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Blizzard causes fish deaths at fed hatchery in SD

SPEARFISH (AP) — Problems related to the early October blizzard in the Black Hills of western South Dakota left about 1,000 fish dead at the federal hatchery at Spearfish.

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The lone worker on site at the time says the partial shutdown of the federal government also played a role.

The storm that dumped as much as 4 feet of snow in the region plugged a feeder creek to the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives. The creek provides water to the ponds and raceways — tanks or channels with a continuous flow of water — that are home to about 30,000 fish, the Black Hills Pioneer reported.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hatchery ranger Mitch Adams discovered the problem on the morning of Oct. 5. He was the only person at the hatchery because of the government shutdown.

"If there had been more people here a lot of this could have been avoided," he said. "Someone would have noticed it earlier."

The hatchery is equipped with a backup well, but the amount of water required at the facility quickly overwhelmed the capacity of the well.

"It's a pretty sad deal," Adams said.

At the McNenny State Fish Hatchery west of Spearfish, raceway covers that keep out the sun and predators collapsed under the weight of the snow. Hatchery Manager Mike Barnes did not immediately have a damage estimate.