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“We will open this weekend with no restrictions,” said Mike Zimmerman, the state ranger who oversees Anderson Lake State Park, located 10 miles south of Port Townsend.
“We looked at the lake today and didn't see any visible [toxic algae] bloom, so we didn't take a sample,” said Greg Thomason, Jefferson County environmental health specialist.
“So it looks like it will open on Saturday as planned.”
Anderson Lake is a popular trout-fishing lake that has been plagued with high levels of blue-green-algae-produced toxins since 2006, when two dogs died after drinking water from the lake on Memorial Day weekend.
In the past, the county has tested weekly for toxins beginning two weeks before the final Saturday in April — the fishing season opener — and continuing through September or October.
The Department of Ecology paid for the tests, costing $200-$300 for each test, but this year as a cost-cutting measure decided to only tests of samples taken when an algae bloom is present.
The county Health Department will be monitoring Anderson, Gibbs and Leland lakes for toxic blue-green algae.
It also will be measuring water quality parameters and testing for nutrients on a monthly basis, according to environmental health specialist Michael Dawson.
Although less testing likely means fewer data on Anderson Lake's health this season, Thomason said he is not concerned about not being able to test the lake if no algae blooms are spotted.
No blooms have been seen for months.
“I'm not too worried now,” Thomason said.
“We haven't had a bloom, and it's been clear all winter.”
However, past potentially deadly toxin levels that have closed Anderson Lake have appeared when the water appeared clear after a large-scale algae bloom had dissipated, Thomason said.
“Based on our data, that's when we've had our highest toxin [levels],” he added.
In these instances, Thomason said public health staff will use county funds to sample Anderson Lake and send the samples for testing.
“We will find the money to process [those samples], no matter what,” Thomason said.
“We are committed to public health.”
In addition to anatoxin-a, which can quickly cause paralysis and death, another algae-produced toxin, microcystin, also has been found at times in East Jefferson County lakes.
Microcystin can cause nausea and skin irritation over a short period of time — and liver damage if ingested in lake water over the longer term.
Thomason said public health staff will continue to update the status of the lakes tested at Jefferson County's website, http://tinyurl.com/jeffersonlakewaterquality.
Zimmerman said the 410-acre Anderson Lake State Park around the lake will be open to visitors, even if the lake proves to develop a water-quality issue later in the season.
“We'll open the park for other recreation regardless of what the health of the lake is,” Zimmerman said.
Visitors need a Discover Pass — either $10 for a day or $30 for a year — to park within Anderson Lake State Park.
Passes can be bought at any state park, where hunting or fishing licenses are sold, by phoning 866-320-9933 or by visiting www.discoverpass.wa.gov.
Toxin-producing blue-green algae has not been spotted in Clallam County.
Report algae blooms in Clallam County by phoning 360-417-2258, while Jefferson County blooms can be reported at 360-385-9444.