Governor will inspect Long Lake

An idea that started out as neighbors complaining about the condition of the lake they lived next to but could rarely swim in will now have the ear of the state’s highest official, as Gov. Christine Gregoire is scheduled to visit Long Lake County Park on Friday to hear a citizen group’s long-formed plan to clean up the park’s water.

Gregoire’s visit to the park, which will follow a stop at the Retsil Veterans Home’s grand opening, was spurred by a capital budget request initiated by Sen Bob Oke, (R-Port Orchard), for $1 million to pay for the cleanup plan, which would rid the lake of invasive plants and toxic algae blooms.

“The lake’s problems have escalated from a recreational nuisance to a health hazard to humans, their pets and wildlife,” wrote Oke, who serves on the Senate Natural Resources, Ocean and Recreation Committee and will be joining Gov. Gregoire and Reps. Derek Kilmer and Pat Lantz at the park.

“Each year the Kitsap County Health Department has to close the lake to the public earlier and earlier, rendering the public lake useless for most of the year,” Oke added.

Although considered prime waterfront property and one of the most heavily used lakes in South Kitsap, the two-mile-long lake also suffers from consistent algae and bacteria problems, which are aggravated by runoff from residential properties and large numbers of resident waterfowl.

Ken Spohn, president of the group now known as Citizens for Improving Long Lake (CIll), said he never dreamed a casual conversation between neighbors three years ago would lead to the formation of cleanup plan, let alone one that he would share with Gov. Gregoire.

“I wouldn’t have ever thought when we started complaining to each other about the lake that we’d be presenting to the governor,” Spohn said, explaining that he was contacted by the governor’s office, and was not sure how she learned of his group’s plan.

A culmination of many years of meetings and research, Spohn said CILL’s plan is to pay Tetra Tech, an environmental engineering company based in California, $1.1 million to not only rid the lake of its three main problem plants, but to implement a 10-year management plan.

“Based on what we learned, we asked them to come up with a long-term plan to restore the lake over a period of 10 years instead of doing a one-shot deal then walking away,” he said.

Once the plan was in place, Spohn said CILL then approached local lawmakers to find the money pay for it, which led them to Oke.

“He set up a couple of challenges for us,” Spohn said, explaining that Oke told them if the group got preliminary approval for the plan from both the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Ecology, along with support from at least two-thirds of lakefront homeowners, then he would have a good chance at getting state funding.

Spohn said the group quickly gained the necessary approvals, but also decided to raise at least $18,000 to begin work on the plan “to show how serious we were.”

After several fundraisers and numerous private donations, Spohn said CILL actually raised more than $23,000.

Spohn said he was heartened by both Gregoire’s planned visit and the fact that an Oke-sponsored bill, SB 5699, that would provide all state lakes with money to prevent and control invasive species and algae recently passed the state Senate, “but we still have a long way to go.”

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