Oxygen Levels Too Low to Sustain Fish Life at Marina

Thousands of dead fish washed up on the shores of the Sparks Marina
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SPARKS, NV -- The Sparks Marina is being examined again after new tests show almost all the fish in the lake have been found dead. The Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) says there are fewer than 25 fish that are even still alive.

It comes as a concern from the community when their beloved man-made lake is filled with fish carcasses. For more than a decade, the Sparks Marina was home to millions of fish. Now, it's become a watery grave, taking the lives of more than 100,000 fish.

"What we found is water with low oxygen in it and water with no fish in it as of this month," said Chris Healy from NDOW.

Initial reports of these deaths were made just before Christmas when about 3,000 dead fish washed up on shore, but the problem has spread to the rest of the lake, causing most of the fish to sink to the bottom. The problem has scientists stumped, but they believe it has something to do with the water turning over in December.

"Some environmental factors combined to create a situation where the oxygen went very low and for some reason it still has yet to recover," said Healy. "The low oxygen water from the bottom of the lake mixes with the top layer that has most of the oxygen in it."

The the unusual calm winter weather patterns also aren't helping. Experts say the causes are most likely an environmental anomaly.

"We're just going to have to see if we can get some storms and get the wind chopping up a little bit and get the oxygen level back to where it belongs."

Sparks city officials want to reassure the public that the lake is still safe. The lake is a natural aquifer that pumps about two million fresh gallons of water out of the Sparks Marina and into the Truckee River on a daily basis.

"It's a concern; it's a priority for us to find out and if there's a remedy and we'll fix it," said Adam Mayberry from the city of Sparks.

Currently, scientists and NDOW are saying there is no immediate danger or any health hazards to the public. They're keeping a close eye at this time, monitoring oxygen levels and getting to the bottom of the problem before they can start to restock the lake. NDOW won't be restocking the Marina in February, as is usually the case.


ORIGINAL STORY (December 2013):

SPARKS, NV -- Over the course of 48 hours, thousands of dead fish have washed up on the shores of the Sparks Marina and it's leaving scientist puzzled.

Each year, the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) puts thousands of trout into the marina along with catfish and bass, but now some of them have ended up in piles on the shore.

"If this happened in August, no one would even bat an eyelash; you'd know what was going on, it'd be high water temperatures, low water oxygen content in the water. Why it's happening now is the mystery of it," Chris Healy, NDOW representative, said.

After testing the water, a biologist has determined that low oxygen levels in the water is the cause, but the question lies on what's depriving the man-made lake of its oxygen.

"There are thousands upon thousands, maybe to a million fish in this place, so losing a couple of thousand isn't a major deal, but losing the oxygen out of the water is the mystery," he added.

The good news is, it's only happening in the shallow parts of the lake near the cove, so it's still safe to fish and eat them.

"It doesn't mean the water's bad quality, it just means something happened inside the water the plants that grow inside, use oxygen and things like that," said Healy. "We're going to get to the bottom of this. It doesn't seem to be any reason for an advisory that the fish are not edible."