Frequently Asked Questions
- Characterizing the lakes’ water quality.
- Identifying and quantifying the nutrient sources that are affecting the lakes.
- Evaluating potential management measures.
- Reviewed existing background data to understand lake water quality and identify data gaps.
- Identified short-term actions to improve lake water quality.
- Identified funding and volunteer opportunities to improve lake water quality.
- Talked with stakeholders to understand concerns about the lakes.
- Outlined steps to create the Lake Management Plan.
- Collect and analyze water samples for 12 months, starting in Spring 2022.
- Collect field data to fill data gaps, inform decisions, and monitor progress.
- Develop and implement a long-term plan for public outreach.
- Develop and implement a long-term plan for lake management.
- Pursue funding for lake management measures.
- Decide which management measures to begin soonest.
- Begin management measures to improve lake water quality.
- Algae blooms
- Lake management
- Water quality
- Invasive plants
- Talk with large landowners in the watershed
- Review and optimize stormwater maintenance activities that can positively impact water quality
- Review processes for inspecting and replacing filter treatment cartridges
- Evaluate stormwater pond and treatment facility retrofit opportunities
- Develop education and outreach material to increase community awareness of water quality conditions and inform the public of Lake Advisories.
- Further evaluate costs and pros/cons of potentially treating the lakes with Alum or Phoslock.
- Collaborate with Clark Conservation District and other agencies to work with property owners in the watershed to reduce sediment and nutrient loading to Lacamas Creek.
- Collaborate with Camas School District to educate and develop student interest in the topics of watershed management and water quality
- Evaluate steep slopes and erosion “hot spots” around the lakes and on recent City-purchased properties and implement erosion control measures and restoration projects.
- Continue to coordinate with the update of the City’s Parks, Recreation, and Open Spaces Plan to establish specifications for trail design, stream crossings, and maintenance to prevent erosion.
What is a lake management plan?
A Lake Management Plan is a document that identifies the goals and actions for the purpose of improving and protecting desired conditions in a lake.
Objectives for the Lake Management Plan: Identify how to improve and protect lake water quality conditions, so people and wildlife can continue using these lakes.
We will work towards these objectives by:
There will be multiple phases of the project to meet these objectives as we move forward.
How did we get here? Why is the city doing this now?
Lacamas, Round and Fallen Leaf lakes contribute to our overall quality of life, the local economy, and civic pride in Camas. Camas residents and visitors have enjoyed going to these lakes for decades to fish, swim, boat, and recreate. Not only are the lakes a good place for people to recreate, they serve as important habitat for wildlife.
Lacamas Lake had two reported algae blooms in 2018, three or four in 2019, and near-continual blooms in 2020 from April through October. Nearby Round Lake also had increases in blooms and Fallen Leaf Lake had its first known bloom in 2020. In 2021, Lacamas Lake and Round Lake only had reported blooms with cyanotoxins (microcystin) above the State’s Recreational Limit in July, and Fallen Leaf Lake did not have any. As of August 15, 2022 Lacamas Lake has had two reported algae blooms with cyanotoxins above the Recreational threshold, Round Lake has had one, and Fallen Leaf Lake has not had any.
In summer, when the Lacamas Creek flow is low, lake water circulates less and increases in temperature. Both of these conditions make it easier for algae to bloom.
The blooms in 2020, 2021, and 2022 were severe enough for Clark County Public Health to post Hazard Advisories for Lacamas Lake and Round Lake to protect public health. Early analysis suggests water quality in all three lakes is changing, which will continue to lead to algae blooms unless we act.
The County and Dept of Ecology led efforts in the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s to study water quality and work with a number of large landowners (primarily dairies and farms) to make improvements within the watershed that could help improve water quality. The efforts helped, but it’s a very complex problem and many of the potential issues and causes likely remained. New concerns may have developed since then.
The more recent uptick in algal blooms prompted the City to take the lead in looking specifically at the Lakes – not only to try and identify potential causes or sources of poor water quality, but to formulate a management plan that could be used to actively improve water. The Department of Ecology is also completing work in the Watershed upstream of Lacamas Lake to develop and implement a Water Cleanup Plan.
