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News / Clark County News

Camas shares water-quality data at open house

City presents short-, long-term strategies to improve lakes

By Kelly Moyer, Camas-Washougal Post-Record
Published: July 22, 2023, 6:07am

More than 100 people turned out to a July 12 open house to learn about the city’s water-testing data and discuss proposed solutions that would improve water quality and help prevent toxic algal blooms for Lacamas, Round and Fallen Leaf lakes.

Camas Public Works Director Steve Wall said the answer includes both short- and long-term strategies to improve water quality in the lakes as well as in the broader watershed that reaches outside the city limits.

“I know many people are anxious to get something in place,” Wall told Camas City Council members on July 17. “Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach here.”

The city has been working for two years to create a lake management plan. According to the city, all three lakes have favorable conditions for algal blooms. During the summer they become eutrophic. This means they have a lot of phosphorus and nitrogen, which encourages algae growth.

Since the fall of 2021, city staff and consultants from Geosyntec Consultants, MacKay Sposito and Environmental Science Associates have been collecting and analyzing water samples and other lake data; developing a community outreach plan; seeking funding resources; monitoring water quality in all three lakes; and working on the draft lake management plan that Wall expects will come before the Camas City Council for its approval within the next two months.

According to the city’s information presented at the open house, the water sampling showed:

  • Lacamas Creek is still the main source of water and nutrients (like phosphorus) for Lacamas and Round Lakes.
  • Concentrations of phosphorus in the sediment and deeper waters were higher in Round and Lacamas lakes than in past years.
  • The amount of phosphorus near the surface, as well as chlorophyll-a levels, in Lacamas and Round lakes was similar to past years.
  • The type of algae in Lacamas and Round lakes are similar, but the algae types in Fallen Leaf Lake are different.

The researchers concluded that “because of the volume of water it contributes, Lacamas Creek makes up 73 percent of the total load of phosphorus to the (Lacamas and Round) lakes.”

Some possible near-term solutions presented at the July 12 open house included strategies with costs estimated between less than $100,000 to more than $1 million and a list of expected benefits for each proposed strategy.

Some of the more expensive options include treating the water with alum or a modified bentonite clay, oxygenating water at the bottom of the lakes, and reducing internal phosphorus loading through a nanobubbler, which also would result in a “notable reduction in internal loading of phosphorus and improved habitat for fish.”

Lower-cost strategies for in-lake water quality improvements included reducing the carp population and establishing “floating wetlands,” or rafts with planted vegetation to remove nutrients from the water via the plants’ root system.

Long-term strategies

Long-term strategies will address the streams and creeks in the Lacamas Creek Watershed, which feeds the lakes, and will take partnerships with other entities, including Clark County and the state of Washington’s Department of Ecology.

Some of the long-term watershed strategies included in the information presented at the July 12 open house include: stream restoration; constructed wetlands, septic system replacements and maintenance; conservation buffers, streamside management areas; reduced use of fertilizers and pesticides; planting vegetation known to reduce phosphorus loading; upgrading bioretention facilities; optimizing detention ponds and street sweeping.

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On Monday, Wall told city officials that he intends to bring the draft Lake Management Plan to the city council as soon as it is ready.

“We have the data necessary for us to figure out how we’re going to spend quite a bit of money on implementing (some of the recommended strategies),” Wall said. “There are short- and long-term recommendations (in the plan). You will hear all of those and can provide some direction for pulling those together and for how we’re going to use our resources.”

Wall said once the city and the state’s ecology department have signed off on the lake management plan, staff will be able to pursue grants and other funding options. Wall added that the city recently received a $515,000 state grant for implementing some of the proposed strategies.

To learn more about the city’s work on the lake management plan and the partners working to help clean Lacamas, Round and Fallen Leaf lakes, visit engagecamas.com/lacamas-lake-management-plan. To learn more about the work of the Lacamas Creek Watershed Council, visit lacamaswatershed.org/our-story. To learn about septic system reimbursement programs available through Poop Smart Clark, visit poopsmartclark.org.