by Richad Uhlhorn
Mike Kaputa, Chairman of the Lake Chelan Watershed Planning Unit (Director of Chelan County’s Natural Resources Division) and Phil Long, Lake Chelan Research Institute gave a presentation to Chelan City Council members during a City Workshop on Tuesday, December 1.
The City is entering into its last year of an agreed five year $20,000 per year support of continued Lake Chelan water quality studies and efforts to keep the lake ultra-oligotrophic.
Kaputa went over the Planning Unit’s efforts to process water rights that have been sitting on the Department of Ecology’s desks for years. “Ecology is moving forward with water rights processing,” said Kaputa. He added that there isn’t much water available but that the Planning Unit is developing solutions with water supply issues. The County recently purchased 73 acre feet/year (afy) of water rights from Bear Mountain Water District at a cost of $365,000.
The Lake Chelan Valley holds 65,000 afy for existing and future domestic and irrigation uses in the basin. In 1992 an agreement between the PUD and Ecology affirmed the 65,000 afy reserve for non-project purposes. The additional 73 acre feet purchased is enough water right to serve the needs of residents who have been drawing water from the lake without a right.
The amount of water available for non-PUD purposes is approximately 6,000 acre feet. As of 2017, more than 150 applications were on file at Ecology for new surface and groundwater permits in the Lake Chelan Basin. Ecology permits water rights on a first come-first serve, so those applications that have been sitting on Ecology’s desk are permitted by the oldest date applied for.
While the water rights program is moving forward, Kaputa told the Council that the Planning Unit has conducted a Risk Assessment of Aquatic Invasive Species. “Lake Chelan is at high risk (for invasive species) because of the number of boats coming to the lake,” said Kaputa.
In conjunction with the invasive species issue, the National Park Service is funding a mobile watercraft inspection program beginning in 2022. This will include hiring staff and training them. The program will be modeled after the successful Lake Whatcom program.
Lake Chelan State Park will be putting a mobile watercraft cleaning unit in to move the program forward.
The Keep It Blue program is being designed to inform and educate the public about Lake Chelan Water Quality issues through social media and a website. “There will be a presentation next week at our quarterly meeting,” said Kaputa. The virtual meeting will take place beginning at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, December 9. “You will probably see more about the Keep It Blue effort in the future.”
Lake Chelan is the third deepest lake in the United States behind Lake Tahoe and Crater Lake. According to Phil Long – Lake Chelan Research Institute, no one has seen the bottom of the lake.
Kaputa thanked the Council for the City’s support. “We are in year four of the five year commitment.” The City’s $20,000 is the largest amount of funding received to carry out the work of the Planning Unit. Other contributors include the Lake Chelan Reclamation District – $10,000; Chelan County – $10,000; Cascadia Conservation District – $5,000; and Chelan County PUD – $5,000 to equal a total of $50,000.
Kaputa told the Council that the City funding really helped to leverage the program, but added that the other funding was prioritized first and the Planning Unit has not had to utilize all of the funding. “We are spending in the range of $13,000 to $15,000 a year,” stated Kaputa.
Other support has come from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation – $5,000 in-kind laboratory support; U.S. Forest Service – $3,000 in-kind boating support; Clean Boating Program, Washington State Parks/Sunset Marina for the purchase of a multiparameter probe; and the Lake Chelan Recreation Foundation who accepts private donations allowing the Unit to purchase miscellaneous sampling equipment and expenses incurred on water quality data collection operations.
Phil Long – Lake Chelan Research Institute described the ongoing data collection program. “From 2007 to 2016 there were no studies or data collected,” said Long. “We don’t want that to ever happen again.” He added that 2021 will be the fifth year under the current funding to collect water quality data. “We are looking forward to what happens after year five.”
Long described the secchi disk data that has been collected and shows that water clarity is pretty consistent with data that was collected prior to 2007 when Phil and John Madden did the secchic disk clarity measurements. “I thing we are in pretty good shape with water clarity.”
Most of the data collected has been from sampling stations in the middle of the lake, but Long stated that an emerging issue is the increasing algae growth along the shoreline. The Institute has paid little attention to the shoreline ecology and the changes taking place. “Many people have seen an increase in green algae along the shoreline,” stated Long.
One of the locations being investigated is at the outfall from Purtteman Creek just east of Rocky Point and also at Mill Bay where the Reclamation District is taking samples. “We’ve got some numbers,” said Long. Purtteman Creek has the highest rate of phosphorus input in the lower basin. However, phosphorus can also come from natural sources.
Lake Chelan Research Institute’s Phil Long collected algae samples on the beach at the PUD Micro Park adjacent to the Chelan Ranger Station.
Mill Bay has an area of erosion on the shoreline which is contributing to water turbidity. “We are looking into erosion control methods.”
Increasing presence of milfoil and its possible removal is being looked. Long suggested that diver assisted suction hose (airlift) could be used to remove the plants. Mayor Bob Goedde asked about a chemical program the PUD used in the Columbia River. Long said he wasn’t sure what chemical they used but that a chemical ProcellaCOR has proven very effective in small quantities. However, he added that since the City takes its domestic water from the lake, one has to be careful about using any chemicals.
Long told the Council that Dwane Van Epps (past city public works director) is working on a tool to collect water temperatures and electrical connectivity data from the Lady of the Lake which will add to the set of data already being collected.
For more information on Lake Chelan Water Quality issues check this website out: