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Lacamas Lake: Kicking the Can Down the Road

This week, the City of Camas hosted an open house about Lacamas Lake and solutions to clean it up. Except last night wasn’t a presentation, nor a feasible plan with a timeline. It was just more show-and-tell, and hypothetical “we could try this” moments, but no concrete solutions, and certainly no timeline to tackle this recurring issue that prevents safe use of our lake during summer months.

City of Camas doesn't love its own Lacamas Lake

Instead, residents walked into a dog-and-pony show with graphs and drawings, and non-answers to their questions. The perception from residents we spoke with that attended the event open house was that it was a ‘cop-out’ and simply a way for the city to check the box of “engage with the community,” but with zero accountability. The City's own Mayor, Steve Hogan, couldn't even be bothered to make an appearance!

Even the reps from Geosyntec, the consultancy that's collected over $250K in billings from the City of Camas since 2020 with contract extensions, wouldn’t answer any of the obvious questions posed by Camasonians, instead giving the political double-speak where you don’t get an answer, but are left to figure out what the answer is.

One Camasonian that attended was so angry she yelled “this is bullshit!" as she exited.

We did a review of City Council meeting agendas and videos and discovered that nearly every instance since 2020 has had commentary about the ongoing issues with Lacamas Lake. A Lake Study group is referenced with frequency in these discussions, but there is nothing on the City's website, including in search results, that explains what this Study is actually doing, or any results it has produced - with exception to comments made by Mayor Steve Hogan about the group in city council meetings.

Ummm, Mayor Hogan: Where is the report from this group? What was the outcome? Why don't Camas residents know about it?

Lacamas Lake has had a pollution problem for over three decades.

It has progressively worsened over the years. The population increases from within Camas, and from surrounding cities, only exacerbate the problem. People do, actually, want to use their lake! It has been a hot topic for years... as of today, there is still no solution. A lot of talk, but no solution.

Each summer we get the same toxic warnings, just like Parks & Rec Director Trang Lam stated last (in August 2021): “Algae level has been high, the water is dangerous, it could get people sick, animals could die by digesting this water. Please stay out of the water.”

Lacamas Lake warning sign

So where are we today? Tax dollars are spent, reports and repeated testing continue, but we’re no closer to solving this issue than a decade ago. If people went into the lake this summer and turned into zombies, and the city knew this would occur, we’d still be no closer to a real solution to this very real problem!

Our call to action: The city really must take a long, hard look at its role in this "cluster you-know-what" rather than continue to point fingers at everyone but itself. Let’s face it: If our city government ran more like a business, the people responsible would have been terminated for failure to perform.

This isn’t rocket science. The city has the data. The county has the data. But no one seems able to execute a plan to solve this issue or - at the very least - mitigate it. Do something!

Instead, it’s looking in a different direction, trying to make up a financial deficit for emergency services (via the Utility Tax) that aren’t needed, and Washougal, our partner, won’t pay for - all while Lacamas Lake continues to languish. To add insult to injury, a growing majority of residents are outspoken about the need to address the issues with Lacamas Lake! The only saving grace the City of Camas has is that this is not Southern California, where the lake could be used eleven out of the 12 months because of a temperate climate. Instead, Lacamas Lake only gets a few months of use by residents during the calendar year... allowing the city to continue to punt this issue to a later date, year-after-year!

Meanwhile, the consultant, Geosyntec, continues to collect more money with our city's blessing.

Your tax dollars at work. Ain't life grand?

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