The City is coordinating closely with the Dept. of Ecology. The City’s Lake Management Plan and Ecology’s Water Cleanup Plan should be completed at the same time. Coordination and involvement by multiple State and Local agencies, landowners and the public will be vital if we want to have any success at all as we know the issue is not just a “Lake issue” – the vast majority (over 95% based on past studies) of water and nutrients in Lacamas Lake come from the Lacamas Creek Watershed – which is outside of the City’s jurisdiction.
Gathering facts and crunching numbers will help us identify the most cost-effective lake management measures that will help improve water quality.
What happened in Phase 1 and what should we expect in Phase 2?
In Phase 1, we:
In Phase 2, we’ll:
What to expect in Phase 2
In order to develop an effective strategy for solving the water quality problem in the lakes, we need to identify where the sources of nutrients are coming from in the lakes.
Since the Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP), was finalized in Spring 2022, we've begun sampling and monitoring in the lakes to better understand what is causing poor water quality and to develop potential management strategies.
We began collecting water samples in Spring 2022 and plan to collect samples over a 12-month period. During this time, we’ll evaluate the samples and analyze the data, which will inform the development of the Lake Management Plan. We’re planning to share an update about the data we’ve been collecting at our Fall 2022 open house.
While it may take a while to collect and analyze the water samples and other data about the lakes, this information will help us create a Lake Management Plan that gets to root causes of what’s impacting lake water quality. By addressing these causes, we can ensure that we’ll have healthy lakes for generations to come.
We are working with local and state agencies, nearby landowners, conservation groups, and other stakeholders to understand what is affecting the lakes’ water quality and find solutions that improve the lakes’ water quality.
Throughout this process, we’ll tell you what we learn about the lakes’ water quality and share ideas for managing the lakes so that you can give us feedback. While we’re collecting and analyzing data about the lakes, we’ll share volunteer opportunities and other ways you can help.
Once we identify the appropriate actions for managing the lakes' water quality in the future, we’ll need to determine the most appropriate party(s) for carrying out those actions. Possible parties could be one or multiple public agencies, such as the City of Camas, Clark County or Department of Ecology. It is also likely that certain actions will be better suited for a nonprofit organization, volunteer group, or other community association or group.
Why does it take so long to create a lake management plan?
Most data from the lakes and the upstream watershed is 10 years old. Since then, land use has changed considerably. To draft an accurate plan, we’re gathering new data about current conditions — but that won’t hold up many actions we’ll take to improve lake water quality.
The project is generally on schedule. Initial discussions with experts in the field indicated it would likely be at least a couple years to collect all the data and develop good strategies. This type of project can be difficult though as the project needs to build upon itself, that is, one phase leads to understanding the needs for the following phase.
Timing is still uncertain, but we anticipate the Lake Management Plan being completed in early 2023.
What public engagement have we done so far?
Since starting work on the Lake Management Plan process in July 2021, we’ve met with the Lacamas Lake Advisory Committee, local and state agencies, City Council, large landowners, the Parks and Recreation Commission and lake users to share information about the project and talk about how they can be involved in the project. Find the materials we shared at these meetings under “Documents” in the right-hand sidebar.
We also shared information about the project at several community events in the summer and fall of 2021 and had a survey to help us understand how people use the lakes and what the community's expectations are for the lakes.
We’re planning many more ways for the public to be involved in Phase 2. We’ve already held our first in-person open house to share information about the project and possible ways we could address water quality. We’ll have another open house this fall and will be at the Annual Lake Drawdown clean-up event on October 1st.
How can I help in the future?
Once developed and as part of the Lake Management Plan implementation, we’ll identify the most appropriate party(s) for carrying out those actions. Possible parties could be one or multiple public agencies, such as the City of Camas, Clark County or Department of Ecology. It is also likely that certain actions will be better suited for a nonprofit organization, volunteer group, or other community association or group.
