Friday, June 8, 2007

State still investigating Elkhorn fish deaths


By TREVOR SCHUBERT
Express Staff Writer

It will be at least two weeks before full results are available from an investigation into the deaths of approximately 150 rainbow and brook trout in Sun Valley last week, state agencies said.

The Idaho Department of Agriculture is testing fish tissue and water samples taken from Elkhorn Creek, the site of the May 31 fish kill. The state Department of Environmental Quality is also testing water samples.

Agency spokespeople said preliminary evidence indicates the source of the apparent poisoning might be a private contractor for the Elkhorn Golf Course who was working with herbicides and algaecides to treat aquatic vegetation on the course.

"We're fairly certain that's where it came from," said Dave Parrish, Magic Valley regional supervisor for the state Department of Fish and Game.

Department of Agriculture Communications Director Pamela Juker said on Thursday that results from the tissue and water testing should take two to three weeks. A spokesperson for the Department of Environmental Quality said results from its investigation should be available by the end of next week.

Depending on the outcome of those investigations, fines and restitution could be sought from the party deemed to be at fault.

Junker said potential fines levied by the Department of Agriculture could be "label violations for the misuse of a product." The maximum fine is $3,000. In addition, a contractor's license to work with herbicides and algaecides can be revoked if it is determined the contractor misused such a product.

If the investigations show the herbicide contractor to be at fault, Parrish said, Fish and Game "would seek restitution from the golf course for the loss of fish and the time invested. But this all depends on the results of the investigations."

Parrish emphasized that Fish and Game will not be the agency levying fines.

Doug Howard, regional administrator for the Department of Environmental Quality, said that when issues fall under multiple jurisdictions, as this case does, the Idaho Attorney General's Office determines which agency should impose fines.




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