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Rock River death toll 72,000 fish

June 30, 2009 at 10:37 AM

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) today released preliminary data on this month’s Rock River fish kill. The kill is believed to have started on Father’s Day weekend two miles north of Grand Detour and ended nearly 50 miles down stream near Prophetstown. 

IDNR fisheries biologists spent the next several days on the river counting, measuring and sorting affected fish into species. The investigation yielded a preliminary estimate of more than 72,000 fish killed with an associated value of more than $272,000. 

Biologists estimate nearly 37,000 game fish were killed, including catfish, smallmouth bass and walleye. It is estimated that over 34,000 commercial fish including buffalo and carp also were killed.

The IDNR considers these estimates to be very conservative. Extremely high temperatures contributed to the rapid decomposition of the fish, and flooding conditions along parts of the Rock River made it difficult to get a more accurate count.

The IDNR has already begun the process of speeding the recovery of the Rock River by stocking more than 50,000 young smallmouth bass. More stocking and relocating of fish is planned in the future to replenish commercial and recreational fishing opportunities.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is working with the Illinois Attorney General’s office to pursue enforcement action.

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Lets point fingers at someone else other than the IDNR fisheries biologists.  First off, the EPA dropped the ball in their response to this spill and their test results show this.  There is no way to count every fish that floated down the river in the days after the spill. I have seen video of the rafts of dead fish that were floating. What some individuals need to realize is that every division in the DNR has been downsized and they don’t have unlimited resources when it comes to spills of this magnitide.  Our fisheries biologists are the selected few in the DNR that have a clue on how management is suppose to be done.  Wan’t to point fingers then ask why the EPA was slow on their response.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/30 at 05:09 PM

More boneheaded opinion from illinoisbonehead.
Dude, do you realize that virtually everyone else here thinks that you are a complete——-—?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/30 at 06:33 PM

I blame the EPA for dragging their feet.  Also, they come out and say they found no traces of ethanol in the water or the fish?  C’Mon…..................give me a freakin break.  Seems to me the train company may have payed off some higher ups in the EPA.  I have a good friend who has worked for the railway for almost 30 years.  He told the railroad will do anyting to get out of paying a fine.  The EPA should have been out there within a hour or two of the spill.  This is a joke and really pisses me off.  We will never get the whole story.

Posted by stream stalker on 06/30 at 09:38 PM

I don’t know how fish kills are estimated.  the only way to come up with a number for this is by estimating.  “conservative” estimation was used because there is no way to know exactly how many fish were killed because some fish are gone from flooding, decomposition, ect. In the last 4 years I’ve spent a time working for the SIUC Fisheries and Aquaculture, SIUC Zoology Dept., the IDNR, and the IEPA Bureau of Water. (Of course not at the same time) Let me tell you that I’ve worked with many biologists that are VERY passionate about their jobs and take it very seriously and work very hard. The ones that I know are doing it because they have roots in the outdoors.  What happened to the Rock River is a nightmare.  I feel terrible for the people who use it and fell bad about the environmental impact itself.  Hopefully the cause is found and someone is held responsible. please don’t rip on the biologists that are doing their jobs.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/30 at 11:42 PM

Even IF the biologists were able to count every dead floating fish on the entire kill zone of the river, the mortality estimate would still be classified as conservative. There is no way to count the dead fish that are below the surface, have sunk to the bottom, are under log jams and boat docks, have been consumed by predators etc. For myself, I thank the biologists that did this job for us. They had to put in a lot of sunrise to sunset days without overtime doing a job that that was pretty rank. Collecting and counting dead rotting fish 16 hours a day in the heat. Add in the fact that these guys have made healthy fisheries their entire career, and seeing a kill like this had to be a real gut punch for them.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 07/01 at 07:21 AM

Southern:  I don’t think that it is a matter of posters ripping the fisheries biologists as much as they are frustrated by the supposed lack of response or slow response by the IEPA and the IDNR in obtaining water samples or other evidence that might link the fish kill to the train wreck.  Samples taken 48 hours after the train wreck are not going to show anything.  The Rock River has a strong current and it would only take a few hours for the plume of chemical to be miles downstream and diluted as well.  This is like closing the barn door, after the horses have escaped.  But, mostly the readers on PSO are concerned about the Rock River Fishery and the environmental chaos that the fish kill has caused.  Whenever you lose a fishery, it takes several years for it to come back.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 07/01 at 07:42 AM

