At the March 2020 City Council meeting, then sitting Councilmember Ellen Burton stated during an update for city employees to “take seriously our trio of lakes…we know this process is going to take dozens and dozens of years to clean up the lakes.” Thanks Ellen, but that was already known, given that Lacamas Lake had already been identified in a 1993 report by the Washington State of Ecology as eutrophic.
Dozens of years sure does fly by quickly, doesn't it?
The State of Ecology report goes on to state that the identification of Lacamas Lake as eutrophic was based on poor water clarity and high nutrient concentrations due to agricultural runoff, resulting in nuisance levels of aquatic plants and algae. The required improvements in waste runoff from 1989-1993 had no impact on water clarity. The report also stipulated that 94 percent of the phosphorus entering the lake came from animal waste. No less than 437 sites were identified to engage in 42 Best Management Practices to reduce phosphorus loading and improve the lake.
30 years later, and nothing has changed. There is no resetting of the clock.
Does it really take a lifetime to clean up a lake? Our own neighboring city of Seattle has already demonstrated that - no - it does not.
Two Councilmembers in Seattle decided to tackle Green Lake’s algae problem in 2014, a lake that has a lot in common with our own Lacamas Lake, including toxic algae warnings. More specifically, the surface area is approximately 259 acres vs. Lacamas Lake’s 305 acres. After treating Green Lake with Alum (by HAB Aquatic Solutions) in 2016, toxic algae warnings nearly disappeared for a number of years. From 2018-2022, there was a mild increase in algae, but the only time there has been a toxicity warning was in 2019, June to July and October to November - and for a few weeks in October, 2021.
Using Alum is just one method to treat a lake, and as Green Lake results have shown, there were drastic improvements to both the health of the lake and the public's usability of it. Wisconsin's Dane County Land and Resources used an “in-lake algae vacuum” to remove algae, trash, dead plants, and more, filtering out the waste and returning clean water to the lake.
Where’s the ingenuity from our city to come up with solutions?
City of Camas: Google is your friend! Residents are also resourceful and want to be your friend. What about that idea from the two Camas high school students to try and clean the lake? It seems like they got much closer to a solution than our City's high-paid consultants - and they've had 30+ years to solve for this problem!
Let’s be clear. We get it. There isn’t a silver bullet that will fix the lake.
We're also not claiming to be smarter than anyone on this complex issue. We understand that curing the lake will require a combination of treatment solutions, not to mention attacking the problem head-on for years to come.
Instead, we get Camas Public Works Director Steve Wall leading the charge. In 2021, Wall publicly stated that the first phase was to establish a firm, research-based foundation. It's 2023 now Steve, we already have 30 years of research and test results. It's time to get moving, Steve! Try something, anything... we implore you!
Our city officials, elected and employed, like to talk about Lacamas Lake. A lot. But when it comes to action, it’s crickets. And with each passing summer that residents can’t enjoy our lake, we’re told it’ll be years before it can be cleaned. We don't have a crystal ball, but we'd bet that your children, and their children, and their children will still be dealing with a toxic Lacamas Lake cannot use after you're gone.
Change is needed in our city. There's an election coming up soon, and we're excited by the possibilities! We hope you are too.