WOODLAND — Horseshoe Lake is one of the town’s “biggest assets,” but Lance Spencer needs only two words to describe it come summer time — “green and gross.”
“It gets bad,” the 38-year-old Woodland resident said Thursday while fishing there. “You don’t want your kids swimming in it.”
Algae eventually takes over the lake, typically prompting Spencer to stop fishing there in May.
“You don’t want to eat the fish,” he said. “Who knows what kind of slime is on it?”
A state project, however, may make the 85-acre lake cleaner and more usable.
Last week, the Washington State Department of Transportation finished installing a new $13,000 pump that will force about 5,000 gallons of water a minute into Horseshoe Lake from the nearby North Fork of the Lewis River. The old pump delivered only 3,000 gallons a minute.
The lake is an old “oxbow” bend of the Lewis River. It was cut off from the river in 1940 during construction of Highway 99, now Interstate 5. A new river channel was dug east of the freeway, and the isolated old oxbow turn became a lake. WSDOT agreed to maintain the lake, but keeping it clean has been a challenge because it has no significant natural source of fresh water.
Transportation officials said it will take a few months before they know whether the new pump is improving the water. If it doesn’t work, the next step would be costly, they warn.
“If we still have water-quality issues, we’ll need a two-pump system,” said Chad Hancock, Southwest Washington traffic engineer for WSDOT.
The early estimate for replacing the entire system and adding a new pump is $270,000. Rather than fixing a single pump, WSDOT officials would have to do a complete rebuild and overhaul of the system. The project could take up to two years, Hancock said.
Woodland City Councilman Scott Perry said the new pump is an important step to restore one of Woodland’s “biggest assets.” In some respects, Horseshoe Lake is to Woodland what Lake Sacajawea is to Longview, though its shores are ringed by houses instead of a large urban park.
“Without good circulation, we don’t have a prayer,” Perry said.
The new pump is the second recent initiative aimed at improving water quality in the lake. The city released grass carp into the lake two years ago in hopes they would eat milfoil and other aquatic weeds that choked it every summer. The carp haven’t cleared as much algae as expected.
Lydia Casey, 72, is pulling for the new pump system to make a difference.
The Vancouver resident comes to Woodland once a week to visit her grandchildren and remembers when the lake was in better shape.
“Thirty years ago, this lake used to be a lot cleaner,” and Casey used to swim there, she said. “There’s a lot less people now. I’d bring my grandchildren out here if it wasn’t so mucky. … It’s terribly important to clean up the lake.”