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Fish in barrel

An RMA crew pulled barrels full of dead fish from the surface of Laguna Joaquin Saturday.

[Fourth update, 5:35 p.m. Saturday] Workers spent all day Saturday clearing Laguna Joaquin of hundreds of dead fish, possibly killed by an herbicide used to address a toxic algae bloom there. The Rancho Murieta Association reported the crews, in two boats, finished clearing the lake surface at 5:30 p.m., and they weren't seeing more floating fish.

What happened? At the RMA’s request, the Community Services District used an herbicide to treat a cove at the east side of the lake, where the pump house is located, to keep algae from clogging the pumps, according to Larry Shelton, an RMA director and retired environmental scientist. 

Shelton blames the herbicide, which depletes the water's oxygen to kill algae, for killing the fish. “We didn’t anticipate it would have such an effect on the fish,” he said in an interview at Laguna Joaquin Friday evening.

Saturday morning, neighbors out walking stopped to look at the hundreds of dead fish dotting the water and to talk about what happened and what can be done to keep it from happening again.

The neighbors' concern about cleanup was addressed promptly by the RMA, which put two boats in the water. Working with a CSD crew in one of the boats, they had done considerable cleanup of the lake surface by late morning, skimming barrels full of dead fish from the lake.

Rod Hart, the RMA's maintenance manager, said his team had five people on the job, while the CSD had three, including one who was opening fire hydrants in the area, running fresh water through storm drains into the lake, trying to improve its water quality.

Laguna Joaquin’s level has fallen this summer as its influx of fresh water from the Cosumnes River has been interrupted by work on the irrigation ditch that connects the two. The RMA and downstream ranchers rely on water stored at Laguna Joaquin.

A Laguna Joaquin neighbor contacted RanchoMurieta.com Friday evening to report hundreds of fish had died. Shelton, who also lives on the lake, put the number at several dozen, mostly bass, when he spoke Friday night. When the sun came up Saturday, he readily acknowledged the problem was worse than he'd thought. "It's worse in relation to the dead fish," he said. "It's probably not worse in relation to the algae bloom."

Blue-green algae

A patch of blue-green algae at the edge of Laguna Joaquin. (Photo by Sandra Stadnik)

The algae involved is blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, which are present in most lakes. Certain conditions – low water levels, limited circulation, more heat or light – can cause the algae to bloom and sometimes release toxins.

Hart said a "perfect storm" of circumstances about 25 years ago caused a similar fish kill in Laguna Joaquin. "The level was down, the algae was bad and there was hot weather," he said, and a by-the-book application of a chemical resulted in a fish kill.

Management of Laguna Joaquin, a detention pond, is a shared responsibilty between RMA and CSD. RMA owns the land under the lake, while CSD is responsible for the water. Shelton said the lake is not a priority for CSD, and he said RMA management of the water might be a better answer.

Dead fish

Dead fish were everywhere on Laguna Joaquin Saturday morning.

Shelton said the irrigation pumps that RMA uses to water common area around Laguna Joaquin have been shut off as a safety precaution until the bloom passes. No water is being sent to ranchers, he said. He also said Laguna Joaquin’s fountains are running 24 hours a day to try to aerate the water.

"At this point," he said Saturday morning, "my attention is on trying to mitigate the appearance and the odor and the health concerns, and then at some point in time we'll just have to figure out what to do in the future – restock the lake, add a couple more pumps, get a better management program on the health of the lake."

He said Sacramento County’s environmental division has been notified, adding that the county can test the lake and direct the CSD’s approach to treat it. 

Shelton said Murietans must avoid body contact with the lake because the algae is toxic. If you choose to fish there, he said, be sure to wash your hands.

Myrna Solomon's picture
Joined: 07/31/2007
Posts: 427
Post rating: 745

This is really upsetting me!

I walked to the lake this morning, but you can smell it before you get there. There are hundreds of dead fish, not just dozens. To think that using a poison that takes away the oxygen in the water wouldn't affect the fish is shocking. They have some explaining to do, and to fix their mess..

Myrna Solomon

Jacque Villa's picture
Joined: 07/11/2009
Posts: 539
Post rating: 701

Dead Fish in Lake

What a damn shame......good work RMA......!!!!!!!!

