What’s going on with the lake?

(Above) Curly Leaf Pondweed can be found washed up on a beach located near a public approach in the Bayside area. -Reporter photo by Chris Barragy

by Michelle Watson

Our lake has been the talk of the town lately.  What is going on with all the weeds, algae and the smell?  

Clear Lake residents can breath a sigh of relief, because according to Scott Grummer, Fisheries biologist for the Department of Natural Resources, this is a short term problem.

Right now what shoreline residents and lake users are dealing with is Curly Leaf Pondweed.  This plant germinates in the fall and grows during the winter months.  Because the area had such a mild winter with low snow cover, the weed had perfect growing conditions with plenty of sunlight.  

“We enjoyed a mild winter, but so did the plants,” said Grummer.  “Right now the plant is done growing and it is dying back.  The stems are brittle and breaking loose.  It should be completely gone by July 1.”

The smell of the decaying weeds has also been a cause of concern for area residents.  After many complaints about a strong sewer-like odor around Clear Lake, the Clear Lake Sanitary District (CLSD) reached out to the DNR to investigate.

During the investigation, DNR staff and CLSD staff checked flow data and other records, and inspected both wastewater lift stations located on the north shore and found everything to be working properly with no reports of any leaks or sewer-like odors.

“We took this very seriously,” said Mitch Hanson of the Clear Lake Sanitary District.  “We were getting calls and the City of Ventura was getting calls.  We worked closely with the DNR and we are happy to report that the system is good and everything is working well.”

DNR staff reported that decaying aquatic vegetation and Blue Green Algae bloom is what is potentially causing the sewer-like smell.  

Grummer reports that the heat and drought conditions have caused increased algae bloom this year.  The algae, which reduces sunlight penetration in the lake, slows down the growth of other plant species from mid summer to the end of the season.

Shoreline residents have been questioning how to dispose of large amounts of Curly Leaf Pondweed that has accumulated on the shore.  Grummer recommends a few options for disposal.

     One is using the weeds as a nutrient source in gardens and flowerbeds on the property. Because the weeds contain invasive species, such as zebra mussels, care needs to be taken that the weeds don’t end up in other lakes or streams.

“The weeds are 90 percent water, so they dry down to practically nothing,” said Grummer.  “Don’t leave the plants in clumps.; spread them out to dry.  It cuts down on the smell and makes them easier to transport.”

Other options include: leaving the plants in place and letting them decompose naturally, drying them out and bagging and sealing them in trash bags for garbage pickup, or putting the dried weeds in sealed lawn and leaf bags and taking them to the City’s yard waste collection area.

Grummer also reminded boaters to remove all plant material from boats and trailers and to pull boat plugs before entering other lakes or bodies of water.

“There is a lot of signage at boat ramps on how to properly clean a boat,” said Grummer.

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