Lost Creek Lake blue-green algae outbreak clings stubbornly

Lost Creek Lake remains mired in a blue-green algae outbreak — the advisory against water contact has been in place now 73 days and counting — with no end in sight.

Last week's surge of water into Jackson County's largest reservoir appeared to break up the algae bloom throughout much of the lake, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. But the water upstream of Highway 62 told a different story.

"Upstream of Peyton Bridge, it was looking pretty thick," says Jim Buck, the Corps operations manager in the Rogue River basin.

The bloom hit Lost Creek Lake on Sept. 18, the same day as Big Creek Reservoir in Lincoln County. Those two reservoirs join Willow Creek Reservoir in Morrow County as the only three water bodies in Oregon where the advisories remain in place.

Only nine such advisories were issued this year by Oregon Public Health officials. That's half of the number issued in 2011 and well under the four-year average of 19, according to the state's Harmful Algae Bloom Surveillance Program.

Public health advisories for cyanobacteria, commonly referred to as blue-green algae, are issued by public-health officials based on criteria established by the World Health Organization.

The three most common forms here are anabaena flos-aquae, microcystis and aphanizomenon.

The algae may produce toxins that can be dangerous to people and pets, but not every bloom includes toxins. When they do, the toxins are released when the algae die and dissipate naturally.

When the blooms subside, public-health rules require a clean bill of health confirmed by tests for algae cell counts and toxins before an advisory is lifted.

During advisories, people and pets are warned to avoid all water contact, but compliance is voluntary. Anglers are encouraged to practice catch-and-release fishing.

Toxins cannot be filtered by standard camp filters or by boiling the water. In-home filtering systems cannot cleanse the water, though public treatment plants can reduce algae toxins through filtration and disinfection.

People who eat fish from algae-tainted waters should remove all fat, skin and organs before cooking because toxins can collect there. People should not eat crayfish or freshwater shellfish taken from infested lakes during an advisory.

No confirmed human illnesses have been tied directly to an algae outbreak in Oregon. However, at least four dogs have died from toxins in water near the Umpqua River near Elkton.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife officials are looking for Southern Oregonians with experience in hunting or wildlife conservation to fill two volunteer openings on its Access and Habitat Program's Southwest Advisory Council. The open seats are for a hunter representative and a landowner representative.

Participants meet four times a year to review Access and Habitat Program grant proposals and make recommendations to the statewide board.

Applications are available online at www.dfw.state.or.us/lands/AH/get_involved.asp. They are due at ODFW's office at the Denman Wildlife Area in White City by Dec. 12.

For information or application materials, call Vince Oredson at 541-826-8774, ext. 232.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com.

Share This Story