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Recent follow-up visits to the Just Farm property by Jim Killingsworth of Inland Division of Crop Production Services have revealed that knapweed is under control on the upland portion of the property.  Jim and his crew donated time, equipment and chemicals to spray the entire 13-acre area in November 2013, and the spraying has successfully eliminated new growth.

Further inspection, however, found a few knapweed plants on the south hill portion of Just Farm and along the driveway to a nearby residence, so on November 5, 2014 the crew from Crop Production Services donated time, equipment and chemicals to spray that area.  They also noticed some growth of invasive Dalmatian Toadflax and sprayed it, as well.

Thanks once again to Jim Killingsworth, Dan and Ryan from Crop Production Services for their diligence and generous donation.

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The Thirteenth Annual Eastern Washington/North Idaho Regional Lakes Conference, held in Spokane in February 2014, called attention to the fact that some of the invasive plants and species that infect area lakes are the result of dumping the unwanted contents of home aquariums and backyard fish ponds into local waterways.

When an owner decides to give up his aquarium or fish pond, an easy solution might be to release creatures and plants into a local lake or river, but doing so can have a disastrous effect on the lake environment.

It was this practice that introduced the popular aquarium plant, Eurasian Watermilfoil, into fresh waterways where it has spread and now competes with native plants for nutrients, often causing heavy algae growth which further damages the environment.

Aquarium owners are often faced with disposing of unwanted fish that may have grown too large, or are too aggressive for the aquarium. Whatever the reason for disposing of them, owners should never flush the fish or release them in a natural waterway.

Aggressive non-native fish that have no natural predators can severely damage local habitat. Even non-aggressive fish that grow too large can devastate the local food supply, sometimes resulting in the extinction of a local lake species.

Instead of dumping aquariums into a local habitat, owners are encouraged to donate plants and creatures to a pet shop or public aquarium, advertise free fish and plants in a newspaper, or donate the aquarium to a school, medical office or other public space.

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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.

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.
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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.

This year’s regional lake conference –Lake and Watershed Management at the Local Level – presented speakers from Washington and Idaho government agencies, universities, business and individuals who addressed a number of issues that threaten our lakes and watersheds and disussed what we can do to manage and protect them for future generations.

Of special concern is the spread of zebra and quagga mussels into lakes and rivers across the country where they can clog pipes, boats, motors, fishing gear and recreational equipment.  The mussels are spread by boats that have been used in mussel-contaminated waters and transported to other lakes and rivers without being thoroughly cleaned.  Quagga mussels were first found in the Great Lakes in the 1980s, brought in by commercial ships, and by 2007 were found in Lake Mead and the Colorado River system. 

So far, quagga mussels have not been found in Washington and Idaho waters.  The Idaho Department of Agriculture has taken a leadership role and opened mandatory boat inspection stations across the state to stop mussel-contaminated boats from entering.  Prevention is the key.  Each time a boat is retrieved from the water it must be cleaned and dried, bilge water drained.  Quagga mussels are tiny with floating larvae, so a visual inspection is not enough.  The Idaho Department of Agriculture urges all boat owners to be responsible when trailering boats from lake to lake.

Loon Lake Land Conservancy was one of many sponsors of the conference, and several board members attended.

Loon Lake Land Conservancy Board members Bill Shawl and Jim Davies were presenters at the 11th Annual Regional Lakes Conference at Spokane Community College on February 4, 2012.

“Lessons in Lake and Watershed Management” was the theme of the Conference hosted by Liberty Lake Sewer and Water District, Spokane Community College Water Resources Program and the Washington Lake Protection Association.

The purpose of the conference was to provide a forum for exchanging information and experiences in an effort to learn more about protecting our lakes and watersheds.

“Do You Know Your Lake?  The Loon Lake Story” presented a series of lessons learned over the years in managing problems at Loon Lake.  Beginning with the control dam and adjudicated level in the 1950s, the presentation included founding of the Loon Lake Property Owners Association (LLPOA) in 1979, creation of Sewer District No. 4 in 1980, the Lake Management District for the control of milfoil in 1999, the Loon Lake Land Conservancy in 2002, and the LLPOA Water Quality Monitoring project initiated in 2007.

The final message delivered by Bill Shawl was, “Get organized.  No one is going to take care of your lake for you.  Lake management is a do-it-yourself project.”

After two years of construction and development by Conservancy volunteers, Loon Lake Park celebrated its grand opening on June 4, 2011. Begun with a grant from Inland Northwest Community Foundation in 2009, the park was designed by landscape designer Dede McAuliffe and features a landscape of plants native to the Inland Northwest. 

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Construction and redevelopment of Loon Lake Park began in 2009.  Using a park design by Dede McAuliffe, volunteers cleared the area, positioned rocks and planted trees and shrubs.  They contoured pathways, covering them with crushed granite, and built granite benches.  They planted fescue and perennials, watered and weeded, and opened the native plant park in 2011. 

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