We will need volunteers for annual clean-ups and to help educate people about:
If you have a septic system and live near Lacamas Creek, participate in Poop Smart Clark. Through this program, you can receive up to $1,130 for inspections, pumping, and repairs in certain areas of Clark County. Go to www.poopsmartclark.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call Carolyn Rice at (360) 859-4848 for more information.
Watch for updates on Engage Camas.
What steps were initially taken to manage algal blooms?
Predicting the occurrence of cyanobacteria blooms is very challenging because monitoring is costly. This makes it challenging to identify changes in the water that can lead to blooms before the bloom actually occurs. It is also not fully understood under what conditions a bloom will become toxic or harmful.
Algal blooms are a very complex issue that involves the full Watershed (the creeks and streams that feed into the lake and can be miles away), not just the lakes themselves. In fact, the Lacamas Creek Watershed is over 60 square miles, so things happening outside of Camas could be affecting the lakes’ water quality
Clark County Public Health is responsible for monitoring water quality and taking samples. The City has worked with Public Health over the past couple of years to post signs and make the public aware of the algal blooms. It is also important to note that “ownership” of the lakes is not an easy question to answer. Lacamas and Round Lake are both “Waters of the State”, but multiple State and Local agencies have responsibilities for different aspects of the lakes
Why not just treat the lake with chemicals, aeration or nano-bubbles?
Until we know the sources of the nutrients feeding the blooms, it’s difficult to assess how effective chemicals, aeration or nano-bubbles would be over the long term — and they can be quite expensive. We’re using lake science and ecology to choose actions that will be effective and sustainable over the long term — and cost-effective to the City.
What happens if there's another algae bloom?
We’ll follow guidance from the Clark County Department of Health for health advisories and lake use (https://clark.wa.gov/public-health/public-beaches).
Meanwhile, we’re developing the Lake Management Plan to improve lake water quality and reduce the number of algae blooms over time. If another bloom occurs, we’ll watch it closely for clues about what triggered it. That will help us create a better plan.
Does, or did the state of the Lacamas Shore wetland biofilter affect the levels of cyanobacteria?
We are unable to comment regarding the biofilter due to current litigation
What are some of the things the City is considering doing to help improve lake water quality in the short-term?
How is the Lake Management Plan project funded?
“Phase 1” costs were approximately $106,000. “Phase 2” costs are anticipated to be approximately $635,000, with more than half going towards monitoring and sampling to better understand the cause of water quality issues in the lakes.
Currently, the City has received $300,000 of Stormwater Utility funds, a Freshwater Algae Control Program Grant for $66,666 and a State Budget allocation of $155,000 which have all been allocated to the Project. Total available funds are $521,666. The City is looking into grants and other funding opportunities to cover the remaining cost of the project, as well as the possibility of City (local) funds to cover the remainder.
What types of recommendations will the Lake Management Plan include and when will any action take place to improve water quality in the lakes?
The Lakes Management Plan will include recommended implementation strategies, what those strategies involve, the costs and the timeline for implementation. The near-term recommendations will, at a minimum, include in-lake treatment to strip the phosphorus from the water column and likely from the sediments in the bottom of Lacamas Lake. This work should begin next spring and will likely occur on an annual basis for several years, provided the budget is available.
When will the final Lake Management Plan document be completed?
The City Council will receive the draft plan for review on September 28th as part of a special workshop. Following that meeting, staff plan to submit a draft plan to the Washington State Department of Ecology in October and simultaneously have the plan available for review by the project stakeholders and public.
When do you expect to make the Lake Management Plan available for public review?
The draft Lakes Management Plan will be available for public review as part of the City Council Agenda packet for the special meeting being held with City Council on September 28th. The plan will also be available on engagecamas.com.
What are the primary objectives for the future lake water quality and who will be responsible for carrying out the recommended Lake Management solutions?
Based upon community and stakeholder input throughout this process, the primary objective of the lake management plan is to reduce harmful algal blooms so that people can recreate and enjoy the lakes year-round.
