Fish-kill plan resurfaces in Alpine County | RecordCourier.com

Fish-kill plan resurfaces in Alpine County

by Jo Rafferty

The California Department of Fish and Game’s plans to poison an Alpine County creek to restore the Paiute cutthroat trout will be the subject of a public workshop later this month.

County supervisors voted to postpone their final decision on the project until the Alpine County Board of Supervisors May 3 meeting.

“We need to inform the public,” said supervisor Gunter Kaiser.

“I want the community to be involved,” said Paul Stein, chief deputy director of the resources agency of Fish and Game. “If the board has specific questions, I want them to be addressed.”

The workshop is tentatively scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 29 at Turtle Rock Park at the annual fishery update meeting sponsored by Alpine County Chamber of Commerce. The educational workshop will be incorporated into the meeting.

Officials also plan to attend a monthly Fish and Game meeting at 7 p.m. April 12 in the Alpine County Administration Building board room in Markleeville.

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Fish and Game’s plan is to chemically treat Silver King Creek with rotenone, a poison that kills fish and some forms of amphibians and aquatic invertebrates, then neutralize the poison with potassium permanganate. After it is determined that all the rainbow trout have died and the rotenone has been neutralized, then the creek will be restocked with Paiute cutthroat trout.

The end result will be to repopulate the area with the fish native to the creek, the Paiute cutthroat trout, which is on the threatened species list.

Treatment of Silver King Creek, located in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness south of Markleeville, is expected to begin in late August or early September, according to Nevada Fish and Wildlife field supervisor Robert Williams.

“Hybridization is the problem at Silver King Creek,” said Williams. “If Paiute cutthroat trout are mixed with rainbow trout they will form a hybrid of the species. We have to get rid of the rainbow trout for the cutthroat trout to exist.”

Supervisors said although the project seems inevitable, they need more information before they can approve the project.

“This is going to happen anyway,” said supervisor Terry Woodrow. “But, we need to inform the public.”

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and California Department of Fish and Game officials attended a board meeting Tuesday for the first time since November.

The consensus following the meeting was that they had been more successful this time.

“That was the closest I heard the board come to quiet acquiescence in four years,” said Stafford Lehr, Fish and Game fishery biologist.

“From my perspective, this was a lot more friendly than the November meeting,” said Williams. “It was my fault for not being up here sooner.”

Paiute cutthroat trout were considered endangered in the early ’70s and were down-listed to the threatened species list in the ’80s, said Williams.

“With completion of a few more of these actions, we’ll hopefully get them relisted as endangered,” he said.

Fish and Game officials transplanted about 500 non-native trout out of the area in 2003 and wanted to finish the job by poisoning the rest, but were stopped by a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity.

In Spring 2004 Intermountain Regional Forester Jack Troyer issued a finding of no significant impact, clearing the way for poisoning.

In June 2004 the project was appealed to the head of the Forest Service, saying the poison would have a negative impact on water-born insects the fish eat.

In addition, two petitions – from Fish and Wildlife and a fishing group Trouts Unlimited – were delaying a permit from the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board in September 2004.

Now Williams said that all environmental clearances are in place and the project is ready to go. The final decision for the project rests upon the approval of the board of supervisors.

— Jo Rafferty can be reached at jrafferty@recordcourier.com or 782-5121, ext. 213.