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Rotenone Treatment of WA Lakes

The WA Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) continues a program that poisons all levels of life in WA lakes, in order to manage for fish species that have been deemed desirable to the agency. The first rotenone treatment in WA State took place in 1940. Since then, over 500 waters have been treated at least once, some multiple times. In February 2015, WDFW opened a public comment period related to the proposed adoption of a set of program documents. OHA analyzed the documents and provided detailed comments outlining our concerns. OHA’s comments related to: program management goals and actions, the outdated and contradictory nature of the documents, ecological impacts of the program, and the need for monitoring and adaptive management plans.

The majority of OHA’s comments were focused on potential ecological impacts to zooplankton, macroinvertebrates, water birds, amphibians, and mammals. The documents being proposed included a risk assessment that clearly outlines our lack of understanding about how rotenone affects the pyramid of life. It states that there are no toxicity data for rotenone on microbes, algae, aquatic plants, and that limited toxicity data are available on invertebrates and amphibians. Despite this appalling lack of information, WDFW continues to treat public waters with rotenone. Certain levels of aquatic life may take 17 weeks to four years to reestablish, a remarkably wide degree of variability. OHA strongly urged WDFW to update the outdated 1992 and 2002 Environmental Impact Statements, to reassess the magnitude of the program, and to avoid poisoning lakes where loons are nesting (and other waterfowl species of significance). Loons rely on macroinvertebrates to feed their young, and may return to the lakes in spring before they are stocked with new fish.

Sometime later this spring or in summer 2015, another public comment period will open related to the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit renewal for the program. OHA will post information online as it becomes available.