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Environmental Agencies Investigating Why Thousands of Fish Died in Warren County Waterways

Kentucky Afield

State officials hope to soon know more about why thousands of fish have died along waterways in southern Kentucky. 

The fish kill affects 16 miles of waterway in Warren County – 11 miles in Clear Fork Creek, and five miles in the Gasper River, which flows into the Barren River. 

Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources spokesman Dave Baker said some fish were able to escape into a tributary or spring, but it was a substantial loss in a waterway popular with anglers.

"The fish kill involved thousands of fish," said Baker. "We don’t have an exact count, but there were several thousand fish. And this included all species, including bass, sunfish, catfish, suckers, drums, darters, minnows, lampreys, etc.”

The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet has confirmed that there were very low oxygen levels in the water. But the reason for those low levels hasn’t been determined.

Cabinet Spokesman John Mura said water samples have been delivered to the lab and results are expected in about a week. 

Baker said anglers will be advised that fishing in that part of the Gasper River will be off-normal for a while.

"As far as how this will affect the river, the fish from upstream and downstream will eventually build recolonize the affected areas," said Baker. "But it will take some time for the numbers to build back up.”  

Rhonda Miller joined WKU Public Radio in 2015. She has worked as Gulf Coast reporter for Mississippi Public Broadcasting, where she won Associated Press, Edward R. Murrow and Green Eyeshade awards for stories on dead sea turtles, health and legal issues arising from the 2010 BP oil spill and homeless veterans.