By Larry Cassidy, Chairman
This month saw incredible activity at Vancouver Lake with multiple large-scale rowing regattas over several weekends all capped off by a truly stunning Memorial Day weekend that saw hundreds and hundreds of people sailing, paddling, bathing, sunning, barbecuing, and just outright soaking up the beauty of Vancouver Lake. We know that when the water is free of algae blooms, people around here flock to the water and Vancouver Lake provides a very safe place to enjoy water free of river currents and drop offs.
Unfortunately, the algae is back putting the summer fun season in doubt at the lake – again. We are determined to change that.
Ever since the Lake was cut-off from the Columbia River with flood control measures and levees, the Lake has needed a man-made boost of cleaner, cooler Columbia River water – the natural volume of which used to scour the lake bottom and renew the lake annually. The $17 million 1983 project created the Vancouver Lake Facility/flushing channel by doing two things – building a ‘lifeline’ channel to bring cooler, cleaner water and – importantly – dredging to remove sediments and sculpt the lake bottom to improve circulation and water turnover.
Sadly, the new Vancouver Lake Facility and flushing channel – an intended feedback system between channel water flow and lake conditions – was not properly maintained allowing the lake to silt-in and return to the degraded condition we see today with recurring toxic algae blooms. Lack of water flow through the channel and into the lake is a key culprit allowing water to simply sit in the shallow lake and warm up – a poor condition for fish, birds and people. This lack of adequate water flow and the lack of proper in-lake and channel maintenance could have been avoided.
We have been working in several key areas – improving water quality, working to bring demonstration pilot projects to the lake, and renewing a relationship with the US Army Corps of Engineers. We would like to bring you up-to-date on our important 2021 initiatives.
Key areas of interest:
- Pilot project to treat/capture phosphorous in the Burnt Bridge Creek watershed before it reaches the lake.
- Pilot project to curtain off the swim beach (in water) to treat the lake water for alage – this would allow year-round swimming.
- A new effort to understand lake conditions and options to improve the water flow, circulation, temperature, turbidity etc. via the hiring of Jacobs Engineering – a Portland-based firm with an impressive national reputation and relationships with USACE, the City of Vancouver etc. This private Phase 1 effort will cost $45,000. FoVL has committed to a mult-layered process to bring solutions to the lake’s challenges for the community and its elected leadership to evaluate and act upon. The total cost of this initial work is $150,000 and we hope to go all the way!
- We have asked Clark County to sponsor a new look at the lake’s challenges by the USACE. (There is no financial obligation at this stage, FoVL just needs ‘permission’ to work with the USACE. We are hoping County will step up and support this important work!
- We are beginning survey work for 2021 and seeing Curly Leaf Pondweed which has the potential to expand like milfoil did so we need to treat earlier before it overtakes the lake.
We know the lake’s water quality can be improved. There may be no one solution – or a silver bullet as we often hear – but there are today – in 2021 – many viable options.
We thank each of you for your continued support. Vancouver Lake is a gem worth protecting – we know you agree!