QUINCY, California (STPNS) -- The Plumas National Forest announced last Thursday, Feb. 8, that it was issuing a special use permit and two forest closure orders that enable the Department of Fish and Game's pike eradication project at Lake Davis to proceed.

    The permit authorizes Fish and Game to use the pisicide rotenone in Lake Davis and its tributaries in an effort to rid the lake of northern pike, a non-native, invasive fish species. The lake and its feeder streams sit on Forest Service land.



    "The department is very pleased with the decision of the Forest Service, which allows us to proceed with the project as planned," said Ed Pert, project manager for DFG, on Friday. "We appreciate the cooperation and collaboration with the Forest Service on this project."

    "I want to acknowledge the years of dedication and planning the local community, Lake Davis Steering Community and DFG have put into his effort," said Forest Supervisor Jim Peņa in a prepared statement. "We have a shared responsibility to slow the spread of invasive species that present a risk to both our ecosystem and our economy, and I am pleased that responsibility was taken seriously by so many."

The Fish and Game plan calls for applying a formulation of liquid rotenone called CFT-Legumine to the lake at water levels of 45,000-48,000 acre-feet.

Forest closure

The first forest closure will be in effect during the actual treatment period of the lake and tributaries and is meant to protect human health and safety.

It will last until the water is determined to be safe for human contact and consumption. It is expected that some forest areas would be re-opened before others as the waters neutralize.

The second forest closure would only be implemented if the water level fell below 45,000 acre-feet and would last only until water reached the 45,000 acre-feet level.  

This closure prohibits people from actually walking on the lakebed and disturbing archeological artifacts that lie under Lake Davis and which would be exposed during low lake levels.

An 18-inch snowpack would exempt the lake from this forest closure and allow snowmobiling and other recreational uses, such as the Rotary-sponsored Poker Run and the sled dog races, to proceed.

This closure is not expected to persist into the following year.

The first and primary Forest Service closure will prohibit people from entering into the project area?s watershed boundaries during treatment.

Landowners will be exempt and will continue to have free access to their homes.

Other exemptions include personnel assigned to the eradication project, emergency response vehicles, Forest Service contractors and members of the media.

This forest closure will begin immediately after Labor Day and continue until the water is deemed safe ? approximately four to six weeks. The safety determination will be coordinated with county health services.

Forest Service

announcement

The Forest Service announcement came during the public meeting held by Fish and Game to field community questions regarding the recent pike project decision.  

About 50 people attended the meeting at Portola Memorial Hall. About a dozen of these were DFG personnel, two were Forest Service representatives and another two were from the Department of Water Resources.

Four members of the Lake Davis Steering Committee were present, as well as three members of the press.  

The remainder of those in attendance were less-than-happy members of the community.

After briefly describing the chosen treatment, Pert stressed that 45,000 acre-feet lake level had the least impact on recreation and the local economy because it had the least "downtime."  

Treatment is scheduled to begin after Labor Day 2007.

In comparing the current treatment plan with the situation in 1997, Pert said, ?The only thing that is the same is the lake level.?

He felt that many things had changed; at the forefront, he felt that working with the community had made a big difference.

Working closely with the Forest Service on the joint environmental documents was another factor that will enable Fish and Game to be more thorough in the wetlands and tributary areas.

The department also had the benefit of learning from past mistakes and implemented better planning this go-around. It also is in the process of training its personnel more thoroughly.

In addition, the agency has greater staffing and more resources.

Another valuable change from 1997 was better mapping technology, along with personal familiarity with Lake Davis terrain gained by having a field office in Portola for the past seven years.

?We know the land and it?s well mapped,? said Pert. Both the lake and tributary areas have been divided into grids.

Members of the community voiced concerns ranging from toxicity to humans and wildlife, to drinking water safety, to cleaning up dead fish.

Students from Portola High School were also on hand with their questions ? one of which concerned human tolerance. The public was informed that both humans and fowl were able to metabolize rotenone in small quantities.

Another query garnered the response that the CFT-Legumine chemical compound contains only 5 percent rotenone. The other 95 percent of the mixture is chemicals added to render rotenone soluble in water.

These chemicals are the ones held suspect by Fran Roudebush and other members of the community.

Roudebush reminded Pert that DFG had promised not to use Noxfish again.

Pert reiterated that it was only being considered as backup and stated, ?Our current director is aware of that commitment. It?s a touchy issue ? we know that. We don?t plan to use it unless it?s really necessary.?

Dan Wilson, an elementary school teacher, noted that there has been an increase in the number of children in the area who are afflicted with autism ? once extremely rare. Other disorders in children seemed to be on the rise in this community at the same time that school enrollment was decreasing.

Pert and the other panel members indicated that they did not feel qualified to address these health concerns.

Next step

    The project still needs the blessing of the California Department of Health Services. That agency is holding a public workshop to present its findings about the project's impact on drinking water quality and the need for alternative water supplies.

    The workshop is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 21, from 6-9 p.m. at the Portola Station Baptist Church, 171 Gulling St. in Portola.

Dr. David Spath will be on hand to answer questions about health concerns. The DFG panel felt that he would also be better qualified to address the toxicology of the chemical constituents.

The CDHS draft document is posted online at dhs.ca.gov/ps/ddwem/. Copies are also available for review at Portola City Hall (35 Third Ave.), Plumas County Library in Portola (34 Third Ave.) and in Quincy (445 Jackson St.), and the CDHS office in Sacramento.

Although the community seemed resigned to the re-poisoning of Lake Davis, as evidenced by the small turnout to this community forum, members were not convinced of its safety, as evidenced by their questions.

Moreover, they wanted to know ? when will it all end? As one woman stated, ?Will we have to go through this every five years or so??

Pert said, ?No, this is a one-shot thing.?

    Staff writers Lyn Walters and Delaine Fragnoli contributed to this report.