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State Gets the Go-Ahead to Kill Predator Fish in Lake, Rivers

October 08, 1987|RONALD B. TAYLOR | Times Staff Writer

VISALIA — The California Supreme Court on Wednesday cleared the way for the state Fish and Game Department to poison all the fish in a San Joaquin Valley lake and two river systems flowing through Tulare and Kings counties.

Barring any other last-minute hitches in their plans, Fish and Game officials said they will begin dumping thousands of gallons of the pesticide rotenone in Kaweah Lake, east of Visalia, on Friday, or early next week.

State experts say they must kill all the fish in the lake and the Kaweah and Tule rivers to get rid of the white bass, a voracious predator that poses a threat to the aquatic ecosystem in the San Joaquin River Delta nearly 200 miles to the north.

Last week the Supreme Court issued a temporary order stopping the fish kill after the Tulare County Board of Supervisors went to court to protest the state's actions. That stay was lifted after the county's attorneys unsuccessfully contended that the state had exceeded its authority.

Nick Villa, a State Fish and Game biologist, said the fish kill--largest of its kind ever attempted--is the least expensive, most effective way to get rid of the white bass populations that were illegally planted in Lake Kaweah a decade or more ago.

Villa said that the pesticide's toxicity is short term and its use poses no danger to drinking water supplies.

State fish biologists and environmental groups fear the white bass, if not killed, will eventually work their way north through the river and irrigation canal systems and get into the delta. Once in the delta, it is feared they would eat their way through the salmon and striped bass populations.

Tulare County officials had raised objections to this drastic action because it would destroy local recreational fishing for at least two years. County officials argued that lost recreational revenues would total at least $2 million.

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