Wildlife loss tallied from manure spill 2009.08.19

Written by David Green.

What’s the price of some lost wildlife?

The Ohio DNR does put a figure on everything—every last minnow found floating in a stream.

A July 16 manure spill in Chesterfield Township fouled nearly four miles of Little Bear Creek, a tributary of the Raisin River, and resulted in a fish kill that brought Ohio DNR investigators to the scene.

Steve Thompson from the DNR’s Wildlife Division said the total count came in at about 8,300 animals, including about 1,100 larger fish, 200 crayfish, 725 Asiatic clams and about 5,000 minnows. There were also some tadpoles and mussels.

His agency was nearly finished identifying the various species last week and estimated the fine for wildlife lost at $2,000. Another $3,000 would be assessed to Chesterfield Dairy for investigative costs.

“It was a pretty good size spill,” Thompson said, but he expects no permanent damage. “It should recover in a couple of years.”

Thompson was surprised with some of the fish found in the small stream.

“We ran into a lot of pike and sunfish,” he said, in addition to the more common suckers and bullhead.

There were also creek chubs—which typically grow in the eight to nine-inch range—darters and crayfish. Only a pair of carp were found.

Darters and crayfish are generally the sign of a good quality stream, Thompson said.

He isn’t familiar with the invasive Asiatic fingernail clam that’s entered Lake Erie like the zebra mussel.

“They have a free swimming stage in their life cycle and they migrate,” he said, explaining their presence in Fulton County.

Thompson said the DNR assigns a monetary value by considering the price Fish and Wildlife would have to pay to replace the animals. The value is adjusted every six to eight years.

Pike, for example, are value somewhere in the $2 to $3 range where minnows are a penny or less. Game fish such as bass and bluegill drive up the cost of a fish kill.

In this case, the fine would have been larger if more crayfish had been counted.

“Crayfish don’t float and the water was too dark to see them,” Thompson said. “If we had been able to count the crayfish, that would have increased the cost considerably.”

Dina Pierce of the Ohio EPA said last week her agency is still investigating the manure spill and hasn’t yet concluded if further action or enforcement will be needed.

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