Moses Lake Watershed Council Updates

Moses Lake Watershed Council Holds Second Public Meeting

October 21, 2019

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Washington State Department of Ecology, Grant County Conservation District, Grant County Health District, Moses Lake Irrigation and Rehabilitation District, and the City of Moses Lake collaborated in developing the Moses Lake Watershed Council to explore alternatives for addressing water quality issues affecting the Moses Lake watershed. The Moses Lake Watershed Council seeks guidance from the public to explore long-term solutions to local water quality issues.

Moses Lake and the surrounding watershed are susceptible to blue-green algae blooms. Blue-green algae is actually a bacterium called cyanobacteria that have similar qualities to forms of algae. Some blue-green algae produce toxins that are harmful to humans and animals. Blooms occur in the summer, when higher temperatures and elevated nutrient levels combine to create a thriving environment for blue-green algae. Whether or not blooms are toxic, they diminish the economic and recreational opportunities in Moses Lake and the surrounding region.

The Moses Lake Watershed Council’s goal is to assess current water quality conditions in the local watershed and explore effective, locally developed solutions. You can participate in the Moses Lake Watershed Council’s efforts by joining us for a Public Meeting to be held from 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM the evening of Wednesday, October 23rd at the Moses Lake Civic Center Council Chambers located at 401 S Balsam St, Moses Lake, WA 98837.

Moses Lake Watershed Council Announces Public Meeting Date

August 26, 2019

Moses Lake might well be one of the most studied water bodies in Central Washington.  Over the last 50 years, Moses Lake and its watershed, including groundwater, have been altered permanently by human activities, especially the use of Columbia River water for irrigated farming.  During the last 30 years, at least 13 studies of Moses Lake indicate that anthropogenic activities, particularly agricultural practices, have contributed to a hypereutrophic state for a large portions of Moses Lake.

Studies have provided detailed information on aquatic plant life, fisheries, water management, water chemistry, water temperature ultimately coming to a universal conclusion “Moses Lake is a eutrophic (rich in nutrients and algae) Class A waterbody listed on the 1996 303(d) for total nitrogen (TN) and total phosphorus (TP). 

Several restoration projects have been conducted on Moses Lake and its watershed over the last 20 years, including lake dilution, sewage diversion, agricultural best management practices (BMPs), and construction of a tributary nutrient retention pond.  Despite improvement in lake water quality as a result of these projects, TN and TP levels remain elevated resulting in the persistence of blue-green algae blooms.  WHY?

To answer that specific question, Senator Warnick and Representative Dent called a meeting of city, county, Irrigation District and state officials to start the discussion “how are we going to fix this problem”.  That meeting was the beginning of the formation of the Moses Lake Watershed Council – with current membership being - Moses Lake Irrigation Rehabilitation District, Grant County Health District, City of Moses Lake, Grant County Conservation District and Department of Ecology. 

The Council’s first official monthly meeting was held in December of 2018.  The watershed Council is guided by a three-year strategic plan developed with assistance of a professional facilitator provided by the State Conservation Commission. The Council has not been idle – currently working with Ecology and the Bureau of Reclamation on grants that will broaden our understanding of historic and current factors contributing to Moses Lake Water Quality degradation coupled with short- and long-term treatment alternatives to “fix the problem”.

Back to the Question WHY?  First, there have been successful fixes employed.  What appears to be missing is long-term agreements, practices, and processes in place to continue treatment well into the future – if not forever.  Success will require long term thinking, implementation plans, long-term agreements, long term funding, rapid response systems, and a comprehensive monitoring program. This would all be managed and directed by a fully staffed and functioning Watershed Council as a permanent entity within the Grant County Conservation District.  

The Council is committed to employing all available resources to meet short- and long-term objectives.  On October 23, 2019, 6:00 PM at the City of Moses Lake chambers, the Council will hold another public meeting to provide more detailed information on where we go from here. 

To learn more or to receive notifications about the Moses Lake Watershed Council, visit our website at ColumbiaBasinCds.org.

Moses Lake Watershed Council Seeks Solutions for Moses Lake

July 30, 2019

     The Moses Lake Watershed Council (Council) includes Grant County Conservation District, Grant County Health District, Moses Lake Irrigation and Rehabilitation District, City of Moses Lake and the Department of Ecology. The Council was formed in late 2018 to seek solutions to water quality concerns in not only Moses Lake but the entire watershed.

     Recently, many calls and social media posts have been directed to the Moses Lake Watershed Council and its members. Recent postings by the Grant County Health District (GCHD) has many citizens looking for answers.  The water quality postings have an impact on the quality of life for all of us as well as many visitors to Moses Lake and the many businesses that depend on tourism. 

     One problem is cyanobacterial (blue-green algal) blooms. Moses Lake experiences these blooms when water temperatures and nutrients provide the ideal environment for the blooms.  The GCHD takes water samples throughout the summer to monitor the toxicity of these blooms.  When levels that may be hazardous to people and animals are found, the GCHD posts warnings to avoid contact with the water. Refer to the Washington State Department of Health website at www.doh.wa.gov.

     The conditions are not new. Research shows that for many decades, perhaps centuries, Moses Lake has had similar levels of algae blooms. In fact, many long-term residents will attest that levels are much lower than in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

     The Council is currently studying historic approaches, like dilution, dredging, alum, carp, and nutrient loading within the watershed, as well as new science and technologies that when implemented will improve and maintain a higher water quality over time.    

     The Council held an introductory public meeting May 15th at City Hall to discuss water quality issues affecting the Moses Lake watershed.  The presentation included discussions on the history of water quality in the lake, algae bloom causes and effects, potential treatments, and some of the challenges facing the Council.  Time was set aside for public input, presentations by members, and a look at future actions the council intends to pursue.  The entire presentation can be found on the Grant County Conservation District website at ColumbiaBasinCds.org.

     Since the public meeting, the Council has continued to meet and recently developed a Strategic Plan.  The Council is taking seriously the water quality in the entire Moses Lake watershed and is seeking partnerships and funding to assist in resolving the issues.  The plan will be made public via media announcements as well as on the Council members websites once finalized.

     The next public meeting will be held October 23, 2019, 6:00-8:00 PM at the City of Moses Lake Council Chambers.  To sign-up to receive emails about upcoming public meetings and newsletters, visit the Grant County Conservation District website – ColumbiaBasinCds.org.

     Email Marie-Lotz@ConserveWa.net for questions or comments about the lake.

1107 S. Juniper Dr., Moses Lake, Washington, 98837  I  (509) 765-9618  I  www.ColumbiaBasinCds.org  I  @ 2014 Grant County Conservation District