Minutes for September 24, 2013 Meeting

Meeting Summary
Tuesday, September 24, 2013, 7:00-9:00 PM
The Hearthstone, 6720 East Green Lake Way N
Board Room

Recorder: Davis Patterson

Rob ZisetteGene WilliamsKaren SchurrMarcia NormanChristie CaveKlaus ShelleyRichard FlemingGayle GarmanRuth CallardLinda NobleSue Ellen WalkoDoug MercerGaret MungerOddvar HuslidBill YardleyAnita G. BryantSusan Levy


7:00         Meeting comes to order with introductions – Garet Munger, President

7:15         President report on FOGL activities over the summer

  • During the summer two habitat maintenance work parties were held, one on Earth Day (May) 20 and another in June, with about six persons participating in each—one on the east side and one on the west side of the lake. These groups worked to remove blackberry and other competing nonnative species from the two habitat areas that FOGL has been maintaining.
  • FOGL also held two milfoil raking work parties where we removed the accumulating milfoil from the shoreline. Garet’s perception is that more milfoil accumulated during the warm weather this year than in past years. In recent years the milfoil has accumulated during the late fall and during the winter.
  • FOGL continues to monitor water clarity with Secchi disks and collect water samples to send to the county for analysis.
  • A toxic algae bloom led to “closure” of the lake. On average, the open water concentration of algae hasn’t changed in 10 years. But the species composition has changed. There are more blue-green algae, which float and concentrate on the shoreline and sometimes produce a toxin. Two of the species in recent Greenlake algae samples can produce toxins. On a related note, a Seattle University scientist is conducting a research project on what triggers algae to produce toxins.
  • FOGL sent a letter in the spring to Christopher Williams, Acting Superintendent, Seattle Parks and Recreation. His response indicated that the next alum treatment is budgeted for 2017-18, but it could be moved up or delayed depending on conditions. Kevin Stoops is the lead person for monitoring and responding. The lake is monitored twice a year by the parks department, and their data compare well with King County Department of Natural Resources analyses. FOGL has been collecting water samples (generally every two weeks, with some exceptions) which are submitted to King County analyses as part of the ongoing water quality monitoring.
  • FOGL’s volunteer agreement with Parks was updated and renewed. We are required to host at least 4 work parties per year. A member is also required to attend a “Friends of” meeting (for all the parks) each year. This year’s meeting is tomorrow (September 25). Garet will attend but someone else may volunteer.

7:30         Treasurer’s Report

  • [skipped]

7:35         Report and discussion of the recent blue green algae accumulation and posting of warning signs.

