Fish die-off at reservoir spurs officials into action

Argus employee Tabitha Kennington took these photos on July 14 while on an outing with her family at Bully Creek Reservoir. Fish and wildlife officials say the fish die-off is throughout the reservoir and are urging people to take caution around the water, and avoid algae blooms.

VALE — People going out to Bully Creek Reservoir, northwest of Vale, for recreation are being advised to use caution about going in the water as there is harmful algae bloom around that body of water, which is suspected as one of the causes of a fish die-off there.

Dave Banks, with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the fish die-off is being investigated. However, as of Wednesday there was no definitive cause. However, he said a combination of heat and the algae was the likely cause and samples of the fish and water have been sent to a Department of Environmental Quality lab for testing. Both heat and the algae bloom take oxygen out of the water, Banks said.

The fish die-off is pretty much throughout the whole reservoir, Banks said, but fortunately most of the fish are on the west side, away from the public use areas. Workers are removing the dead fish near those public areas.

In the meantime, people are warned not to wade, swim or water ski in water where there is an indication of algae bloom. Warning signs are being posted around the public areas, Banks said, particularly the boat ramp.

According to Oregon Health Authority documents, provided by Banks, people should never drink the water and if the fish caught in affected waters is to be eaten, that should be done only after all the fat, skin and organs are removed, and rinse the fillets to remove contaminants.

The algae blooms can cause illness in humans and animals, causing skin irritation or a rash if there is contact with skin, as well as diarrhea, cramps, vomiting and dizziness if swallowed.

The algae bloom toxins can be deadly to dogs, and they should be allowed to swim in affected water or drink it, if they go into water that has the algae bloom they should not be allowed to lick their fur

“When in doubt, stay out,” is the slogan the Health Authority has on one of its posters.

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