Lowered water level at Lacamas Lake a chance to clean up

By Dameon Pesanti, Columbian staff writer

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Finding a trash can, let alone the nearest dumpster, must be a bewildering and frightening experience for those burdened with a little bit of refuse and a crippling inability to navigate.

What other excuse could there be for the piles of trash volunteers pulled from the bed of Lacamas Lake last weekend?

From truck tires to shot glasses, live ammunition to several 55-gallon drums, volunteers of the annual Lacamas Lake cleanup gleaned enough trash out of the drained lake on Saturday to warrant using three dumpsters.

“Someone found a 24-inch flat screen TV. It was in perfect shape,” said event organizer Kari Ram. “We joked that someone should put it in rice (to dry it out) and see if it works.”

Ram works for Underwriters Laboratories, which organizes the annual cleanup. She said fewer people showed up Saturday than have in previous lake cleanups — possibly scared off by a forecast of heavy rains — but those that showed up were in good spirits and found lots of junk.

John Spencer and his son, William, who is part of Camas Cub Scout Pack 424, volunteered for the first time in the annual cleanup. Their garbage collection highlights included sunglasses, a traffic cone and seats from a boat and an old chair.

“I am always amazed by how much debris or trash there is even though they clean it every year,” he said. “When you’re finding barrels and large pieces of lumber — you would have thought they would have been picked up the previous years.”

Spencer also said there was an element of nostalgia among the parents out among the clean up.

“Some said, ‘Hey, look! There’s the dock I used to fish at,’ as we’re pulling up pieces of it,” he said.

Tom Tangen said his family “loves the lake and hates litter,” so the annual cleanup is something they put on the calendar.

He said the majority of the debris is older stuff that’s accumulated over the decades, but he’s concerned about the potentially hazardous conditions posed by old pier poles and cement objects that are embedded in the lake bed.

Georgia-Pacific typically draws down the lake after Labor Day so workers can inspect the upper and lower dams and conduct any necessary maintenance.

This year, however, the lake will be drained until Jan. 31 so the city of Camas can do work on the North Shore Sewer Transmission System project. That should also leave enough time for people pick up even more trash that might still be out there.