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Archive for February, 2014

Algae Blooms Threaten Lakes

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Algae blooms are rapid growth buildup of phytoplankton, a small and simple free floating water plant. They are natural occurrences triggered by increased water temperature and sunlight that provide perfect growing conditions for the tiny plants.

Recently, there have been significant increases in algae blooms, and scientific organizations are now looking more closely at the types of human activity that are contributing to these increases.

Among the causes for concern are nitrogen and phosphorous rich fertilizers used on farm fields and residential landscaping. Rain washes these fertilizers into water systems where they feed algae species and promote growth.

Some algae blooms are harmful. Cyanobacteria or blue green algae bloom is sometimes referred to as pond scum. This thick, foamy blanket of algae poses health risks to humans and domestic pets. Blue green algae blooms can cause skin irritations such as blisters and hives. If water containing algae is inhaled or swallowed, it can cause serious liver, kidney and neurological problems.

Algae blooms also cause problems within the aquatic ecosystem. Excessive growth of algae can block sunlight and stunt growth of other plants which may provide important habitat for aquatic animals.

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Just Farm Knapweed Tackled

The Old Just Farm property on the west end of Loon Lake has had a serious knapweed problem over the last few years. Since the land had been previously tilled when the farm was operational, it was soft, dry and pliable – prime conditions for knapweed to take hold. Conservancy volunteers have tried several methods to get it under control – hand pulling the weed, mowing it before the flowers appear, introducing friendly weevils that feast on buds, and encouraging goats to eat their way through it. None of these methods have provided a permanent solution.

Enter Jim Killingsworth. He is a Loon Lake resident and General Manager of Inland Division of Crop Production Services, and he knows a lot about knapweed. Jim visited Just Farm and came to the conclusion that there was no way amateurs could take care of this very large problem, so he volunteered to bring his crew to the farm to spray the weed. This was done on November 4 and took approximately three hours.

According to Jim, in late fall there are rosettes growing next to the ground on the weeds and they produce sugar for the roots to stay alive during the winter. By spraying them in November, most of the knapweed could be eradicated.

Jim very generously donated his time, his crew’s time, the equipment and chemicals for this job. Two men sprayed from ATVs and Jim had a backpack sprayer and covered the areas around trees. The total ground sprayed was approximately 13 acres.

Jim’s donation is much appreciated by the Conservancy and residents of Loon Lake.
Knapweed crew (3)

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For many years BNSF crews discarded used broken railroad ties into the waters of “Little Loon Lake” while repairing tracks along the wetland.  Lake residents, Bob and Nancy French, alerted the Conservancy Board to this practice, and expressed concern that these discarded ties were leaching creosote and chemicals into the water, threatening wildlife and water quality of Big Loon Lake as water moved into the lake via a culvert system.

The Frenches contacted Stevens County Water Quality Coordinator, Charlie Kessler, who was equally concerned.  He, in turn, contacted the BNSF Environmental Department, and BNSF officials subsequently met with them on site and agreed to fund a tie removal project.

After several delays, the Frenches eventually completed the JARPA (Joint Aquatic Resources Permit Application) to acquire the necessary permits from various Washington State agencies to get the project moving.

Sandry Construction Company was contracted by BNSF to retrieve the ties from the wetland area.  Their crew spent four days in mid-October combing the seasonally “dry” wetland and recovered more than 300 pieces of ties.  The following week the BNSF line crew picked up every piece and hauled them away from this beautiful wetland.

Thanks to Bob and Nancy French, a hazardous situation was identified and proper steps were taken to correct it.  Thanks to the cooperation of BNSF, the advice and assistance of Charlie Kessler of Stevens County, and the cooperation of David and Kristy McMullan, owners of the wetland, this critical wetland will continue to function as it should.               

Little Loon Lake is located south of the bridge on Larson Beach Road.

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