Blue-green algae triggers advisory at Hills Creek Reservoir

High levels of blue-green algae at Hills Creek Reservoir have triggered a public-health advisory against contact with water or fish in that Douglas County waterway.

The public-health advisory is the first issued this year by the state Department of Human Services, which tracks Oregon's annual blooms of anabaena flos-aque.

Tests at the reservoir revealed high levels of this algae-like bacteria that can produce toxins harmful to pets or animals.

State health officials issued the voluntary advisory May 21, and it will remain in effect until further notice.

When it dies, this algae strain releases neurotoxins that can cause symptoms ranging from a skin rash and dizziness to rapid death, though documented reactions have been extremely rare in Oregon.

Swallowing or inhaling water droplets should be avoided, as well as skin contact with water by humans or animals. The toxins cannot be removed by boiling, filtering or treating water.

It is most threatening to children and pets, and it congregates mostly in shallow, stagnant coves and along shorelines.

The advisory includes a recommendation that anglers practice catch-and-release fishing until the advisory is lifted. If people choose to eat fish from the reservoir, they should remove all fat, skin and organs before cooking because toxins are more likely to collect in these tissues, the advisory states.

The Hills Creek Reservoir advisory also includes a recommendation that people not eat the crayfish or freshwater shellfish taken from the lake.

Algae outbreaks have plagued several Oregon reservoirs this decade, including an advisory last fall at Lost Creek Lake that lasted four months.

Illinois River Recreation open

The Illinois River Road Recreational Area has opened for its summer season and visitors to this stretch of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest will see a few improvements and new fees at day-use and campground areas there.

New this year is a $10 fee for nightly camping at Six Mile, River Bench, Store Gulch and Little Falls campgrounds along the Illinois.

The Forest Service has pledged that money collected at those campgrounds will be used for clean-up and maintenance of those campgrounds.

Throughout the year, public donations will be accepted by the Forest Service at the Six Mile Day Use Area to benefit improvements there.

The forest's Echo, Illinois River Trailhead, Snailback and Horn Bend campgrounds will remain free for public use.

Lost Creek releases to hold steady

Water releases from Lost Creek Lake will hold steady at 3,000 cubic feet per second into the upper Rogue River for the next week as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stabilize out-flows from the Rogue River Basin's largest reservoir.

The Corps has been releasing about the same amount of water that's flowing into the lake for much of May, when the lake filled and in-flows remained high from rain and snowmelt upstream.

Set Wednesday, the new release schedule is designed to minimize out-flow fluctuation while keeping the reservoir near full, according to a Corps memo.

The Corps' current plan is to cut the out-flow to 2,700 cfs in 150-cfs increments June 4-5.

At Applegate Lake, which also is full, plans remain to release the same amount of water flowing into the reservoir, but not to exceed 800 cfs, according to the Corps memo.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail

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