Fish kill leaves questions

Our City

by A.F. Mayor Marc Beitia

Food, habitat, and concrete: Limiting factors – “A condition whose absence or excessive concentration is incompatible with the needs or tolerance of a species or population and which may have a negative influence on their ability to thrive;” as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency.

A condition of absence or excess; we have had our share of both of these this last week or so. One would think that with so much of our downtown in disarray, most of my incoming calls would be about the project; surprisingly they were not. No, the vast majority of calls and interviews were about water levels and dead fish.

Many of you may know I have been working the past five years to improve the quality of the fisheries that exist in the reservoir and the river here at American Falls. I would be insincere if I said these efforts were entirely predicated on the further economic development of the community, as it is no secret what I enjoy doing in my spare time. In all my 40 plus years of fishing I have never seen fish cut cleanly in half by following current over a small falls; dazed and disoriented yes, but not cleaved cleanly in halves or thirds. I find it more than a bit odd that this is what some claim to have happened to the hundreds of dead fish below the dam. True, many were “just” carp but there were also trout, bass, and perch. If what was said is truly the case, why is it that a like number of pelicans, terns, and gulls are camped out on the edges of the river and its current seams directly below the dam? The answer lies in the iconic words of comedian Sam Kinison, “that’s where the food is!” Predators and scavengers go where the food is, and the food is coming through the dam as a dazed whole or in bits and pieces. Many of the dead fish are so large they cannot be consumed. They simply rot along the shore and the stench wafts into town on the river’s breezes; a result of a manmade excessive concentration of unusable biomass that will eventually decompose and be recycled by nature. No the biomass is not wasted, nature doesn’t do that, but it calls into question a number of things.

The fish on the other hand suffer at the other end of the spectrum from excess. The turbidity of the water, its lack of clarity, is such that it is like being placed in a multi-storied house, with hundreds of rooms, and minimum or no lighting. Your task is to find food that never stays put and at best is very difficult to see; you are forced to do this for at least two months. It may not kill all the fish but the fishery will no doubt suffer greatly. Food and habitat for many species constitute the bulk of any limiting factor; fish are no different, trout tend to be more susceptible to diminishing quantities and qualities of both, which is why I love where they most often take me. Water quantity and quality, along with cleaved fish are subjects for debate, and this debate will continue. Often wrongly Idaho irrigators are the brunt of most accusations in these instances. In this case one need look no further than the headwaters of our watershed and the recreational interests that abound there. They have yet again, to no small degree, dictated when and how Idaho’s water will be allocated and the fate of our local fishery. It would be easier for me to dismiss if it were just Mother Nature dictating limiting factors.

For the past ten days the limiting factor on our downtown project has been the lack of concrete, or more specifically the concrete crew, of DePatco. As the Bus Boys sang in the movie 48 Hours, “when the boys are back there ain’t no fooling around,” curb and gutter is in on Fort Hall and the 100 block of Idaho Street with sidewalk to follow. I know it is hard to tell at times if progress is being made until we see things being done on top of all the dirt. With a little luck we will be able to see a lot of things being done above ground level these next few weeks, not the least of which is a lot of concrete being poured. The project’s limiting factor then becomes temperature as concrete and asphalt both require at least moderate degrees as fall approaches. I would like to reiterate that public parking is available in the parking lot west of Fort Hall and access is being maintained to all the business on the 200 block of Idaho Street; however, this access will be restricted when the concrete is being poured for sidewalks. Businesses will be contacted prior to pouring sidewalks and efforts coordinated to maintain business access wherever possible.

Finally a very heartfelt thank you to AF ImPact, all the other donors, the city’s streets and parks and recreation crew and Superintendent Jeremy Peirsol for a job exceptionally well done. The new skate park will have its grand opening this Thursday, Sept. 19, at 5:30 p.m. This grand opening recognizes the culmination of countless efforts and hours on behalf of our youth and those still young at heart. Please join us for the event. To all those who had a part in this nearly eight year project I thank and applaud you for going beyond the call of being a good neighbor, each of you have made American Falls such a great place to call home.

Until next week…



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