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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

August 20, 2011 at 8:08 AM

Algae bloom pops up at Potholes Reservoir in Eastern Washington

Last week the Grant County Health District (GCHD) found toxic blue-green algae in the Potholes Reservoir, about a half mile west of the Lind-Coulee boat launch.

Algae (unknown if toxic) was also seen at the Job Corps Dike. Late last week, warning signs were posted near the Pothole’s shorelines.

GCHD conducted new tests on Tuesday, Aug. 16, and received the results today (Aug. 19).

The only area found to have toxin levels above Washington State Recreational Guidelines continues to be Lind Coulee.

On Monday, August 22 GCHD will be re-assessing and re-testing areas of Potholes for toxin. The public is asked to alert the GCHD Ephrata office at 509-754-6060 if they see algae in Grant County waters.

Funding for the monitoring and testing of Potholes Reservoir and Moses Lake is through a grant from the Washington State Department of Ecology.

To find out more about testing results throughout Washington’s bodies of fresh water go to the Washington State Department of Ecology Toxic Algae Database website.

Nick Barr and Marilyn Meseberg with Mar Don Resort at the Potholes Reservoir sent out this email today (Aug. 19) to give their side of the story:

“This is the situation we have been dealing with this week and have been trying to inform the public of the truth about the Department of Health’s poorly written press release which made the lake seem like it was infested with toxic algae. Luckily the state has started to step back from their original statements and look at it with better perspective.

Here is the link to Mar Don Resort’s video.

Here is a response from various businesses and resorts around the Potholes:

Blue Green Algae is present in every lake in the State. The problem arises when the algae blooms as it can create a toxin, which is harmful to humans and pets if ingested. The algae is actually a bacteria that grows rapidly in fresh water when there is enough sunlight, high temperatures and nutrients in the water.

It is common for Grant County waters to have blue-green algae in the summer and fall. Not all blue-green blooms are toxic, though. The helpful hint from the Blue Green Algae Bloom is that it is visual. We can see it, which means we can avoid it. Especially be mindful of your pets and small children as they are more apt to drink the water or in the case of your pet, to run through the bloom and then lick their paws and coat…thereby ingesting the toxin.

Currently the bloom has been found by the Dept of Health in the Lind Coulee Arm, and a small, visual non-toxic siting by the Job Corp Dike. The Job Corp Dike area is only accessible by automobile at our current water level. The Lind Coulee Arm, which is a tributary to Potholes Reservoir, is accessible by auto or boat but as the lake continues to drop it will not be accessible by boat for very much longer.

A DOH employee walked the southwest shoreline at MarDon Resort on Tuesday (8/16) and did not see any evidence of the blue green algae. He did do a test at our request but had not tested the State Park shoreline or MarDon’s previously because he has seen no physical evidence of the algae.

We have done a boat survey of the lake and at this time we have seen no evidence of dead birds or animals on the lake, nor have there been any reports of illness in human or pets We have also ordered a Field Test Kit for microcystin testing, which allows us to test our beach water daily for the toxin. The test kit will arrive on Friday and we will begin testing immediately. Please be aware that we are not the DOH but we are doing our part to keep our guests safe and informed to the best of our ability. The DOH referred the field kit to us at our request.

The DOH reports that the fish are fine to consume but to please properly dispose of the innards, as is usual practice. The majority of fish caught in our reservoir this time of year will never come in contact with the algae.

We not only care about our business but we care about our guests. We would be the first to raise a red flag to personal safety issues. We acknowledge and understand the position the DOH has taken, once it is found on a body of water or its tributaries, the access points must be posted. The problem for us is that the news release does not mimic the signage. The signage says DO NOT SWIM OR WATER SKI, the news release says AVOID SWIMMING, WADING OR OTHER ACTIVITIES IN THE WATER. Additionally, there is no accompanying photo of the algae bloom and no way to give a location of the bloom.

This lake and it’s tributaries are 28,000 acres +, the bloom is occurring in very remote areas that are not commonly visited by any of our customers this time of year. All of us are avid boaters, fisherman, bird watchers and swimmers. We’ve dealt with the blue green algae and have helped our customers understand it and avoid it and will continue to do so as responsible citizens.

Most people, when informed of the risk, can make a decision to avoid it and still salvage their recreational time.


Small amounts of Blue/Green Algae have been found in remote areas of the 28,000+ acre Potholes Reservoir, both areas are more than 7 to 10 miles away from the MarDon Resort & Potholes State Park. One area, which algae is proven not to be toxic (Job Corp Dike Area) is not even accessible by conventional boat with the summer water level.

Blue/Green Algae can be potentially hazardous to small children & pets, and it is found in every lake. It only can produce toxins when under certain conditions, such as warm, stagnant water.

The good thing is that the algae can easily be spotted visually. It looks like a blue/green paint on the top of the water. We urge to avoid areas of heavy scum/algae. If you do find a new algae bloom, please contact MarDon Resort or the Department of Health.



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