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Group seeking to rescue fish

Lakemont dam project stirs anger, concern for trapped wildlife

Protesters hold signs on Wednesday across from the dam at Lakemont Park in support of saving the fish that are being affected by lower water levels at the lake. Mirror photo by William Kibler

At least one local outdoors expert has called the fish that were recently trapped in a shallow pool at Lakemont Park “worthless” and “trash.”

A group of local people holding signs along Logan Boulevard near the park on Wednesday don’t see it that way.

“Every living creature deserves to be treated humanely,” said Angela Hudson of Altoona, part of a group seeking permission from authorities to rescue the fish.

“There should be no such thing as a trash fish species,” said Mark Conrad of Lakemont, an organizer of the rescue attempt. “All have an equal part to play in the ecosystem.”

Conrad and others have been trying to open a dialog with Blair County, which owns the lake property, and the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission, which controls the disposition of fish in public waters.

Group members have offered to use boats so they can net the fish and transport them to private ponds.

Conrad has suggested transporting them downstream to the mouth of Brush Run, which flows into and out of the lake, or into the Frankstown Branch of the Juniata River, to which Brush Run is a tributary.

Ideally, the dredging contractor, whose workers were at the dam Wednesday, could dredge a portion of the lake bottom, construct a cofferdam to contain the fish, then do the rest of the dredging, Conrad and Hudson suggested Wednesday.

That would allow for a rescue that doesn’t require the fish to be taken to another body of water, they said.

The permit obtained by the county to drain the lake doesn’t allow for the transfer of fish to waters managed by the commonwealth, due to concerns about introduction of invasive species, nuisance species and pathogens.

The people who care about the fish would be willing to raise the necessary money to pay for the extra work required, said Angela Raspatello of Altoona, another demonstrator.

Messages left Wednesday afternoon were not returned by officials connected with the project, which is being undertaken by the Intergovernmental Stormwater Committee to rejuvenate the lake as a sediment trap to reduce pollution flowing to Chesapeake Bay.

“It’s not right to turn your back on them, even though they’re just fish,” said demonstrator Dan Kunkle of Altoona.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

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