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Long Lake health testing begins

The sun came out for just one day this week, and luckily for a small group of scientists and volunteers, it just happened to be the day they planned to spend hours on a little boat collecting water and dirt from Long Lake.

“Everyone said it was because I finally got out of my office and into the field,” said Harry Gibbons, a scientist with Tetra Tech, the environmental engineering company hired to bring the bacteria-choked lake back to health.

Gibbons, along with members of Citizens for Improving Long Lake (CILL), were out on the lake much of Wednesday in what he described as just the beginning of a long stretch of monthly monitoring.

“This will provide us with a long-term record of how the lake is doing,” Gibbons said, explaining that the first set of samples the group took this week were to measure the levels of phosphorus in the water, an element he said much of his company’s work will be centered on.

“Phosphorus is what over-enriches the lake” and leads to overproduction of the toxic Cyanobacteria blooms, Gibbons explained.

The group also collected samples from the bottom of the lake to be tested for the element.

“We collected sediment in 50-centimeter tubes, which we will then (examine) centimeter by centimeter (to) give us a history of the phosphorus (build-up) in the lake,” he said.

The third part of the monitoring will be keeping track of the plant life in the lake, which Gibbons said will begin in the summer, since this is the plants’ dormant season.

This week’s work was the first of what CILL hopes will be several years’ worth of monthly sample collections on the lake. The effort is funded for at least two years, thanks to a devoted grassroots effort by the group.

Working closely with State Sen. Bob Oke, (R-Port Orchard), the members of CILL, which is comprised mostly of concerned homeowners and led by its president, Ken Spohn, spent three years researching and discussing options before formulating a cleanup plan for the lake.

What the group came up with was a 10-year management plan costing a little over $1 million; that amount was subsequently adjusted to fit the current funding — a $750,000 grant being distributed through the state Department of Ecology and the Centennial Clean Water Fund.

Tetra Tech came up with a two-year plan costing $780,000, Spohn said, explaining that once the cleanup has been started and most of the invasive plants removed the group will go back and ask for the remaining money to complete the management part of the plan.

Since CILL is a nonprofit, the group is working closely with Kitsap County’s Noxious Weed Board and its program coordinator Dana Coggon, who files much of the paperwork for grant applications and was on hand for the sample collecting this week.

However, to make sure as much of the money as possible goes to the lake, Spohn said CILL members are donating as much time and as many resources resources to the effort as they can. That includes his boat, which was used for Wednesday’s collecting and will be used for future efforts.

The overall objectives of the cleanup are to reduce the phosphorus concentrations in the lake, reduce the occurrence and frequency of Cyanobacteria blooms, and to manage the aquatic plant population to promote beneficial uses of the lake.

Gibbons said this will by no means be a quick fix, and he compared the process to the ongoing maintenance homeowners do for their lawns.

“Let’s say you pull out all the dandelions. No matter how good a job you do, you’re going to have to repeat the process,” Gibbons said. “This lake is a very productive system and it will have to be monitored and coached into maximizing (its environment).”

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