Alvin Somers's picture
Joined: 08/27/2007
Posts: 51
Post rating: 79

The question I have is simply

The question I have is simply, "WHY has the lake level dropped somewhere between 2 and 4 feet over the last several weeks" We were told that there was a piping problem and the intake/outflow was clogged. It was supposed to take four weeks to repair. So where did the lake water go? Evaporation due to hot weather? I don't think so. There is a very strong rumor going around that the CSD did an under the table deal with a developer to supply extra water (taken from Juaquin?, in order to continue building consrtuction or supplying a hotel, perhaps.? I think it is imperative for the community to attend the next RMA and RMCSD meetings this week and ask the question?  WHERE DID THE WATER GO? DID THE ALGICIDE REALLY KILL THE HUNDREDS OF FISH OR WAS IT THE LOW WATER LEVEL, HEAT AND LACK OF OXYGEN?  We now have turkey vultures galore, egrets by the flock (only good thing), flies feasting on dead fish, and the return of the midge flies en masse. And of course the stench is unreal.

How about some truth talk??????

A Somers

Alvin Somers's picture
Joined: 08/27/2007
Posts: 51
Post rating: 79

one more question

Isn't this a corrolary to the SOLOS concerns over the availability of water for 900 new homes?

RM.com's picture
Joined: 06/19/2007
Posts: 27724
Post rating: 1387

Comments on Facebook

Comments from RanchoMurieta.com's Facebook page:

  • Myrna Solomon I am really upset that supposed knowledgeable people would make this decision..
  • Jacque Villa Knowledgeable ?????? I think not !!!!!!! Fish live on oxygen, if you take it out of the water ...what happens ....duh !!!!!!
  • Jessica Rust Garcia Absolutely unacceptable!
  • Adrienne Lopez Idiots
  • Cathy Blank Long Disgusting. And our dues pay for this!?? There were beautiful fish in this lake. Turtles too.
  • Lynai Sarah Church https://www.epa.gov/nutrient.../cyanobacteriacyanotoxins
  • Ericka Hartwig So to recap.... because Larry Shelton lives on the lake & he didn't want to see the algae (which is blooming everywhere this year), he pulled rank based on his previous career & position with RMA to have the herbicide added instead of let things take their course. Am I reading this wrong? Mess with Mother Nature & this is what happens.
  • Deborah Beasley Houdeshell UNACCEPTABLE!!! This is the best Bass fishing in the county!!! And it's private, who is to be held accountable for this!?!
  • Debbie Alires-Kolmodin I thought it was only catch and release?
  • Deborah Beasley Houdeshell Debbie Alires-Kolmodin yes it is. Bass fishing is an amazing experience.
  • RanchoMurieta.com Story has been updated: RMA is directing a cleanup of the dead fish at Laguna Joaquin. As of late morning, there were two boats on the water, and work crews had skimmed barrels full of dead fish.
    • Paul Grant That's so nice of them. Enter the sarcastic tone
    • Deborah Beasley Houdeshell TOWN HALL When and Where?
    • Adrienne Lopez There is an rma meeting on Tuesday. A CSD one this week as well
    • Deborah Beasley Houdeshell That's all great that they are cleaning it up especially before the real picture of the entire damage has been done. And this will take years to bounce back.
  • Christine Hefler Rau This is awful. As a resident who lives by this lake, I am also concerned about the midge fly problem and that this will make it worse.
    • Adrienne Lopez Not to mention all the fish that were put in the lake last spring, specifically to eat the midge fly larvae. They're dead now, too.
  • Ivy Applebaum WTH?????
  • Jessica Rust Garcia What power do we, as members of RMA, have to prevent this from ever happening in the future? This really is not ok. The entire ecosystem in that lake is jeopardized because of this terrible lack of judgement/prevention/tolerance
  • Jacque Villa Came back from the lake awhile ago...many residents were there shaking their heads and MAD !!!! Fishing club were there too.....and the vultures were in readyness to feast on the spoils.....I call this " slaughter on Lake Joaquin " !!!!!!!!!
  • Jacque Villa And is isn't dozens, but more like hundreds of fish died !!!!!
  • Paul Grant These idiots should be ashamed of themselves and offer an apology and a remedy to replace what they destroyed.
  • Deborah Beasley Houdeshell So much money is being spent on things we have know idea what they are doing and why they are doing it. No consideration for the environmental impact. The Ecosystem! This is maddening!!! TOWN HALL! We have to be accountable for our actions in the community and so should the RMA!
  • Myrna Solomon The guesstimate is between 700-1000 fish! The fishing club has done everything to keep the fish thriving and the RMA and CSD killed them in a day and a half!! They had better make this right!!
Ellen Welton's picture
Joined: 05/29/2017
Posts: 2
Post rating: 0

Laguna Joaquin

Truly a sad sight. I'm wondering how many more fish are going to die before the problem can be resolved. The boats are out on the lake right now clearing out hundreds of dead fish. Are they going to be out there every morning and night till they've collected all of the fish in the lake? 

