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Winter kill takes its toll

Press Photo by John Odermann Residents who live near or on Patterson Lake are calling for a cleanup effort after a severe winter kill has left thousands of dead fish on its shores.

Thousands of fish float in the water and line the shores of Patterson Lake southwest of Dickinson.

And accompanying the dead fish is a smell like few others according to residents who live on the lake.

"It's terrible, you can't go outside," resident Donna Bline said. "I don't know who to get a hold of to clean that up. It needs to be cleaned up."

Patience Hurley, public involvement specialist for the Bureau of Reclamation, which manages Patterson Lake and the Dickinson Reservoir, said there has been talk about possibly doing something regarding cleanup.

"I do know that Reclamation is well aware of it and the discussions are under way because obviously that's not a good situation for anybody," Hurley said.

Greg Pruitt, who lives next door to Bline said he thinks the decaying fish could have a larger impact than just a lack of recreational fishing on the lake.

"If we don't get it cleaned up I don't see how we're going to be able to use the lake this summer," Pruitt said. "People aren't going to want to use the lake when it stinks this bad. People aren't going to want to use the golf course when it stinks this bad."

Pruitt said he has been in contact with the Bureau of Reclamation, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department and a couple local wildlife groups in attempts to organize a cleanup effort.

Game and Fish officials placed nets in the lake Tuesday to see how complete the kill at Patterson was and Jeff Hendrickson, southwest district fisheries supervisor for the NDGF said they should have a good idea where it stands today.

Hendrickson said nature will take care of a lot of the dead fish. Large groups of gulls can be seen going up and down the shores picking at the fish.

"The birds will clean up a lot of them up," Hendrickson said, adding that it would be nearly impossible to clean up all of the fish.

Kevin Pavlish, environmental health practitioner with Southwest District Health said the dead fish don't pose an immediate health concern.

"Not necessarily a health concern, but more of a nuisance type situation. When the fish start decomposing obviously they're going to smell. That's one thing that's basically going to be a nuisance. And the other thing is the flies and other insects," Pavlish said. "We would like to see some effort to be made so at least it doesn't affect the residences in that area.

"It should be addressed in some respect."