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John Hollenhorst ReportingA massive fish kill is underway in Provo. Fish are dying by the thousands and it's all being done on purpose by wildlife officials because there don’t seem to be any good alternatives.
Crews with electro-shock gear have been patrolling the Provo River. They're churning up carp by the thousands. The electricity stuns the carp. They go limp and float downstream. They drift into a huge seine where a crane with a dip-net lifts them out, hundreds at a time. Then they're hauled by truck to a local landfill where their destiny is to become compost.
Scott Root, Utah Division of Wildlife: They’re going to die anyway. This river’s going to have very little water in it in a very short amount of time, within days.”
The carp seem perfectly healthy. Some kids snagged one with a fishing lure and it fought for 20 minutes.
Daniel Koehler, Orem: “They’re real strong, and big. They’re huge.”
But the carp are essentially on a suicide run. Irrigation demand and drought are lowering the river drastically. No one knows why they choose such a bad time for a run up the Provo River from the murky water of Utah Lake.
Scott Root, Utah Division of Wildlife: "But they do it about every ten years or so, and we think probably, they might be attracted to the cooler water. Or they're just trying to get out of poor water conditions."
Essentially what officials are trying to accomplish is to head off a smelly disaster like the one that occurred here 11 years ago.
In 1993, 80,000 pounds of dead fish piled up in the river. Provo city crews had to clean it up.
Scott Root, Utah Division of Wildlife: "And it was just a mess. And as you can imagine, there were flies everywhere and the stench was terrible. It was just a bad situation."
Killing fish is unpleasant for all concerned, but possibly necessary.
Daniel Koehler, Orem: "I think so. Because, I mean, there's lots of places to catch fish."
So far they've only made a dent in the problem. 7,000 carp down. About 63,000 to go. The work is expected to continue for several more days.