WASHINGTON — As Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R) continued their probe into the Lake Chubot fishing incident, the GOP senators launched a new investigation to determine how much water was lost to the lake as a result of the spill.
“Lake Chubota has been the focus of this investigation for a long time,” Portman told The Hill in an interview Wednesday.
“I think the facts speak for themselves.”
While Portman has been publicly critical of the lake for years, the investigation is now focused on the amount of water that flowed into the lake.
The lawmakers said they are looking into how much runoff that occurred in the lake during the incident and whether it impacted the lake’s fish population.
“The fish population has not recovered,” Portunionsaid.
“We have to determine what happened in Lake Chobot that contributed to this.
The water is very small in comparison to what we have in the lakes of our neighbors in Michigan and Wisconsin.”
The senators said they would soon publish a draft of their findings and make a recommendation to the state government, which has jurisdiction over the lake and would then decide how to proceed with the lake cleanup.
“There are a lot of unanswered questions,” Portmonsaid.
“This is a very complex and sensitive issue and I believe it’s important that the answers are out there.”
The lake is home to an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 resident Chinook salmon, which are critically endangered.
Last year, more than half of the salmon population was killed by the lake in the first half of 2017, according to a report by the Fish and Wildlife Service.
The senators’ investigation has been delayed by the election of a new governor, and the state legislature has been in session since July.
The two lawmakers said it would be premature to speculate about whether the state would seek to recoup the costs of the cleanup from Lake Chabot.
But they said they believe they have the answers.
“It’s not going to be easy to come to any conclusion, but we’ve got the answers,” Kinzingersaid.
The lake has been a topic of conversation on Capitol Hill since last year, when then-Gov.
John Kasich (R), who had called for a moratorium on commercial fishing in Lake Tahoe, ordered the federal government to halt all commercial fishing operations in the Lake Tahoes.
The federal government later reinstated commercial fishing, but it did not include the state as a co-owner.
Kinzinger and Portman have said they want to make sure that no one is left out of the action on the lake because of the federal action.
Kinzer said he expects the new investigation will reveal more about how the federal administration acted during the cleanup.
The senators said that is why they decided to launch their probe.
“I don’t think we are going to get into a situation where we have a fishing license to fish in Lake Chapote, but I think we can tell you that the federal investigation was an oversight that should not have occurred,” Kinzer said.
The federal investigation into the incident was prompted by a complaint by the Michigan Wildlife Federation, which said that Lake Chibot salmon died from hypothermia caused by the runoff of untreated sewage that was released into the water.
The lawsuit was settled in February, with the state agreeing to reimburse $1.5 million in damages to the Fish & Wildlife Service and to pay the agency $5,000 for the environmental cleanup.
KinZinger said the federal probe will be a good start.
“We’ve got a lot more work to do and we need to get back to our families and our jobs,” he said.