Lake Ketchum Art Galleries
On a Lake
Blog 1, March 1-7, 2003
a year, the lake monitors for Snohomish County get together—sometimes
at somebody’s lake, sometimes at the Surface Water Utility offices in
Everett, and compare notes.
are a remarkably dissimilar group that share a single interest—the
biological welfare of the lake each of us lives upon. In our county,
each lake is what is termed a lowland lake and has similar
characteristics, the chief one of which is that it is apt to be
inundated with phosphorous from nearby farms. The dairy farms are the
worst, and the worst of the worst are those farms that raise milk cows.
Ketchum is one such lake and (I say this not proudly) has a
phosphorous/nitrogen input that is four or five times as much as its
nearest competitor. The growth of weeds and algae is so great that we
must, reluctantly, treat our lake with a herbicide or else be inundated
with one form of greenery or another from bank to bank.
is expensive to treat a lake, even a small lake such as ours, and to
raise the money we have been organized into a local improvement
district. We tax ourselves about $2 a front foot for our lakefront
property, then hire a professional to spray the shore one or two times a
year with stuff called Sonar, or floridone.
kills most of the weeds, including the beneficial ones, but doesn’t
touch the green algae, which we learned last year was most likely
Spirogyra. In fact, treating the lake for weeds may actually increase
the amount of algae, which in excessive amounts may deprive the lake of
the dissolved oxygen that is necessary to all life.
lakes have problems different from mine. One—Cranapple—is small and
deep, and has inadequate drainage. During the winter its height on the
land may rise or fall by six feet. Homes and lands are subjected to
flooding. I always feel
fortunate when I hear about
the plight of Cranapple, though I tend to be inadequately commiserated
with on my problem with phosphorous super-abundance.
is a pleasant, cheerful group, though this year I was surprised by the
amount of attrition. Some of the old-time monitors have moved away.
Others have tired, I guess, of the amount of monitoring work that is
involved and resigned. There were a number of “new hires,” or newly
volunteered monitors, who seemed uniformly dedicated and eager. I liked
them all immediately.
took time to compare notes, ask each other if the other’s lake was
suffering from early algae problems, pin on name tags and peer a bit
rudely at each other’s tag, immediately forgetting the new name we had
been so eager to inspect. The program included a fine presentation on
species of fish and the problems of managing them by the area
representative from the state Fish and Wildlife. This was followed by
the program’s director telling us about West Nile Disease, carried by
mosquitoes from the bodies of dead birds, usually crows. It produces
flu-like symptoms. Then a retired timber company executive told us about
the exhaustive personalized monitoring program he had set up at his
lake, Panther, on a site of a former camp.
he is trying to atone for historical environmental wrongs committed by
the industry he spent his lifetime working in, or else he is a new
“Green,” bored by retirement, and zealously dedicated to knowing and
measuring his lake. His biggest accomplishment was taking nearly
continuous dissolved oxygen (DO) readings throughout the year at many
different depths, since Panther is several times deeper than most of the
other lakes, including mine.
documented how lakes “turn over” in the fall, mixing different
temperature stratifications and DO contents so that they all become the
same, about the end of October, each year. It is quite a marvelous
process and explains how lakes are refreshed in winter for the coming
cycles of sunlight and growth. All
of our lakes undergo this process, of course, but we had not seen it so
well explained and presented.
formal part of the meeting over, we settled down to more coffee and soft
drinks, plus huge wedges of pizza provided by the county as our little
Enthused, renewed (as is the lake by turning over in late autumn), we settled down to more chitchat about lakes. Who says there is no free lunch?