Tuesday, December 7, 2021
Dec. 7, 2021

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Initial phase of Camas’ lake cleanup plan underway

Water quality focus of ongoing project


CAMAS — With initial research and outreach well underway, Camas officials are now eyeing the start of the second, more extensive, piece of the city’s two-phase lake management plan.

Camas Public Works Director Steve Wall said the first phase of the lake cleanup plan was meant to establish a firm, research-based foundation that would determine the type of data collection and public outreach needed in the second phase and for long-term water quality management at Lacamas, Round and Fallen Leaf lakes.

“The idea wasn’t to just jump in and make assumptions about what we think may or may not work,” Wall told city officials on Aug. 2. “We want to base this on the science. We have to figure out what’s going on (with the lakes’ water quality) and what the current conditions are.”

In November 2020, the council voted unanimously to form a Lacamas Creek watershed committee to investigate and advise the city on water quality topics related to the Lacamas Creek watershed and approved spending up to $300,000 — funded by the city’s stormwater utility fund and available grants — to create lake management plans for Lacamas, Round and Fallen Leaf lakes, establish water quality goals and develop strategies that will improve the lakes’ water quality and, eventually, help prevent toxic algae blooms.

The city hired consultants in the spring and got started on the first phase of the lake management plan in mid-June. The first phase is expected to wrap up in mid-September.

Rob Annear, with Geosyntec Consultants, briefed the city council members on some of the things consultants and city staff have already learned during the first phase of the lake management plan.

“Lacamas Creek accounted for the majority of phosphorus inflows to Lacamas and Round lakes in the 1980s,” Annear said. “We have to check to see if this is still true. Reducing phosphorus loading to the creek from the watershed will be necessary to reduce the occurrence of algal blooms.”

Since there have been no “serious” studies on the lakes’ water quality since the mid-2000s, Annear added, “it is important to determine the sources coming into and out of the lake … so we know where to focus our efforts in the future.”

While the city is busy tackling pollution sources that are directly discharging into the city’s lakes, the state’s Department of Ecology will be looking for pollution sources upstream, in the 67-square-mile Lacamas Creek watershed.

Devan Rostorfer, a water quality specialist with Ecology, told the Post-Record earlier this year that it is important for people to understand that Lacamas Lake’s water quality issues may be connected to pollution sources as far as 18 miles away in Vancouver’s Orchards neighborhood, where the Lacamas Creek watershed begins and throughout the entire watershed.

“There is a connection between what’s happening upstream in the watershed to what’s happening downstream in the lake,” Rostorfer said. “So we will need action from people who don’t live near the lake … who may not even visit the lake.”