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Almost 800 fish killed in second U.S. 281 bridge blast, TPWD reports


MARBLE FALLS — The April 5 blast that demolished the remaining two piers of the old U.S. 281 bridge might have gone largely unnoticed above water.

But below the surface of Lake Marble Falls, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department reported 798 fish killed as a result of the explosion.

Alan Butler, pollution biologist for the TPWD Kills and Spills Team, said the underwater explosion caused a shockwave that most likely ruptured the swim bladder of the fish.

Although steps were taken to remove as many fish from the area as possible, Butler said TPWD might seek restitution for the 20 different species and nearly 800 fish killed.

“It’s not necessarily a penalty or fine; it’s a value of the lost resources,” Butler said. “There are values for each species, and based on their lengths, there’s a value to each individual fish killed.”

Butler said TPWD might seek compensation for those “lost resources,” which could be made a number of ways.

“It’s still up for discussion in our department,” he said.

Possible restitution could involve paying to restock fish in the lake or using that money toward habitat improvements or outreach and education.

The team removed more than 300 fish from 17 different species March 17 before the steel truss section of the old bridge was imploded. Afterward, TPWD reported no fish mortality from the implosion.

On April 5, the same electrofishing method was used to move fish from the area; however, only two gizzard shad were moved from near the piers. Butler said about half the fish killed April 5 were bluegill, while other species included channel catfish, sunfish and largemouth bass. Electrofishing uses electricity to shock fish and bring them to the surface where they can safely be moved downstream.

Butler said the equipment used to electrofish only works to a depth of about eight feet.

“We weren’t able to electrofish many during the day because most are in deep parts, and our electrofish equipment is only able to get anything from six- to eight feet deep,” Butler said.

Despite the seemingly high fish-mortality number, Butler said the lake’s habitat should see little impact from the April 5 blast.

“It seems like a lot of fish, but really the Colorado River is a fairly productive system, and we didn’t see any impacts to overall populations of species that were killed,” he said. “I don’t foresee it being an issue with population impacts due to this blast.”