Plumas lake poisoned despite civil disobedience

  The California Department of Fish and Game poisoned Lake Davis despite a last-minute barrage of legal assaults and pre-dawn civil disobedience hours before the Oct. 15 treatment occurred.

A week after pumping Nusyn-Noxfish and powdered rotenone into the lake north of Lake Tahoe, state officials had collected 15 tons of dead fish, including an 18-pound northern pike with a nearly 3-pound trout in its belly.

The goal of the $2 million project was to eradicate the voracious non-native pike to prevent their spread downstream into California's lucrative salmon fishery, said Banky E. Curtis, a regional Fish and Game Department manager. Workers collected 10 dead pike for every trout killed by the 33,000 gallons of chemicals, he said.

Local residents, who depend on Lake Davis as a drinking-water source, were outraged by the use of Nusyn-Noxfish, a compound containing cancer-causing trichloroethylene (TCE). Although they forced the Fish and Game Department to decrease the amount of Nusyn-Noxfish, their efforts to halt the project failed.

Hours before the poisoning began, Portola City Councilman Bill Powers and three others chained themselves to a buoy in the icy lake to make what Powers called "a simple statement about a significant evil." They were cited for trespassing.

Curtis called the poisoning a success. "I can understand the concerns of the local residents, but our job is to make fishing better," he said.

The department plans to stock Lake Davis with 700,000 rainbow trout once the chemicals have disappeared. It will provide water from alternate sources to Portola residents until state health officials determine the lake water is safe.

* Jane Braxton Little

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