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Two streams of Long Lake money still alive

A local legislator working to clean up Long Lake saw promising signs this week that park supporters would receive the money they have been hoping for as two potential sources of funding cleared both state Houses and were awaiting governor approval as of Thursday.

Sen. Bob Oke, (R-Port Orchard) said he was pleased to see his bill, Senate Bill 5699, had cleared the state House of Representatives Tuesday and was waiting for Gov. Christine Gregoire’s signature, but he was even happier to see nearly all of his $1.1 million Capital Budget request was still intact.

Speaking from the Senate floor Wednesday, Oke said $750,000 was currently earmarked in the budget to help rid the popular lake of toxic plants that have forced lengthy closures banning swimming and other activities for years.

Although nothing is certain until the final budget is signed, Sen. Oke said the governor’s visit to the park last month to hear Citizens for Improving Long Lake (CILL) explain the cleanup plan they created bodes well for the project.

“I’m thrilled that she has seen this project and knows what it’s about,” he said. “That always helps.”

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

“The lake’s problems have escalated from a recreational nuisance to a health hazard to humans, their pets and wildlife,” said Oke, who serves on the Senate Natural Resources, Ocean and Recreation Committee. “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.”

The group CILL, which is made up of nearby homeowners and others concerned about the health of the lake, spent the last three years researching and discussing options before formulating the plan, which is to pay an environmental engineering company $1.1 million dollars to not only rid the lake of its three main problem plants, but to implement a 10-year management plan.

Oke said although the entire amount he requested is not budgeted now, he is optimistic that additional funding can be acquired once the project gets underway.

The second potential source of funding, SB 5699, will help rid state lakes of toxic algae blooms and nuisance weeds, and looks especially promising for Long Lake given that it fits the category of freshwater lakes that a House amendment now approved by the Senate designated to receive priority funding.

“I am very pleased we got this bill all the way through the process this year,” Oke said. “We are losing great recreational opportunities for families because of algae and weeds.”

The measure will be paid for by a $3-increase in annual vehicle registration fees.

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