The recent Blue Green Algae outbreak may have given the Grand Lake Watershed Alliance the momentum it needs to get something done regarding water quality in Grand Lake.
The group held a meeting for the public last Saturday at Cherokee Yacht Club, where a packed room heard reports on the causes of the recent algae outbreak, and the factors involved in helping control water quality in the region. “Water quantity and quality have been identified by most experts as the issue of this century,” board member Pete Churchwell said. “Most of us have seen things on TV or read articles about theses issues in other places and then go on about our business. It wasn’t until this most recent issue with the lake that people realized we have problems right here in our own back yard. But, we can do something about it.”
Much of the problem related to the recent algae outbreak comes from oversaturation of nutrients such as phosphorus, which comes in part from agriculture activity in Kansas and Missouri.
Farming activity in many places runs right up to the banks of rivers and streams, which ultimately feed into Grand Lake.
Alliance President John Gillette informed the crowd that the group had been told by government offi cials that citizen-formed groups had been far more successful in addressing water quality issues than government agencies, and that involvement with agencies such as the EPA would only make things more difficult. But, Gillette believes Grand Lake has all the key elements in place to successfully address the issue.
“We need to start immediately putting together a plan with other organizations, get everyone to agree to it, then go sell it,” Gillette said. “If we don’t, somebody else is going to come up with a half-baked plan and
stick it down your throat and you’re going to have to live with it.”
“The first strategic thing that has to happen is the Governor and legislators in Oklahoma have got to go to the other three states (Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas) and craft an agreement to manage this watershed,” Gillette said.
Some agricultural activities that occur upstream in Kansas are unregulated at this time, such as the dumping of chicken litter in areas close to streams that feed the lake.
Phosphorus output from water treatment plants in the watershed is also a concern.
The group encouraged local citizens to take action on their own, such as avoiding fertilizers that contain phosphorus, and contacting their legislators to voice their concern about the watershed.
“Your legislators are not embracing your watershed,” Gillette said. “Your tax dollars are going to support other watersheds like the Chesapeake Bay, but they’re not going to here to your own area.”
Several citizens expressed their desire to be involved in addressing the problem, but said they needed direction and leadership from someone to know which path to follow.
“What we need is leadership that will tell us what to do,” local businessman Joe Harwood said. “What we want to know is what can we do? Give us an action plan, and we will go accomplish it.”
For more information on how to get involved with the Grand Lake Watershed project, visit their website at www.glwaf.org, or contact the Alliance by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.