Volunteers Sign Up to Save Sierra Lake's Fish

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CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - More than 100 people have volunteered
to help save thousands of fish, including many trophy-size lunkers,
in a scenic Sierra lake that's being lowered from about 55 feet to
just 11 feet so that dam repairs can be made.

Caples Lake, along Highway 88 in rugged mountains about 50 miles
southwest of here, is being lowered to allow crews to replace two
aging gates on the lake's main dam. The lake's level stood at about
39 feet on Friday, and is dropping at a rate of several inches a day.

Harry Morse, spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Game, said thousands of fish will be netted over three days starting on Tuesday, and will be quickly transferred, via trucks used for fish planting, to Silver Lake seven miles to the west.

"It should be a good gathering of people, all working toward an excellent thing, and that's to move, relocate and rescue the fish," Morse said of the volunteer effort. "There really is the potential for saving thousands of fish."

Representatives of Trout Unlimited and the California Sportfishing Alliance organized the volunteer effort after learning of the drawdown and concerns that many Mackinaw, brown, rainbow, cutthroat and brook trout might be lost. Fish and Game also is borrowing some nets from the Nevada Department of Wildlife, to add to its own nets, boats and fish-planting trucks.

While critics of the drawdown previously had expressed concern about the Caples Lake fishery being destroyed without a big salvage
effort, El Dorado Irrigation District officials have insisted they were trying their best to mitigate adverse effects.

The district, which purchased rights to Caples Lake from Pacific Gas & Electric Co. in 1999, plans to continue the drawdown into September to allow repairs to be completed this fall. The lake will shrink from more than 18,000 acre feet of water to as little as 1,000 acre feet.

After discovery of the gate problems in June, the irrigation district board declared an emergency, saying a gate failure could cause a release of the entire lake. The project could cost the district as much as $2 million, including about $400,000 for the fish transfer.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)