WALDPORT — Elaine Correia lived on Eckman Lake for 30 years.
“They had swimming lessons at the park when I was growing up,” she recalled.
Buster Pankey Sr. remembers swimming in the lake, too. He imagines it a place for paddleboards and canoes, with people swimming and fishing, and without the algae.
Leonard McGhee wants to see fish thrive in the lake, but he’s alarmed by the increasing algae blooms each summer.
“It’s really gotten bad in the last eight years,” he said.
Pankey became aware of progress made with the algae problem at Devils Lake in Lincoln City, watching with interest as the Devils Lake Water Improvement District (DLWID) improved the conditions of that lake.
Last November, 25 oxygen diffusers were placed in a 50-acre area of the lake, said Josh Brainerd, district manager of DLWID. The lake was eutrophic, having a lot of nutrients but not enough oxygen, he explained.
“Devils Lake was once the most polluted lake in Oregon,” Brainerd said. “We have improved it vastly,” with a 50 percent reduction in green algae since installing the diffusers.
Pankey and McGhee welcomed the opportunity to meet with Brainerd and John Tucci, president and founder of EverBlue Lakes, the contractor that installed the system for the Devils Lake Conservation Aeration Project.
Brainerd and Tucci drove from Lincoln City on Wednesday to share information with Pankey and McGhee, who are hopeful that a similar system would improve Eckman Lake.
“We’ve seen a huge increase in bass and perch,” Brainerd shared. “We’re all the way to the bottom in 10 feet of water,” he said.
Brainerd said the cost of the Devils Lake improvements were around $150,000, though there were many partners who shared that cost.
Tucci estimated that the cost to install a similar system in Eckman Lake would likely run $100,000 to $125,000.
Pankey and McGhee hope to find groups with an interest in Eckman Lake to get involved in an effort to improve the conditions there, as well. They are hoping to connect with some people knowledgeable in securing grant funding.
Roxie Cuellar is the manager of the Port of Alsea, which oversees the lake. She urged caution, saying, “We have a major construction going on at the port.”
Taking on another project in the near future is likely not feasible.