report.
While that decision could be appealed under CEQA and NEPA, the Department of Fish and Game and the Forest Service will move forward to implement the chosen eradication program.
Lyn Walters, Staff Writer, and Managing Edito
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