By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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But access to the popular trout fishing lake in Anderson Lake State Park could change as the weather warms since it has a history of high summertime levels of toxins created by blue-green algae.
“Right now, it's safe,” said Michael Dawson, water quality lead for Jefferson County.
“We are a little below state guidelines for toxins.
“But it's been predictable in past years. As soon as the temperature goes up, we get higher toxin levels that can go up as much as 1,000 percent.”
EDITOR'S NOTE — See accompanying story today, "OUTDOORS: North Olympic Peninsula lowland lakes brimming with trout for season opener" — http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/article/20140425/NEWS/304259981
In 2013, State Parks closed Anderson Lake, located between Port Townsend and Chimacum, on May 17 after just a few weeks of fishing, and it was not reopened for the rest of the season because of high levels of anatoxin-a, a nerve poison that can kill within four minutes of ingestion.
Anderson Lake has been tested for toxins since two dogs that lapped water from the lake died Memorial Day weekend in 2006.
In June 2008, the 60-acre lake set a world record: 172,640 micrograms of anatoxin-a per liter. The safety threshold for the toxin is 1 microgram per liter.
The latest tests, from samples taken April 21, found 0.3 micrograms of anatoxin-a per liter in Anderson Lake water.
That's well below the danger level. But it also is higher than the 0.09 micrograms per liter found in the samples taken a week earlier April 14.
“We know that a lot of people are interested in the opening day of trout fishing.” Dawson said,
“At the same time, we want to be sure people are well aware of what's in the water.”
The park will open at daybreak, said Mike Zimmerman, the state ranger who supervises the 410-acre Anderson Lake State Park.
Zimmerman expects a “good harvest” of fish since the lake was closed for most of last year and the fish have multiplied.
But he doesn't anticipate large crowds.
“A lot of people have made other plans for the opening of the season because we wait until the last minute to announce whether we will be open,” he said.
Dawson said both Lake Leland north of Quilcene and Gibbs Lake south of Port Townsend have visible algae blooms but are free of toxins.
The two county lakes were tested both for anatoxin-a and microcystin, another blue-green algae poison often seen in East Jefferson County lakes.
Microcystin can cause skin irritation if touched and liver damage if ingested over a long period of time.
Caution signs will be posted at all three lakes throughout the season.
Dawson said state budget cutbacks have decreased the frequency of testing, but he expected the testing of Anderson Lake would be conducted on a weekly basis for the first part of the season.
Samples are tested by King County Environmental Labs.
Blue-green algae occurs naturally and usually is benign. Researchers don't know what causes certain species of algae to suddenly begin producing toxins.
They do know that toxin levels can rise in the summer. Warm weather fuels algae growth when sufficient nutrients such as phosphates are present.
A Discover Pass or day pass is required for any vehicle that enters Anderson Lake State Park.
A Discover Pass costs $30 for the year, while a day pass costs $10 and a boat pass $7.
A 12-month launch pass costs $80 and includes a Discover Pass along with covering all of the boat launch fees in state parks.
Up until 11 a.m., the passes will be sold at the lake using a portable credit card machine. After that time, only cash and check will be accepted.
All passes also will be available at the Fort Flagler State Park visitor center at the northern tip of Marrowstone Island through a machine that takes credit cards 24 hours a day, Zimmerman said.
Toxin-producing blue-green algae has not been spotted in Clallam County, where routine tests are not done.
Report algae blooms in Clallam County by phoning 360-417-2258, while Jefferson County blooms can be reported at 360-385-9444.
For more information about Jefferson County lakes, visit http://tinyurl.com/jeffersonlakequality or phone the office.
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or firstname.lastname@example.org.