Other Lake News from Near and Far

Dead Fish – A Sign of Spring

In Capistrano, swallows mark the return of spring. In Hinkley, Ohio they eagerly await the return of the buzzards. On Lake Champlain we have … dead fish.

The accumulation of dead alewives on the lakeshore began over a decade ago after alewives, an invasive species, became established on Lake Champlain. Alewives evolved in the oceans and are not well adapted for the temperature swings that can occur in freshwater lakes.  Cold winter waters take their toll on the fish, killing many though never enough to eliminate the population. When the ice goes out, a winter’s worth of dead fish float to the surface where the wind can blow them to the nearest shore.

"This is exactly why it is illegal to move fish from one water to another or to introduce new species to Vermont lakes,” said Vermont State Fisheries Biologist Shawn Good. “While some anglers may think introducing a new fish species to their favorite lake or pond will provide a new fishing opportunity, or provide food for game fish already inhabiting the waterbody, the reality is that non-native fish introductions almost always have unwanted, negative consequences.”

Good says anglers should be aware of the risks involved with introducing new species to new waters.

"The great fishing we enjoy today could be gone tomorrow if aquatic nuisance fish species are allowed to spread," he cautioned. “We all need to work together to slow or prevent the spread of exotic species and protect Vermont’s native fish and the fishing opportunities they provide.”

Albany Advances Money for Water

New York State’s newly passed budget included money for a number of water quality related projects. The budget allocates $200 million for infrastructure improvements over the next three years. The money will be available to municipalities in grants of up to $5-million for repair or replacement of sewage systems, water mains, and other water related infrastructure. Grants can cover up to 60% of a project’s cost. The money is sorely needed as there is an estimated $75 billion in unmet water infrastructure needs expected in the next two decades. 

EPA Forwards Water Rule

The EPA has passed its proposed rule defining “waters of the state” onto the White House. The rule is meant to clarify what waters are under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act following some Supreme Court decisions. Environmentalists have argued that the clear definition of waters is needed but agricultural interests argue the rule is too expansive. “We’ve worked hard to reach a final version that works for everyone – while protecting clean water,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Army Corps of Engineers head Jo-Ellen Darcy said in a written statement. The rule will now be reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and they anticipate finalizing it this spring. Disappointingly the proposed rule explicitly exempts agricultural tile drains, groundwater discharges, and any increased regulation of ditches.

Using Satellites to Monitor Algae Blooms

Four government agencies have teamed together to develop tools that would allow tracking of freshwater algae blooms using satellite images. The $3.6 million dollar research effort will involve NOAA, NASA, EPA, and the US Geologic Service. The agencies hope to develop early warning and tracking capability that can improve response to harmful algae blooms. The annual cost of U.S. freshwater degraded by harmful algal blooms is estimated to be $64 million in additional drinking water treatment, loss of recreational water usage, and decline in waterfront real estate values. In August 2014, local officials in Toledo, Ohio, banned the use of drinking water supplied to more than 400,000 residents after it had been contaminated by an algal bloom in Lake Erie.

The new satellite network will build on previous NASA ocean satellite sensor technologies created to study the global ocean’s microscopic algal communities, which play a major role in ocean ecology, the movement of carbon dioxide between the atmosphere and ocean, and climate change. These sensors detect the color of the sunlit upper layer of the ocean and are used to create indicators that can help identify harmful algal blooms. LCC has worked in the past with interns from NASA to help test the ability of the satellites to detect algae blooms.

Goldfish Threaten Colorado Lake

What likely began as the deposit of unwanted pets into Teller Lake #5 near Boulder, CO has grown into a problem of enormous proportions. Non-native goldfish are taking over the water body prompting managers to consider draining the lake as one remediation option. There are an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 goldfish in the lake, a population that likely began with the introduction of only four or five fish. Jennifer Churchill, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) spokesperson, cited concerns about the invasive species impacts on catfish, bluegill, and sunfish. "Most people don't realize the far-reaching effects of introducing exotic species to the environment," said Ken Kehmeier, senior aquatic biologist for CPW. "Nonnative species can be devastating to native populations by causing disease outbreaks and creating competition unbalance."

California Water Crisis

The western United States had a very different winter than the east. There, record high temperatures have led to a greatly diminished mountain snow cap. California depends upon snow melt to refill its reservoirs. The lack of snow comes on top of a now four-year long drought, the worst in the state since record keeping began. The drought has prompted Governor Jerry Brown to issue the state’s first ever mandatory water restrictions. Under the restrictions, cities and towns must cut water usage by 25%. The restrictions exempt farming, which accounts for 80% of the state’s water usage.

Brown had previously asked for voluntary water restrictions from cities, but was disappointed with the results. He had anticipated a 20% reduction in water use, but achieved only about 8%.

The drought has led to increased reliance on groundwater. In some parts of the Central Valley, groundwater withdrawals for agriculture have caused fields to sink by 30 feet. While there is hope that weather patterns might yet shift and refill reservoirs, groundwater is not so easily renewed.