Watershed Group to hold lake quality meeting tonight

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MOSES LAKE — The long-awaited public meeting about the quality of the water in Moses Lake — and what local residents can do about it — is finally happening.

The meeting is set for tonight at 6 p.m. in the Moses Lake Civic Center Auditorium, 401 S Balsam St., according to the Facebook page of the Moses Lake Watershed Council, and was prompted by a blue green algae bloom beginning in late August, 2018, that resulted in the discovery of high levels of algae-produced toxins in both the lake and Potholes Reservoir.

“Moses Lake and the surrounding watershed are susceptible to blue-green algae blooms,” the council’s Facebook page says. “Blue-green algae is actually a bacterium called cyanobacteria that have similar qualities to forms of algae.”

“The Moses Lake Watershed Council’s goal is to assess current water quality conditions in the local watershed and explore effective, locally developed solutions,” the group said.

The concern is the amount of phosphorus in Moses Lake, which feeds algae blooms in warm weather. According to Gene Welch, a retired professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Washington who has been involved with studies of Moses Lake since 1964, the high levels of phosphorus in the lake are the result of phosphorus-rich sediments easily churned by the wind and high levels of naturally occurring phosphorus in Rocky Ford Creek.

“We know Rocky Ford Creek is a big problem,” Welch said in an interview late last year. “It’s got a high concentration and the phosphorus is soluble. It’s a hot supply, and the fish hatcheries are not a huge fraction of that. It’s apparently natural.”

The meeting is being organized by the Moses Lake Watershed Council, which is comprised of the Moses Lake Irrigation and Rehabilitation District — the organization tabbed with managing Moses Lake — the Grant County Conservation District and the Grant County Health District. Also involved in previous meetings were representatives from other irrigations districts in the region, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at cfeatherstone@columbiabasinherald.com.

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