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Plan for Patterson examined

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation may finish what Mother Nature started this fall.

A public meeting about the proposed renovation of Patterson Lake, which would temporarily eliminate fish in the lake located southwest of Dickinson, is scheduled for Monday at 7 p.m. at the Eagles Club.

Extreme winter temperatures and snowfall led to a winterkill and tens of thousands of fish died in the lake, leaving only traditionally undesirable fish like carp and bullheads.

"We've been thinking about it ever since this spring, but it's been, as you can imagine, a lot of work just working out some details," said Jeff Hendrickson, southwest district fisheries supervisor for the NDGF in Dickinson. "It's always been a management tool, we've just been working on the details and we finally got them ironed out."

The proposal is to lower the water to about 10 feet below what is considered "full" over the summer and in September the pesticide rotenone would be mixed in to suffocate fish.

Hendrickson said the rotenone is toxic to humans, but not to a degree where any accidental ingestion would be dangerous. It is also safe for other animals that could come in contact with it, except for pigs. The fish that die are not safe for human consumption but it will not kill any animals that feed on them.

The project will cost an estimated $95,000, Hendrickson said, adding that if the water isn't lowered it will cost $350,000.

Releases from the lake would be shut-off during the process and the chemical would be deactivated about a week after it was placed in the water, Hendrickson said.

The process won't eliminate all of the fish because it will be impossible to manage those in the upstream watershed.

"However, the fish in the lake and immediately upstream would be mostly eliminated," Hendrickson said.

A clean-up would be planned after the process.

It's important that the carp and bullheads are eliminated because it would take longer for northern pike, crappies and walleye that the NDGF plans to stock the lake with to become established, Hendrickson said.

A similar winterkill in 1992 led to the carp and bullheads controlling Patterson and Hendrickson said, "It took from 1992 until two years ago before we had a decent fishery established."

"Bullheads are fish eaters," Hendrickson said. "Because they're abundant and they're all that are there when we're stocking those little pike and walleyes, they're eating them."

However, Hendrickson said that without public support they likely won't go through with the plan.

Preliminary conversations have been had with the Dickinson Parks and Recreation Department which manages the Heart River Golf Course. The course is irrigated by water from Patterson.

"The only thing that we need to research and educate ourselves on is at what level when the water is dropped does it start to affect our irrigation at the golf course," said James Kramer, director of Dickinson Parks and Recreation. "I think we would be supportive of it if it didn't affect our irrigation."

Kramer said there are a lot of possibilities with lower water, such as cleaning up the lake and improving boat ramps.

Clyde Kerner, who lives on the lake's shore said he would like to see the city get behind the plan, because he says it would improve the situation long term and allow homeowners on the shoreline to do improvements of their own, like shoreline stabilization.

"I think Patterson Lake is a real asset to Dickinson and unfortunately there just hasn't been a lot of money spent out here over the years and it needs attention," Kerner said. "There's a lot of people that utilize this lake for fishing and Jet-Skiing and just general recreation and I think if people were educated they would certainly go along with it."

Hendrickson said anyone who is interested in learning more about the plan is welcome to attend the meeting.