Additional monitoring of the lakes and the watershed will need to continue and will inform further actions and objectives as well as any additional guidance from the Washington State Department of Ecology.
How is stakeholder and community feedback being considered and incorporated into the Lake Management Plan?
Stakeholder and community feedback has been gathered and considered throughout the process in order to understand community needs and values related to the lakes. This feedback has informed the lake management development as a whole, including management strategies and recommendations that are currently being proposed. Additional information regarding the public outreach efforts and discussions can be found here.
Will the state be providing any funding for clean-up of the Lacamas watershed and is there any additional legislation or other actions being promoted related to the Lacamas watershed since it’s the primary source of Phosphorus for Lacamas and Round Lakes?
The City has been working closely with Clark County and the Washington State Department of Ecology throughout this process. Both agencies have been actively monitoring and advancing other efforts to improve the Lacamas Watershed. The City has been awarded a $550,000 grant through the recently adopted State Budget that will be used for “near-term” in-lake treatment. The City is not aware of any existing State or Federal funding for efforts taking place in the broader Lacamas Watershed; however, the City will continue to work with our partners, including Clark County and the Department of Ecology, to pursue additional funding to improve the water quality in the Watershed.
Why does the Plan not include a recommendation for a nanobubbler?
While nanobubblers have been a promising technology for lake management in some locations, there are few examples of use in a lake the size of Lacamas Lake, and no known cases in Washington State. Given the high external amount of phosphorus coming into the lake, it is recommended to focus near-term efforts on methods that mitigate the external loading of phosphorus through water column or sediment treatments. As part of the adaptive management of the lakes, the potential use of nanobubblers or other hypolimnetic oxygenation systems should be re-evaluated and any new information on the applicability and cost-effectiveness of the technologies should be considered.
Why was the Lacamas Shores stormwater biofilter not tested?
Sampling locations were selected with a focus on understanding sources of nutrients, particularly phosphorus, into the lakes with the understanding that it would not be practical to test every inflow location. The drainage area of the Lacamas Shores biofilter (approximately 77 acres or 0.12 square miles) is small relative to the drainage areas of Dwyer Creek (4.6 square miles), Currie Creek (2.4 square miles), Unnamed Creek (1.4 square miles), and very small relative to Lacamas Creek at Goodwin Road (51.5 square miles). As a result, the biofilter site is unlikely to represent a significant portion of the water or nutrient sources to the lakes even if concentrations are elevated relative to Lacamas Creek.
Why does the plan not recommend near-term actions in the watershed and collaboration with other agencies and stakeholders?
The vast majority of the watershed for Lacamas and Round Lakes lies within Clark County outside the jurisdiction of the City of Camas. As a result, the City cannot implement programs to reduce watershed pollution/nutrient loading independently. However, other stakeholders have been taking action within the watershed for many years to manage and improve water quality.
The City of Camas and the lake management project team has been coordinating with Clark County, the City of Vancouver, state agencies, and interested stakeholders such as the Lacamas Watershed Council, Watershed Alliance of Southwest Washington, Clark Conservation District, and more throughout the Lakes Management Plan effort. Ongoing work by the Washington State Department of Ecology on a Source Assessment and Advanced Restoration Plan for Lacamas Creek will identify priority actions for improving water quality in the watershed and the lakes. In addition, Clark County Public Health conducts septic system monitoring and implements programs to reduce loading from septic systems. Through its stormwater permit, Clark County Public Works also optimizes stormwater management in the watershed, manages their stormwater capital program, and works to educate residents and landowners on best management practices. These ongoing actions are important and will help inform how to improve the health of the watershed in the longer term. The City of Camas expects to continue to be a partner in promoting the health of the Lacamas Watershed.
The plan calls for continued coordination with partner agencies and stakeholders moving forward, support for others’ efforts, and continued participation by the City is an important part of improving water quality in the watershed. To that end, the City and Clark County are working on an Interlocal Agreement that will help strengthen the partnership and commitments of each agency to improve conditions in the watershed and lakes and provide support to all of the other vital stakeholders.