  • See discussion begun above.
  • Rob attended a meeting September 10 with Sally Abella, and state and Seattle-King County departments of health. They have a decision-making flowchart for responding to toxic algae, which Rob shared. The current flowchart has a lot of ambiguity in it.
  • Background on this summer’s event: King County measured a high toxin level in a scum Gayle collected August 26. Common practice has been to sample algae scums and the county tests for toxins, and then use that information to post signs and possibly close the lake. Signs were put up on the Friday before Labor Day. Some park patrons paid attention to the guidance and some did not. Lifeguards were on duty on the west beach while the east side beach was closed. People were confused by presence of lifeguards in the context of the warning signage.
  • Four signs were put up. There has been a lot of confusion about how to use the guidelines. However, the original intention wasn’t to close the lake. It’s not the state guidelines to close the lake if one sample exceeds the limit, but Seattle Parks has been confused about what to do, thinking that the whole lake needed to be closed. A number of factors should be evaluated to determine the appropriate action—location of algae, change over time, etc.
  • Sign alert levels include Caution, Warning, and Danger, all different colors. The “danger” sign is the only one that means the lake closed. Most jurisdictions don’t close the lake under the conditions we experienced.
  • There have been 3 sets of signs. The first set was “overkill.” Another set only warned about dogs. The most recent signs are very well done and informative. They were developed during and after the September 10 meeting.
  • A press release went up around September 9 or 10.
  • The problems with the signs this summer have started a process; King County has applied for a grant to develop appropriate signage for Green Lake.
  • It would be helpful to take pictures of the signs next time to document.
  • The signage problem may be part of larger problem of appropriate risk communication for these kinds of events. It is important to determine: What’s the scope of this problem? Is it a problem throughout the city, state…? Is there a failure to communicate between agencies?
  • There is no regulatory structure at the state regarding the handling of toxic blooms, though they have set guidance levels that most states don’t have. Green Lake is a special case because it’s a large lake with high use in an urban area and multiple access points. There has been a similar struggle with Lake Stevens. The algae move around the lake. Most lakes have a more clearcut situation with algae throughout the lake, as well as homeowners around the lake, who, as year-round residents, know the risks. Green Lake has a lot of people who visit without knowledge of the risk, and the risk moves around the lake. These factors make Green Lake toxic algae blooms more challenging to respond to.
  • Garet has been documenting and mapping algae since February and has found it to be present almost continuously all year somewhere around the lake. At Sammamish there are permanent signs about avoiding water when it looks green. Should we advocate for signs year round?
  • Note that dogs aren’t allowed in the lake, though people regularly allow their dogs to play in the lake. This complicates the messaging, which refers to not allowing dogs to have contact with the water.
  • FOGL has historically had a role in monitoring and alerting the county. The group should talk about what FOGL’s role can or should be to help the county and city, to inform the response, signage, etc. We have expertise about lake conditions, etc., that we can add to the process. The agencies want to involve FOGL in the process, allowing for input, but they shouldn’t be relying on FOGL input because we are volunteers. The responsible agencies should identify level and means of input for citizens. Issues to clarify: What is the difference between FOGL v. citizen input? And how should the agencies engage FOGL for input? FOGL was intentionally not invited to the September 10 meeting. FOGL needs to work on how to get our voice to the right people with the right set of information. Rob would like to ask what the process is and how FOGL can be involved.
  • What should FOGL do with the ELISA kit that we have invested in? It will expire next year, so we ought to be using it. We should discuss in the future. Even low levels of toxic algae or non-detectable levels are valuable results. We also can test more rapidly than others. We need to determine when to test, and how to maximize use of the results–who will use them, how, etc.
  • Note that the response flowchart was to clarify involvement of different agencies–not a comprehensive lake management illustration.
  • Garet suggested a committee make recommendations about all of the above, perhaps by November, for a protocol about how we respond. Rob has gathered input from Garet and Gayle. Rob and Garet will prepare suggestions for the November meeting.
  • What about alum treatment? Will we get back to Christopher Williams about it? We need to come back to this. There are a number of concerns we’ll want to follow up on–what is the right treatment, when, etc.? It was suggested that we follow up with a letter sooner.
  • To trigger active management of the algae, Rob would like to establish standards that are more related to actual use of the lake, such as peaks not averages.
  • FOGL can encourage study of the alternatives, promote the concept of developing goals that are more pertinent to recreational use of the lake (e.g., reduce number of closed lake days), consideration of new technologies.
  • Also, what are the interim management procedures needed for spotty blooms? There are various ways to deal with public health threats. We don’t necessarily need an expensive alum treatment right now, though some may think we do. For example, we may try vacuuming up the algae.
  • FOGL should be concerned with advancing issues, raising questions, but not solutions, because we don’t have the expertise.
  • Should FOGL put together a grant proposal for a study on how to manage algae, etc.?

8:00         Announcement of elections to be held at October Meeting.

  • Garet announced that the following officers will be elected at the October meeting (incumbents in parentheses), as is done in odd years: Vice President (Kristi Park), Corresponding Secretary (Ellen Hewitt), Treasurer (Gayle Garman). Incumbents or others may run for these positions.

8:15         Other Friends of Green Lake Business.  

  • Billings Middle School is taking lake samples as a project this year. FOGL should be in the loop. FOGL has done this with Billings in the past.
  • The question was raised as to why the lake appears to be a foot lower than it’s ever been before.
  • During this election season, FOGL can send questions to mayoral and city council candidates but cannot endorse candidates. Would someone like to draft? The letter would come from president. We can also advocate as private citizens.
  • A new ten year strategic plan is being worked on to replace the current five year plan. This plan is being worked on by a Parks citizen advisory committee. This committee will be making funding recommendations. Citizen input is encouraged at the beginning of the committee meetings. The next meetings of the committee are October 3 and October 17. Garet encourages FOGL members to attend.

9:00         Adjourn