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Fish causing local concern

Situation at dam ‘very upsetting’

Courtesy photo / A large group of fish swarm in shallow water by the dam at Lakemont Park. Area residents are calling officials and asking them to address the “inhumane” situation.

Some area residents are distressed about a large group of fish trapped in shallow water near the dam at Lakemont Park, after workers raised the dam gates two weeks ago to let most of the water out in preparation for removing the silt.

Some have died, caught in shallows and weeds below the dam, and most of the rest have been swarming, their bodies partially exposed to air — although they had more depth Wednesday because of recent rain.

“It’s very upsetting,” said Chad Landeck of Lakemont, who has been coming to the top of the dam every day to monitor the situation. Landeck said he has been calling officials to find out what can be done. “It’s inhumane.”

The Intergovernmental Stormwater Committee plans to dredge the lake to rejuvenate it as a trap for sediment, part of its effort to reduce the amount of sediment washing into nearby streams, so the urbanized area around Altoona comes into compliance with federal and state mandates designed to clean up Chesapeake Bay.

Workers paused on the water release two weeks ago when the outflow grew too muddy, so that the contractor could draw up an erosion and sedimentation plan and install sediment barriers.

There was no discussion during recent ISC meetings about what would happen with the fish.

Six officials connected with the project, the park or who are expert in issues connected with fish, didn’t return messages left Wednesday, and one didn’t return a message left several days ago.

Workers could create a temporary pond just below the dam as a home for the fish until the work is done, suggested Landeck.

His family did something similar when they had to install equipment on a pond they have near Cresson, he said.

It enabled them to save “95 percent” of the fish, Landeck said.

“It will take a little bit of money,” he said.

Brush Run below the dam is too shallow to accommodate fish as big as many of those now trapped, he said.

Some of those are 20 or more years old, he estimated.

Some of them are likely the fish that kids feed near the amusement park.

Naomi Rhanish, who was walking her dog on the top of the dam Monday, is also bothered by what’s happening.

“Big time,” she said. “I could cry about it.”

Her husband, Ed Rhanish, has spoken with the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission, and someone there told him that a biologist who works for the state has decided to “compost the fish” out of concern that releasing them elsewhere would create an invasive species issue.

Everybody Rhanish has talked to about the situation is bothered about the apparent intention to let the fish die, he said.

“It’s sickening,” he said. “It’s 2020, not 1800.”

Bob Socie Jr. of Roaring Spring stopped by Wednesday on his way to work.

“I don’t think it’s right to let animals in general have to suffer,” Socie said. “They (are going) about it wrong.”

There are carp, catfish, bass, sunfish and bluegills, according to residents.

There are also lots of turtles, they said.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Landeck said.

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