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Times-News: Toxic Algae Blooms Harm, Kill Animals in Eastern Idaho

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- There is an active algae advisory for Brownlee Dam on the Snake River in Idaho. -  - IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY
  • Idaho Department of Environmental Quality
  • There is an active algae advisory for Brownlee Dam on the Snake River in Idaho.
Blue-green algae blooms are being held responsible for a slew of animal injuries and deaths in eastern Idaho, the Twin Falls Times-News reports.

Numerous animals have been harmed or killed in recent weeks after ingesting contaminated Snake River water in Mini-Cassia. In mid-October, a dog belonging to veterinary medicine teachers Briedi and Bart Gillespie returned from the banks of the river soaking wet. Within 20 minutes the family pet, named Rose, was unconscious.

Cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and mechanical ventilation at a veterinarian's office saved Rose's life, but Bart's father, Clyde Gillespie, who is a local veterinarian, said Rose isn't the first animal in the past few weeks to come through his doors ill from consuming blue-green algae toxins. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, paralysis and signs of liver distress.

"When they come in they can't blink, swallow or breathe, but you can tell they are awake," Clyde told the Times-News. "If you can keep them breathing they have a chance to survive."

Toxic blue-green algae sometimes grows in the Snake River, where relatively warm temperatures, a slow current and nutrients suspended in the water contribute to its growth. According to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, there are three active advisories for algal blooms on or near the Snake River: Brownlee Reservoir, one mile downstream from Woodhead Park, issued in July; the north side of Mormon Reservoir near the boat ramp, issued in August; and Lava Point at Magic Reservoir in Blaine County, issued in October.



Dangerous algae blooms have taken place near Boise in Hulls Gulch, in a reservoir near Twin Falls and in a Coeur d'Alene-area lake popular among recreationists. DEQ confirmed in July there were potentially harmful levels of algae along stretches of the Snake River itself.

Water runoff from agricultural activities is known to enable algal blooms, and the Snake River watershed is home to a large number of agricultural and livestock operations, as well as recreational facilities where people frequently come into contact with potentially contaminated water.

In response to concerns over water safety, the Snake River Waterkeeper has released an app that tracks levels of phosphorous and nitrogen—indicators of possible algae activity—in popular swimming holes. Meanwhile, the city of Boise, in cooperation with other Treasure Valley cities and towns, has constructed a Dixie Drain south of Notus to reduce the amount of dissolved nutrients flowing from the Boise River into the Snake.