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Algae closure creates big mess

News editor

State health officials closed Marion Reservoir last week because of high levels of blue-green algae toxins. Some recreational areas could remain closed even if an all clear is issued tomorrow.

Campsites within 100 feet of the water were closed, but because the water level is 1½ feet above normal, more sites have been affected, Corp of Engineeers lake manager Kevin McCoy said.

“We’ve closed two campsites completely, which is French Creek Cove and Marion Cove,” he said. “As the water recedes, the blue-green algae will stain picnic table legs, campfire rings, grills, things like that, which causes a huge workload for my ranger staff and volunteers to come out and clean and power wash and scrub to remove that material before we can open those sites.”

Campsites at Hillsboro Cove and Cottonwood Point that are more than 100 feet away stayed open, but campers are prohibited from activities that involve contact with water, including fishing, swimming, and boating. The Willow Walk Nature Trail at Cottonwood Point also is closed.

Swimming areas were shut down Memorial Day after Corps of Engineers workers discovered evidence of a possible algae bloom. They alerted Kansas Department of Health and Environment the next day. KDHE testing revealed the extent of the problem.

“The bloom this year at Marion is really serious,” said Ron Kaufman, spokesman for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism. “It was well above watch and warning levels.”

The department leases numerous parcels at the reservoir, including Durham Cove, which has a boat ramp. It is not officially a campground but is frequently used as such.

“I wouldn’t suggest people camp there,” Kaufman said.

It took some work to implement Thursday afternoon’s closure, McCoy said, as about 90 campsites were occupied.

“We had to relocate a lot of campers into different places to get them away from that shoreline,” McCoy said. “The cooperation we received from the vast majority of the public made our job much easier. It’s a lot of cones, a lot of barricades, a lot of signs.”

That included canvassing and posting lake access points that aren’t official recreation areas, McCoy said.

“We have been working with Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism for some of the areas — Durham Cove, the Broken Bridge fishing area,” McCoy said. “We are as rapidly as possible, either ourselves or KDWPT, trying to get signs and flags and tape put up.”

This bloom doesn’t look as bad as past ones that have generated warnings, McCoy said, but the toxicity levels of those were lower.

Kaufman said wind and currents affect where blue-green algae is spotted, but clear water isn’t an indication the threat is over.

“You may see it one day in one spot, and it’s gone the next day,” he said. “It doesn’t mean the problem’s gone.”

Last modified June 8, 2017

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