Dennis Chavez fish deaths being investigated

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Tevaughn Loudermill of Clovis Parks and Recreation Department places a basket of dead fish Thursday from Dennis Chavez Lake into the back of a cart to be taken to the city landfill.

Sharna Johnson

The city is testing to determine what is killing hundreds of fish at Dennis Chavez Lake.

Thursday morning around 6:30 a.m. park workers began the grueling task of cleaning up dead fish from the banks of the small retention lake on west 14th Street.

“This is the strangest thing I’ve seen,” said Parks and Recreation Director Bill Bizzell.

“We don’t know (why). It’s a phenomenon that we can’t explain.”

Water testing is being conducted, he said, to see if there is any kind of contaminate in the water.

Bizzell said similar mass fish deaths occurred last year in the lake at Greene Acres Park and tests concluded it was caused by a “natural turning of the lake,” in which oxygen levels decrease and a lake becomes uninhabitable for fish.

The situation will postpone a plan by the state to stock the lake and open it for fishing, Bizzell said.

The proposal was approved by the city commission Thursday night.

State Game and Fish spokesman Dan Williams said there are a number of natural things that can cause a mass death of fish in a water body.

“It can happen and it does happen occasionally for various reasons. To tell exactly what happened, it will take investigating,” Williams said.

Williams said with the high heat and low rainfall in the region, water levels could have dropped or there could be an algae bloom in the lake in which a new algae has grown and consumed the oxygen.

Williams said his agency will work with the city to help them determine a cause.

Bizzell said the lake is part of the city’s drainage system and retains storm water runoff.

Since fishing is already prohibited at the lake, he said there is no reason to close the park.

The majority of fish in the lake are carp.