Havana residents concerned over thousands of dead fish

By Mark Bullion

July 2, 2012 Updated Jul 2, 2012 at 6:35 PM CDT

HAVANA, Ill -- Dead fish carcasses, maggots by the thousands invading their eyes, and a smell that would raise anyone's nostril hairs... It's what the shore of Quiver Creek attached to Chautauqua Lake in Havana looks like.

"We've never had fish, dead fish float up on our banks, like we see here. I buried probably at least a couple ton of them the other day," said concerned resident Rick Hartmeyer.

According to the IDNR, summer fish kills are a result of natural conditions like hot weather and low water levels but Hartmeyer says this was intentionally done by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

And that's something officials say is not true. Officials have begun to draw down the lake to try and improve the habitats for many migratory birds.

"We have a gravity drain structure down here that's just open," said Bob Clevenstine of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "On Friday morning, we discovered that fish were finally starting to die here and were starting to flow into Quiver Creek and Quiver Lake so we went ahead and shut down the control structure in the morning and in the afternoon, we put in a screen to prevent any more fish from getting out into the lake."

But still, there's several miles of dead fish and that can create environmental impacts like botulism, in particular birds.

"Botulism is variable, we don't know how that will work out, especially with water fowl which is what we deal with here at the Forbes Station, cause the water fowl aren't here yet, we have a few nesting, ducks and geese, but most of them are migrating through so they won't be here for several months," said Forbes Biological Station Director Heath Hagey.

It's pretty hard to describe unless you've ever been in a fish market where the freezers broke, it's just thousands upon thousands of fish that are dying on the bank," said Hartmeyer.

Officials say the carcasses should decay and wash down shore into the Illinois River within the next few weeks.

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