From the 2017 Story Exchange

Photos courtesy Phil Long

Keep it Blue, Lake Chelan
by Phil Long

Successful Outcome: The Lake Chelan Research Institute (LCRI), in collaboration with Chelan County Department of Natural Resources and others, launched the first long-term water quality monitoring program for Lake Chelan in 2016. Collaborators include university researchers, state to local agencies, and the Chelan community that depends upon the health of the lake. Approximately 60 high school, middle school and grade school students from four schools have participated in collecting basic field data on water clarity and temperature, learning about aquatic ecology and developing new skills while experiencing the beauty of Lake Chelan. Student access to Lake Chelan is provided by the Chelan County Sheriff’s Marine Patrol.

Situation: Lake Chelan is the 3rd deepest lake in the US and its clear waters are prized by residents and visitors alike. While Lake Chelan is widely regarded as pristine water quality, data have been collected infrequently since water quality studies were first performed in 1986. At the same time, both environmental and land use changes are occurring that could impact the lake’s water quality. The need to better understand the lake ecosystem including the type and sources of nutrients prompted the formation of the Lake Chelan Research Institute in 2016 to begin coordinating regular water quality sampling and lake exploration that includes partnering with local schools.

Challenge: There were no published water quality measurements taken on Lake Chelan between 2007 and 2016. Thus, the biggest challenge is ensuring that we get beyond the incomplete data from limited sampling efforts in the past to describe the lake’s nutrient status. Going forward, the key need is to have frequent enough data to understand the sources of a limiting nutrient (phosphorus) that could decrease water clarity and change the nutrient status of the lake.

Key Activities:

  • Forming partnerships with the City of Chelan, WA Dept of Ecology, UW, WSU, Chelan County, Lake Chelan Reclamation District, Cascadia Conservation District, Sunset Marina, WA State Parks, US Forest Service, and others who all together provide expertise along with the financial and in-kind support needed to sustain a long-term, monthly monitoring program that will inform future management of the lake’s waters.
  • Increasing awareness of water quality status and issues by engaging local schools, the Marine Patrol, and citizens in monitoring the lake, and the Lake Chelan and Manson Chambers of Commerce in promoting awareness of the lake’s value.
  • Building a new scientifically-oriented research institute (LCRI) within the non-profit structure of an existing organization, the Lake Chelan Recreation Development Foundation.