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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

James River paddlefish wind up in hot water

Thursday, June 27, 2002

Hot weather and a drop in the water level in the James River below Lake Springfield contributed to the death of 88 paddlefish, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation.An angler alerted the Conservation Department June 4 after seeing dead paddlefish, some of them four feet long, around the Missouri Department of Conservation's Tailwaters Access just below Lake Springfield's dam. Besides the paddlefish, which ranged from 37 to 48 inches from the eye to the fork of the tail, fisheries biologists found approximately 100 other dead fish of other species, including black bass and catfish. They said evidence points to a combination of contributing factors. Hot weather was the primary factor in the kill, according to Conservation Department Fisheries Regional Supervisor Chris Vitello.The City of Springfield uses water from the lake to cool its electric generating plant. Paddlefish swim upstream to spawn in the spring, congregating below dams and other manmade barriers. Normally, paddlefish would swim back downstream to escape adverse conditions, but a drop in the river's level trapped them as water temperatures rose, and dissolved oxygen levels fell."This is an unusual set of circumstances," said Vitello. "It's late in the season to have paddlefish up by the dam, and early in the year to have such hot weather. Plus, the fish didn't have anyplace to go. Without any one of those factors, we probably wouldn't have had a fish kill."Vitello said his staff, in cooperation with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and City Utilities of Springfield continue to monitor the river for further problems. He said the James River is one of the few streams where the paddlefish survives, thanks to captive rearing and regular stocking. He said the Conservation Department sustains paddlefish, a fish species that otherwise would disappear in Missouri. The economic value of the fish to Missouri as a popular sport and tourist attraction equals hundreds of thousands of dollars to Missouri's economy. He said he hopes a change in weather will help stabilize conditions for the fish in the affected area."Fortunately, recent rain and cooler temperatures have helped the current situation by lowering the water temperature," said Conservation Department Fisheries Division Administrator Norm Stucky. "Hot weather over the next few days could cause additional paddlefish deaths due to higher water temperatures and lower oxygen levels. While we wait and search for answers, we are working with City Utilities to stop preventable deaths. We are all hoping for cooler weather to prevent further loss to the fishery."The Conservation Department is working with DNR and City Utilities of Springfield to discover the short-term cause for the recent kill and to develop long-term solutions to prevent future problems. "We've had a good relationship with City Utilities for many years and this relationship has resulted in many cooperative efforts, including Community Assistance Program facilities at Lake Springfield and Fellows Lake," said Vitello. "We're working together with City Utilities and DNR to remedy this current situation.""Our primary goal will be to ensure that fish and wildlife are reasonably protected from harm. We want to help businesses find measures that will efficiently produce energy while minimizing damage to Missouri's fisheries," said Stucky.

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