Eurasian watermilfoil and Brazilian elodea — the two most prevalent today though the weed egeria has also been noted there before — have been in the lake for years, but, residents say, this summer the plants’ growth seemed to surge, choking out native plants and reducing the diversity of habitat available to fish.
OCEAN PARK, Wash. — People who live along the Loomis Lake waterfront in the neighborhoods between Ocean Park and Long Beach say the shallow lake is disappearing under a crush of invasive aquatic weeds.
Eurasian watermilfoil and Brazilian elodea — the two most prevalent today though the weed egeria has also been noted there before — have been in the lake for years, but, residents say, this summer the plants’ growth seemed to surge, choking out native plants and reducing the diversity of habitat available to fish. Today, they say, the lake has never looked so bad.
And it’s not clear who is ultimately responsible for controlling the weeds and paying for management actions that could keep the weeds at bay, actions like regularly spraying and surveying the lake. No one, and no agency, has stepped forward though most of the lake’s east side is bordered by land owned by the Washington State Parks. Farther down, on the southwest side, there is more state-owned land along with a public access road. Some residents, after more than a decade of asking for help and trying to deal with the mess themselves, now believe they are in this almost entirely on their own.
Janet Easley has lived in the Tides West neighborhood association since 1987; Maggie Bloomgarden, since about 1973, though she is primarily a summer resident. They are part of a group of people, the Loomis Lake Working Group, most of them based in the Tides West neighborhood, dedicated to getting the lake back. They have exactly $29 in their treasury.
The communities around Loomis Lake are in a gray area. More specifically, they are in an unincorporated area.
Black Lake, another body of water plagued with the rampant growth of similar noxious weeds including Brazilian elodea, falls within Ilwaco’s city limits and is managed by that city. Ilwaco city staff successfully applied for a grant from the state Department of Ecology and, this year, is using that money to pay Pacific County staff to manage the weeds.
But Loomis Lake is located between Long Beach and Ocean Park. There is no city council attached to this stretch of land and lake. It falls under the county. Although Pacific County commissioners have been supportive of the group’s efforts, they recommended the group work with the Pacific Conservation District. The county, one commissioner told Easley, doesn’t have the money or resources to do much about Loomis Lake.
Now, the Pacific Conservation District, based in South Bend, is working without a fee to try to land a $75,000 grant from the Department of Ecology to spray the lake. Staff at the district put together a manual for Loomis Lake, an “integrated aquatic vegetation management plan,” which was made public in January. In the past, the lake has been treated with an aquatic herbicide called fluridone.
The lake was last treated in 2002. In June 2001 (pre-treatment) and June 2005 (post-treatment), teams in kayaks went out to survey the lake and see how fish populations fared.
The predominant species in Loomis Lake — largemouth bass, pumpkinseed and yellow perch — seemed to thrive after the lake was treated and there were fewer weeds in their environment. However, the researchers noted, the dense thickets of weed might have hampered what information they were able to gather in 2001 versus what they could use and collect in 2005.
Still, they concluded, the treatment and subsequent decline of the invasive plants “successfully improved the growth and size structure of the Loomis Lake fish community in the short term … the 2003 brood year of largemouth bass (spawned immediately post-treatment) appears particularly strong and should provide improved angling opportunity for the next several years.”
“It looks worse now than it ever did before,” Bloomgarden said about the lake this year.
The Working Group knows it can never fully eradicate the weeds, but it hopes it can at least begin to manage them, keeping the lake open for fish and native plant species as well as open to human recreation.
Loomis Lake, a shallow lake that stretches for just over four miles, is the only lake on the Peninsula where motor boats are allowed, but it is not friendly to any kind of motor anymore. There is a park down the road from Easley’s house where Tides West residents can store small boats like kayaks and canoes. For the most part, these are now the only kinds of boats that can even be used on the lake.
“You can use a motor if,” Bloomgarden paused, “you could use a motor.”
You can’t. The weeds quickly clog just about any motor.
If the group successfully lands the grant, it will need to think about how to continue the work it has begun and how to involve more of the neighboring communities and the Long Beach Peninsula as a whole. After all, says the Working Group, the lake was and still is used by a wide range of residents, not just the people in Tides West.
“It was really quite a recreational hub and it could be so again,” Easley said.
So the Working Group is waiting to see what happens next. If the grant is not awarded this coming January, “We’ll just have to go to a plan B,” said Easley, “which we don’t have.”
Although quagga and zebra mussels get a lot more attention as aquatic invasive species (AIS), invasive weeds are already in many of Oregon’s waterways. Remember to always Clean, Drain and Dry your boat after every use, regardless of what state you boat in. If you see visible weeds, removed them at the waterbody’s garbage receptacles and make sure to let the boat completely dry. Every boater plays an important role in keeping uninfected waterways pristine! Make it a practice to Clean, Drain and Dry -before launching into a new waterbody. -OSMB