State bureacracy 101. IEPA is responsible for water testing not DNR. This happened on a weekend which means state government was shut down. The intial calls that would have come in probably went to the local 911 centers or sheriffs departments. They would not have known what to do or who to call. Eventually someone figures out that all calls for state service outside of Monday to Friday 830-430 go to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. They then forward the call or page the on-call person for IEPA. Once he is finally located he has to makes calls to verify. Then he calls out someone to respond most likely from IEPA’s Springfield Office. This callout may be imediate or he may decide that due to overtime concerns- it has to wait until Monday. That person nows gathers up his stuff either that day or Monday, and checks out a vehicle from the state motor pool. When he gets there…......... yep we have a problem, dead fish. And he can maybe take water samples from the bank…........ whoops, IEPA didn’t bring a boat. Call the boss, he says, OK we will send a crew up there tomorrow. Late in the day on the 2nd day or 3rd day, the crew from IEPA with the boat and the equipment shows up. A few preliminary samples are obtained. Check in hotel time. Day three/four more samples are obtained but 50 miles…............ can’t sample it all so grab a “representative sample” and head back to Springfield to the lab for testing.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 07/01 at 08:18 AM

shame on people like raptor for vilifying the dnr biologists who are the ones who will be fixing the problem and also arguing with another poster when he has no facts to base his opinion on.. Dnr is only responsible for so much in this, it was the EPA that dropped the ball by not containing the spill in first place. Yes the estimate is low but like someone said they can only count floating fish.. these people who post agaianst the biologists are the same ones i seen posting that we dont need them so go figure

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 07/01 at 10:16 AM

SO where are they coming up with the 272K figure? Is that replacement value? That’s a little over 3 bucks per fish. with those kind of estimates, someone with a limit of catfish would have over $22.00 worth of fish, well more that the $13.00 fishing license fee.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 07/01 at 11:55 AM

johnh, I think you nead to read more closely.
I have the utmost respect for DNR employees.
The only person that I have made disparaging remarks about is illinoisbonecollector.
Not the DNR, not their biologists, and not ilbowhunter.
Look before you leap kiddo.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 07/01 at 06:31 PM

I certainly disagree with the first poster.  I am very close friends with a DNR biologist and I have never seen a more passionate person when it comes to caring for the fish and their habitat in his region.  This is the same person who came in while he was on his vacation with his family to conduct a fish rescue below Evergreen.  I know a lot of other DNR biologists in the state that are just as passionate.  Bottom line is the DNR is understaffed and underfunded!  Just compare us to any other state!

I am originally from Oregon and have been in contact with a lot of friends up there.  The question I have is, if ethanol is the blame then why weren’t fish affected from Rockford to Grand Detour?  All of the reports I have been hearing say that the fish kills are from Grand Detour and downstream.  Also, has anybody else noticed on this website that there have been two other stories about fish kills on other bodies of water?  I’m certainly not defending the railroad, because I know money gets passed under the table frequently.

Anyway you look at this, it is very sad, and I hope the Rock can rebound from this.  If the DNR needs help with any restocking efforts I certainly hope that a lot of people will volunteer there time to help out!  I know I will.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 07/02 at 08:51 AM

I wouldn’t blame the IDNR. According to media reports, a couple of 911 calls were placed by citizens informing law enforcement about washed out tracks before the derailment occurred. It appears to be a spiraling comedy of errors that made this derailment possible.

The IEPA and the Canadian National Railroad should be held accountable. The IDNR should present a bill to the Canadian National for $250,000.00 for the fish kill.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 07/02 at 09:25 AM

Thanks for the information.  Please don’t think I’m defending the railroad company, because I am definitely not!  But, I’m wondering if it had something to do with the weather and all of the flooding.  Any way you look at it, it’s just plain sad!  Here are the other two articles I found on PSO about other fish kills that just happened recently as well.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 07/02 at 01:44 PM

Rule 5 Be civil, honest and accurate. Accusations of payoffs without proof ?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 07/03 at 12:27 AM

If it has not affected the Green or the Hennepin by now, it’s not going to.  That chemical is history by now.  Nice moniker…......$ Big D $

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 07/03 at 05:44 PM

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