The water level isn’t the only thing that’s high at Marion Reservoir.
So, too, is the level of blue-green algae, enough so that Kansas Department of Health and Environment issued the first warning of the year Thursday.
“This isn’t one of the worst blooms,” park ranger Scott Dodson said. “I don’t like to guess; they can change in a short amount of time for better or worse. We’ve been trying to keep an eye on it, but the wind’s been keeping it moving around.”
Swim beaches were closed, and warnings were posted at boat ramps and areas where people directly access the water.
Direct contact with lake water could cause skin irritation and allergic reactions, according to KDHE. Pets that swim in affected water or eat dried algae along shore may become seriously ill.
Fishing is allowed during a warning, and fish are safe to eat, provided only filets are consumed. Hands should be washed thoroughly after handling fish.
While public areas on the south end of the lake are posted, Dodson said it was impossible to control access everywhere.
That could pose a risk for “noodlers,” people handfishing for flatheads. Handfishing season started Monday, and the reservoir is the only place in the county where the practice is legal. Dodson said he wasn’t aware of many handfishers using the lake.
“We don’t normally see that as much here in Marion,” he said. “Marion’s a pretty shallow reservoir versus some of the bigger ones like Milford. The areas for people to do noodling are limited. Somebody might go up in river areas where we don’t monitor.”
Above-average rainfall in May could have contributed to the bloom by washing nutrients into the lake from surrounding agricultural land, KDHE communications officer Ashton Rucker said.
“It really is the nutrients that feed the algae that allow them to develop and spread,” Rucker said.
Conversely, rain can help disperse a bloom. Overcast skies block sunlight that blue-green algae need to reproduce, and rain and wind stir up the water to disperse blooms, Rucker said.
Since KDHE issued a warning, the reservoir will be tested weekly to biweekly through October. Alerts, guidance, and other information about blue-green algae can be found at www.kdheks.gov/algae-illness/.