Big stink over northern pike

  A battle over poisoning Lake Davis to rid it of non-native northern pike appears headed for a shoreline showdown.

The courts have endorsed a California Department of Fish and Game plan to poison the lake 70 miles north of Lake Tahoe. A Plumas County ordinance is now one of the last obstacles, short of civil disobedience, to the project.

The county's regulation, adopted Sept. 16, makes it a misdemeanor to pollute a river, stream or reservoir by deliberately killing fish. "Just planning to do it is conspiracy to commit a crime," said Plumas County Supervisor Fran Roudebush.

Set for Oct. 15, the poisoning is designed to keep the voracious pike from traveling downstream and threatening native species (HCN, 6/23/97). State officials hope to kill all of the fish in the lake with 33,000 gallons of chemicals which include Nusyn-Noxfish, a compound containing the carcinogen trichloroethylene (TCE). State officials will plant Lake Davis with trout once the chemicals have dissipated, said Banky E. Curtis, a regional Fish and Game Department manager.

Project opponents fear the poisons will contaminate the lake they use as a major source of drinking water. They have rallied behind the county ordinance after failing to halt the project with litigation and state regulations.

The 140,000 pounds of dead fish expected to result from the poisoning will pollute local waters in violation of the county's ordinance, said Roudebush. That means state officials could be subject to arrest "the moment someone tips a barrel of poison into the lake," said Plumas County District Attorney James Reichle.

The local law is the biggest obstacle to the poisoning project, said Patrick Foy, a spokesman for the Fish and Game Department. Meanwhile, some local residents are plotting human chains to halt the poisoning. Roudebush said she opposes any unlawful action but she did not rule out barricading county roads as a legal method.

"We're determined we're going to stop this," she said.

*Jane Braxton Little

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