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Long Lake residents pledge support for lake cleanup

Long Lake boosters last week announced they have all the community backing they need and are now preparing to start a fundraising push to raise $18,000 in seed money to launch a cleanup of the lake.

Long Lake, considered prime waterfront property and one of the most heavily used lakes in South Kitsap, has been suffering from image issues for decades. The two-mile-long lake, shallow and fed mostly from area streams, has persistent algae and bacteria problems, aggravated by runoff from residential properties and large numbers of resident waterfowl.

In a typical year, the lake is designated unsafe for use by the Kitsap Health Department a few weeks after Memorial Day and remains closed for the rest of the summer.

Some years, the lake is even closed before school gets out.

A group of Long Lake residents last year formed a nonprofit group — Citizens for the Improvement of Long Lake — to find a solution to the lake’s problems.

Earlier this year, they found a plan that used alum, which removes phosphorus, and narrow-band herbicides to reduce the buildup of algae and invasive water plants. The treatment was expected to clean up the lake for approximately 10 years, but the price tag was intimidating — an estimated $900,000.

As a way to help defray the cost of the cleanup, Sen. Bob Oke (R-Port Orchard) offered to go after some state monies when the budget is negotiated next year.

Oke said if CILL can gain the support of the residents and the approval of the state Department of Fisheries and the state Department of Ecology before then, then it has a good shot at getting something from the state’s coffers.

Oke recommended starting off with a petition that demonstrated the backing of at least two-thirds, but ideally three-fourths, of affected residents.

He also said it was important to raise some money — the $18,000 CILL is seeking — as a show of good faith and commitment. Most grants, Oke pointed out, require matching funds and state agencies don’t want to give money to groups who don’t have the ability to help pull their own weight.

Last week, CILL president Ken Spohn said he got 62 percent of the 298 lakefront property owners to sign a petition of support, most of whom made a point of coming to a CILL open house in order to sign.

“It’s very encouraging,” Spohn said.

Next week, Spohn said he plans to send out letters requesting donations from the waterfront residents. He said he is optimistic about the success of the drive because, divided evenly among 300 households, the $18,000 becomes more manageable — approximately $60 per taxpayer. Even if only the petition-signers donate, Spohn said, the amount still comes out to less than $100 per household.

“That’s not that much,” he said.

CILL is trying to get the $18,000 raised before November in order to give Oke the best chance of getting good results in Olympia. Spohn said everything is hanging on Oke’s efforts. If the state offers funds, the project is a go; if it doesn’t, he said, everyone gets their money back.

“If the state falls through, we’re dead in the water, no pun intended,” Spohn said. “We’ll probably quit because people won’t want to form a self-taxing district (the other available funding option).”

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