The Lahontan Water Quality Control Board met this week in Apple Valley. On their agenda was a closed session item that involves allegations that Hot Creek Hatchery outside Mammoth Lakes has violated water discharge standards and owes a $225,000 penalty.
According to a Lahontan order issued to Hot Creek Hatchery, water pollution violations started in 2006. Lahontan alleges that Hot Creek committed 16 serious violations and 74 chronic violations of water standards between 2006 and 2009. The order also says that according to California Water Code, Hot Creek owes a total of $225,000 in penalties for allowing nitrate and nitrite levels to exceed the rules and for failure to submit operation reports.
The Lahontan Board does say they believe $18,000 is a more appropriate penalty but that state water law requires $225,000. The penalty was supposed to have been paid by May of 2010. The item on Lahontan’s board agenda calls for discussion of litigation and a review of a Fish and Game petition in this matter. So, apparently Fish and Game will fight Lahontan’s order.
We placed calls to Fish and Game’s Bruce Kinney and to management of Hot Creek Hatchery for Fish and Game’s side of the story. We have received no calls in return.
We also called Mr. Kinney to comment on the recent tragic fish kill at Fish Springs Hatchery. Andrew Hughan of Fish and Game in Sacramento did confirm that Los Angeles Department of Water and Power crews had shut off the groundwater pump that supplies water to the hatchery for maintenance purposes. Hughan said that the secondary pump to the hatchery “couldn’t keep up” and did not provide enough water to the trout.” Some 40,000 trout in one corner of a raceway were trapped with no water and died.
Hughan said the fish ranged from fingerling size to about 3/4 of a pound. “We just couldn’t maintain enough flow,” he said. Why didn’t Fish and Game know it’s back-up pump was inadequate? Hughan didn’t know, and Mr. Kinney has not returned our calls. Hughan says that this fish loss will not negatively affect trout planting.