Salvation trickled into the Lory Student Center Lagoon by the gallon Tuesday, bring hope for the goldfish that seemed in past weeks destined to die dry or frigid deaths.
Undrinkable water piped into CSU from College Lake is expected to fill the lagoon completely in about two days, said CSU outdoor services manager Doug Nagel. But he pleaded with students not to try and catch the fish, and added that a winter plan must be put into place if the goldfish are going to be permanent residents of the lagoon.
The early irrigation had been planned for about a week, he said. But after looking at the lagoon on Tuesday he said he was stunned at the number of fish – and the lack of water – in the lagoon.
"When I looked at it today I actually was surprised; we'd been kind of keeping an eye on (the water level) and it looked pretty good," Nagel said. "It looked like it was on its way to drying up."
He blamed the need for early irrigation on an unusually dry winter, adding that the goldfish appeared mysteriously in the pond as early as last winter. They survived because there was enough snow to keep the water level high.
The lagoon's lining is also deteriorating, he said, and Nagel hopes to clean the silty bottom and replace it. He urged students to stay out of the lagoon bed because it is fragile and the disturbance could result in more leaks in the lining.
"We brought water into the campus from College Lake probably earlier than we ever have," Nagel said. "Last winter we got some snow and everything, and (the fish) did fine. But with no moisture basically this winter since October, it started to dry up pretty quick."
The pond is usually drained because it can't be maintained – the flow of undrinkable water is generally cut off to the university in the wintertime so that the water does not freeze in the pipes and destroy the irrigation system. But it hasn't been drained the last two winters because of the fish, Nagel said.
Despite the cold weather expected during the next few days, Nagel said the expensive system is not in danger – the main line is about 4 feet underground and is not at risk for frost damage.
Grass carp, fish that grow up to two feet in length, are the only authorized inhabitants of the lagoon. They're removed before the water is drained. But Nagel said that removing all the goldfish might be impractical, so a plan might need to be enacted to ensure they survive the winter safely.
"If we're gonna keep fish in the lagoon we're gonna figure out how to get them out during the winter," he said. "It's probably going to be pretty much impossible to get out all the goldfish…If it's not going to hold water all winter, we're going to have to figure out how to keep some water in there for them."
On Tuesday, students wandered around the lagoon to see the goldfish.
"I didn't even know they were here, so I wanted to support the effort to save the goldfish," said freshman Andy Felker, an open-option major seeking business student. "It would be a pretty cool thing for the college if (the lagoon) could be this big goldfish pond."
Lindy Halliday, a sophomore natural resources recreation and tourism major, walked along the lagoon's edge Tuesday afternoon.
Though she was unhappy about litter in the lagoon and pointed out a Coke bottle to prove it, she was pleased to see the water pouring into the dry lagoon.
"I'm glad they're filling it up again," she said.
She thought for a moment about the origin of the goldfish, but came up dry.
"I don't know how they got there," she said. "But they should let them live."
Brandon Lowrey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.