Larry Shelton's picture
Joined: 01/29/2015
Posts: 44
Post rating: 50

Laguna Joaquin

A point of clairification:

I did not request or condone the use of an herbicide in Laguna Joaquin that would deplete the lake oxygen to kill the algae.  The type, quanity, and application of the herbicide was completely the decision of CSD.

Larry Shelton

Jan Kays's picture
Joined: 05/06/2008
Posts: 115
Post rating: 111


I read these comments and I think of the child that was recently bitten by a dog here, the woman suffering from lyme (?) that we are rooting for, the young girl near by that was in a recent horrific accident, many beloved pets who have died or gone missing...and we have state, national and world issues culminating with the threat of nuclear war with North Korea.  All that and so many are (in my opinion) overly worked up over a relatively minor problem THAT CAN BE FIXED.  The water level that caused the situation in the first place is due to be returned to normal at some point in the somewhat near future when the repairs are done.  At that time most of the other problems should sort themselves out accordingly....and the fish CAN BE RESTOCKED.  This is not difficult.  Just so you don't think I 'suffer' from any of this, I only live across the street from the lake. 

ALSO,  I have noticed in so many posts ....on many different subjects including this one....some individual seem to be VERY angry people just trying to to verbally punch someone.  Looking to blame someone for whatever and always believing that the 'other' side has ulterior motives.  

Pat Meeks's picture
Joined: 05/25/2016
Posts: 1
Post rating: 0

Ms. Kay's comments

I refuse to stick my head in the sand as Ms. Kays would have us all do.  Heads need to roll on this complete lack of knowledge concerning the health of this lake. 

Myrna Solomon's picture
Joined: 07/31/2007
Posts: 427
Post rating: 745

My response to Jan

Jan, I wonder how you would feel if the CSD or the RMA poisoned all of the deer that roan our community.. Whether you think that killing the fish isn't that big of a deal because there are much worse things that have happened to people, doesn't mean therefore no one can comment unless it's deemed appropriate by you. This is a forum for people to voice their opinions about events in our community. Clearly many had the same reaction..

Myrna Solomon

Faye Lunsford's picture
Joined: 08/13/2013
Posts: 6
Post rating: 0

Dead Fish - Laguna Joaquin

We live on the lake and find it hard to believe that CSD has taken such poor care of it.  It's time for us to voice our concerns.  Please attend the RMA meeting on Tuesday evening at 6:30 and the CSD meeting on Wednesday at 5:00.  If you can only attend one of the meetings, PLEASE go to the CSD meeting.  

Myrna Solomon's picture
Joined: 07/31/2007
Posts: 427
Post rating: 745

You beat me to it Faye!!

For those who are upset with the situation with the front lake...the low levels of water for 3 months, and now the fish dying, please show your displeasure by showing up for the CSD meeting at the minimum. I've heard that the lake is RMA's responsibility but the water is CSD's. 

Myrna Solomon

Ashley Low's picture
Joined: 01/10/2012
Posts: 17
Post rating: 15


I agree with you Pat! Obviously no one knows what they are doing. Most communities like our with ponds/lakes use an ultrasound method to eradicate algae in this day and age. The ultrasound used is safe for fish and plants.The use of an Herbicide and or Chemicals can cause serious problems for years if applied improperly.

Ashley Low

Warren Lutey's picture
Joined: 03/20/2009
Posts: 53
Post rating: 38

Lake Guadalupe

The lack of maintenance isn't restricted to Laguna Joaquin.  We have had a pump out in Lake Guadalupe for over two months.  Familure lack of response to repair and keep the water levels up.  Some of us who face the lake are charged an additional fee of $30 a month for the enjoyment of a pump that is not working and a lake that is dying.  Pat Meeks is right responsibility comes with a price and people need to be held accountable. 

Have a good day

Warren J. Lutey

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