The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Iffy carp can’t slow August opening of city’s newest recreational venue

In City Hall on March 15, 2008 at 3:18 am

As luck would have it, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources this week posted a brand-new fish advisory, this one for the Cedar Valley Urban Fishery — the former industrial sandpit given the city a few years ago with a hope it could become a getaway just down the Cedar River from downtown.

The good news is the DNR advisory applies only to the common carp in a body of water the agency reports is home to a large diversity of fish.

The advisory is the result of DNR tests of bottom-feeding carp and catfish in the proposed urban fishery in 2005 and 2006, tests that turned up elevated levels of polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs. PCBs, banned in 1979, are industrial chemicals used in electrical transformers and capacitors and in hundreds of industrial and commercial applications.

Paul Sleeper, a DNR fisheries management biologist at Lake Macbride in Johnson County, calls the agency’s advisory “a minor one.” It limits the eating of carp to one meal a week, but it does not require the posting of signs around the fishery, he notes.

Why carp in the old sandpit turned up with PCPs is not clear, Sleeper says, because carp in the Cedar River, which overflows into the sandpit at times of high water during the year, are not tainted.

This week’s DNR advisory was noted by city officials, but it put no crimp in the construction schedule for the urban fishery.

Loren Snell, the city’s construction engineering manager, says the $1.46-million construction of the fishery began late last year, took a hiatus for the worst of the winter weather and is up and running now. To date, grading work has begun and about 90 percent of the necessary tree removal has been complete.

“We’re trying to leave the nice ones,” Snell says, adding that the designated trail path has been shifted a bit to save trees.

In the months ahead, the work will include the creation of an island in the lake, two boat ramps, a number of fishing stations, a parking lot and an asphalt trail about 11/2 miles in length around the lake. The construction deadline is Aug. 15.

One idea had been to run a piece of the trail under the Union Pacific Railroad tracks to connect to the existing Sac and Fox Trail, but the idea, for now, has proven too costly, Snell says.

A hurdle yet to be leaped is the city’s purchase of land providing access to the urban fishery from Otis Road SE. The city believes it assumed an existing easement into the fishery, but wants to buy the land to make the entrance permanent. Negotiations and mediation with the property owner haven’t worked to date. As a result, Rita Rasmussen, the city’s senior real estate officer, reports that the city is readying to go to court to condemn the land for a public purpose.

The DNR’s Sleeper says the DNR has stocked the urban fishery with channel catfish, northern pike and large-mouth bass. Every kind of fish that is in the Cedar River is in the old sandpit, he says. 

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