19 May 2014

Offensive Interference Called - Carter Lake Comments

The following comments were received from a lake-side resident of the City of Carter Lake who enjoys kayaking about the lake. The email included this comment: "...here are two or perhaps three cents worth, which I would offer for any use, inclusion, exclusion, editing, paraphrasing, or ignoring, and want absolutely no attribution if you should elect to reference, use, edit, etc, in any way. The issue is the concern." The comments are presented as written, and convey another perspective about the conditions at Carter Lake.


Offensive Interference Called

No, not a reference to a popular athletic event, but a sad commentary on events of an environmental sort.

Several years ago, some supposedly wise people decided that the water in Carter Lake was too turbid, and, notwithstanding numerous water-churning speedboats, the culprits were several species of “undesirable” or “trash” fish. While one’s perception of what kinds of fish are “undesirable” might change if one were a fish, and particularly one denoted as “trash,” something had to be done.

A decision was made, and funds allocated. Chemicals were distributed around the lake, killing every living thing in the water. Wholesale, indiscriminate death. Within days, the lake surface was choked with literally millions of dead, decaying fish, and any other creature unlucky enough to have been the recipient of the fatal “water treatment.” News stories appeared in print and on local stations, showing crews in commercial john-boats shoveling and pitchforking carcasses up to nearly three feet long into boats and then into dump trucks, to be hauled away to landfills. There were not enough boats or crews to remove the carnage. The result was a putrid, reeking, decaying, biomass which rendered the lake disgusting and unusable, if not, indeed, a health hazard. Not to mention the stench which permeated the shoreline and surrounding neighborhoods for weeks.

Sure enough, the water quality did improve. Visibility was much greater. And, of course, if some is good, more is better. So more chemicals were dumped into the lake, this this time to “bond” with the algae and aquaflora, causing particulate matter to sink to the bottom. Unprecedented water clarity resulted. Surely, backslapping was called for, if not drinks all around.

However...remarkably clear water allows sunlight to penetrate. Clear, shallow water is the perfect environment for aquatic vegetation. When the water was turbid, much less sunlight promoted the growth of vegetation. And, the undesirable fish churn up the bottom preventing establishment of vegetation. Some eat vegetation. Removing the fish, and removing particulate matter in the shallow water was a recipe for adverse result.

There is a school of thought which recognizes, or believes, that there is a natural order and balance in nature. Many studies have examined the ebb and flow of populations of predator and prey, such as the classic prairie dog vs coyote study done some years ago, which typifies the balance resulting from the virtual “arms race” which over countless millenia shaped both the prairie dog and its behavior, and the coyote in response. Life adapts to exploit available resources. Life is opportunistic. Whether one construes nature to be rational or simply efficient, processes that work clearly continue, and vice versa. The logical inference is that when natural processes are disrupted, one of two things results: (a) if the disruption is sufficiently widespread, major changes in ecology and environment will result, or, (b) if local in scope, regardless of causation, natural processes will soon be re-established, This is seen each year with the cycle of lightning induced wild fires, floods, and similar natural events.

This begs the question which seems to have eluded the would-be well-doers: How do they suppose those “undesirable” fish came to be in the lake? Did they evolve in Carter Lake over millions of years? (If so, why do they not exhibit species specialization or differentiation as observed in creatures found on the Galapagos Islands?)

Of course not. Fish lay eggs. Their eggs are typically a gelatinous mass resembling tapioca pudding. Egg masses often drift into shallow water. Shore birds wading in search of a meal are oblivious to the eggs, which stick to their feet and legs. When the birds fly to the next lake, guess what? Unless the well-doers propose to eradicate all of the “undesirable” fish within several thousand miles, it should come as no surprise that the “undesirable” fish are right back in the lake, re-establishing their natural populations.

So what did all of this accomplish? That is a fair question. To anyone who may wish to enjoy the lake, the birds who joyously serenade each morning, the calming visual effects of gently rippling water, or perhaps venture out on the water in any number of ways, over half of the lake is now choked with pond weeds, grasses, lily pads, weeds of every sort and kind. One cannot move a pontoon boat more than a few yards before the propeller is fouled and progress stopped. Sculling, rowing, paddling...all are made miserable if not nearly impossible by the weeds and vegetation. Swimming is worse than unpleasant, and rewarded with itching, red bites of some kind of bug or inhabitant of the vegetation. Are the fish better off? Are the people who used to enjoy water recreation better off? Were the funds expended well spent, or simply squandered in an ill-advised, failed experiment with predictably poor outcome?

Students of nature realize everything in nature seems to be interconnected, somehow, in ways that have come to be over millions of years, and are not likely to be suddenly disconnected or isolated for the convenience of a County Board or Lake Association.