Something fishy at Rock Cut?

July 1, 1993

Something fishy at Rock Cut?

By Shellie Berg

By Shellie Berg

Staff Reporter

Environmentalists are incensed following a lake draw-down at Rock Cut State Park, which has concentrated wildlife.

Both Pierce Lake and Roland Olson Lake were drained for a project to repair the lake’s dam. Rock Cut officials drained five feet from Roland Olson Lake and three feet from Pierce Lake. In Pierce, Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) regional fisheries biologist Al Pully shocked fish, which entails forcing them to rise to the lake’s surface and removing them. But Roland Olson is experiencing the opposite problem. Fish weren’t removed from the lake.

Hundreds of dead fish, such as carp, are visible from the lake’s eastern edge. Although the draw-down has killed off unwanted aquatic vegetation, naturalists say the adverse effect on other desirable plants and animals is substantial.

The IDNR, which has jurisdiction over the park, and park officials, say that they didn’t expect the immense wildlife kill.

Joe Ferencak, IDNR resource manager in Sterling, said the project must occur for safety, regardless of the wildlife kill. Ferencak and Dan Riggs, park superintendent, considers the kill small. “It’s not serious at all,” Riggs added.

Environmentalists believe the obliteration of wildlife could have been prevented. Eugene Brown, president of the Illinois Conservation Voters, said, “It seems as though maybe on the onset they rushed things a bit without having all the information.”

One local environmental expert believes officials failed to take proper precautions before engaging in the project, which will be completed by the end of September. He asserted that officials also should have measured the dissolved oxygen levels to formulate an idea of how much oxygen is present. Jack Adam, regional manager for water pollution control for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, said officials should have measured oxygen levels after the fish kill.

But Pully said he hasn’t measured levels. He said he can discern they are plentiful as the color of the water is green, which is reflective of good oxygen levels.

The draw-down began July 23 for Roland

Continued on page 7

From page 1

Olson. Outdoorsman Scott Caring believes the water must have been let out too quickly. Caring said he walked the grounds near Olson three days following the valve release and saw hundreds of dead fish.

He said the water obviously appeared to be down at least two feet. If the water was let out too fast, he ascertained the fish felt the pull from the west and it attracted them to the east end of the lake, which is the shallow part they are lying in now. Riggs asserted that the water was drained properly.

Pully wagers on the lakes being filled up with rain and water from the creek by winter. “A couple good rains will fill it back up,” he stated. When the lake fills up, fish from state fisheries will be restocked in Olson in either spring or fall.

Next year, the lake will reopen to the public. Ferencak doesn’t believe that high bacteria levels from the dead wildlife will pose a problem for swimmers next summer. He said levels should be normal by next year. Bacteria levels won’t even be measured.

The local environmental expert said bacteria levels should be evaluated before opening the lake to swimmers next year. Brown agreed. “I think it’s something that has to be taken into consideration,” he said. “It’s not something that you just ignore.”

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