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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.
News / Opinion / Editorials

In Our View: Coordination crucial for Vancouver Lake’s future

The Columbian
Published: June 25, 2024, 6:03am

Efforts to keep Vancouver Lake open this summer reflect the dedication that will be required to preserve a valuable asset for Clark County.

The lake covers 2,300 acres and provides recreational opportunities for local residents and visitors alike. Yet, it is encumbered by a lack of ownership. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has jurisdiction over wildlife around the lake; the state Department of Natural Resources controls the lake bed; the state Department of Ecology has authority over the water;  Clark County runs a park adjacent to the lake; and the nearby Port of Vancouver administers some of the lake’s resources, including a flushing channel.

As The Columbian has written editorially in the past: “As a well-known proverb says, ‘Success has many fathers; failure is an orphan.’ For Vancouver Lake to avoid being a failure, the city of Vancouver, Clark County and the Port of Vancouver must combine resources and efforts to help the lake achieve its potential as a recreation spot and an economic driver for the region.”

That urgency comes to mind with a recent Columbian article about efforts to limit algae blooms on the lake this summer. The blooms typically accompany warming summer weather and have resulted in intermittent closures in recent years.

As Devan Rostorfer, manager of Clark County’s clean water division, told The Columbian: “Unfortunately, more and more lakes across the United States and even across the world are experiencing harmful algal blooms. It’s not just Clark County.”

But Vancouver Lake’s dispersed ownership can make it particularly difficult to address such issues. That lends added importance to the county’s work. Officials recently held a meeting with other stakeholders to seek solutions for the annual problem of blue-green algae and prepare for a productive summer recreation season.

“The first meeting was specifically focused on developing a beach management plan for the Vancouver Lake swimming beach,” Rostorfer said. “This is the first time we’re implementing a beach management plan. Our goal is really to create this first phase as a pilot to test and evaluate the effectiveness of lake treatments so that we can learn from it and make improvements over time.”

Proposals also will target Lacamas Lake and other bodies of water in Clark County, but a look at the Clark County map quickly reveals the prominence and importance of Vancouver Lake. The body of water, after all, was mentioned in journals kept by Lewis and Clark in 1805.

Officials hope to treat areas near the beach of the shallow lake to prevent algae blooms this summer. “Our focus will be on the first 150 feet from the beach out into the lake … with the goal to help protect swimmers from any potential risks from harmful algal blooms or E. coli exposure,” Rostorfer said. But the most important result could be improved management of the lake.

From 2004 through 2014, the Vancouver Lake Watershed Partnership oversaw management; then the partnership fell apart. Now, citizens group Friends of Vancouver Lake is diligently advocating for protection of the lake, working to “restore our magnificent resource by partnering with public and private entities.”

Forging a coalition of those public entities is crucial to the future of Vancouver Lake and to preserving its recreational and economic benefits for the region. Ideally, a beach management plan will serve as the beginning of renewed interest from local governments.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect Vancouver Lake Regional Park is run by Clark County. And earlier version contained incorrect information.