MEDFORD, Ore. (CN) – A fish removal project triggered an ecological chain reaction that poisoned a mountain lake with toxic blue-green algae, the owners of an Oregon resort claim in a $7 million lawsuit against the state and federal government.
Scott and Dianna Lamb, who operate Lemolo Lake Resort, sued the United States and Oregon in Federal Court after a project to remove the nonnative tui chub in neighboring Diamond Lake brought the fish “in the millions” to Lemolo Lake, where their resort offers fishing, boating and other recreational activities.
The tui chub, native to the Klamath and Columbia river systems, eats zooplankton, which in turn eats phytoplankton, or blue-green algae. Diamond Lake was poisoned with rotenone in 1954 and 2006 to rid it of the chub.
As the tui chub became re-established in Diamond Lake after 1992, the lake had to be closed for certain warm-weather periods in 2001 to 2003 due to high concentrations of the toxic algae.
The Lemolo Lake Resort claims that in the winter of 2005-2006, the Forest Service and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife implemented a plan to remove the tui chub from Diamond Lake that negligently brought the fish to Lemolo Lake.
The agencies allegedly failed to install nets, screens and weirs while drawing Diamond Lake down, which allowed several fish to enter Lemolo Lake, even though their plan called for such safeguards.
The resort owners also fault the agencies for the timing of the Diamond Lake drawdown, which they say could have been done to flush more of the unwanted fish away.
But solving one problem badly just created another, the resort owners say. The Lambs claim that each year since 2006, their business has suffered from Lemolo Lake closures due to blue-green algae.
Blue-green algae, which is actually bacteria, contain neurotoxins that can be dangerous to humans and animals. During summers with high algal blooms, lakes are closed and vacationers are warned against inhaling, swallowing or coming into skin contact with the water.
Symptoms of blue-green algae poisoning include numbness, tingling and dizziness, while more severe symptoms include difficulty breathing or heart problems.
Represented by Derek Johnson of Johnson, Clifton, Larson & Schaller in Eugene, Ore., the business owners seek $7 million for negligent property damage.
The resort operates on the Umpqua National Forest in southern Oregon’s Cascade Mountains. Rainbow trout and tui chub were introduced into naturally fishless Diamond Lake in the early part of last century.