Fresh waterways showing steady progress in Ocean Shores

Treatments and commitment from city, volunteers cited as keeping lakes and canals in better shape

The condition of the 23-mile system of lakes and canals in Ocean Shores continues to improve because of the city’s increased commitment over the past several years.

That was one of the assessments shared by Douglas Dorling of Northwest Aquatic Eco-Systems, which has been treating and monitoring the fresh waterways, in a presentation Saturday at the annual Wine & Weeds presentation by the non-profit Ocean Shores Fresh Waterways Corp. The audience of about 70 people included five City Council members.

Dorling noted his company has been involved in treating and surveying the fresh waterways for about 20 years.

“This was a pretty enjoyable year for us because we saw a lot of progress from the work we have done in the past,” Dorling said, showing overhead photos from a drone taken the previous year.

“This year, the weather conditions in Washington state were incredible,” Dorling noted. The weather, however, made it an “incredibly tough year for lake management.”

“Early in the season, we didn’t see much weed growth. Later in the season, it really came on hard and strong.”

Comparing 2017 with 2018, Dorling highlighted an “inherent problem with the weeds in the northern part of the Grand Canal.” That area will likely be targeted for treatment “every single year because of the weed growth that’s up there. When we surveyed it this year, there were areas we couldn’t get through in a boat.”

Also of concern was the northern end of Duck Lake, where a floating red fern grows quickly, produced by spores.

“There’s a lot of it up in that part of the lake,” Dorling said. “The problem is that everything that starts in the northern end of the lake, eventually ends up in other parts of the lake. That’s why it’s pretty important to control this plant early in the season so that you don’t see it floating on down.”

This past year, about 100 acres of weeds were treated in the waterways. For the past two years, the primary treatment has been with Diquat, which Dorling described as having no impact on swimming or fishing when applied: “If you’re a coffee drinker, your coffee is more toxic than Diquat.”

“The rates that are used in the water and the lakes, it is very safe,” Dorling assured the group. The Fresh Waterways Corp. is made up of volunteers who help support actions and projects to enhance the lakes and canals.

Weeds of constant concern are parrotfeather, a class B noxious species; and Brazilian elodea, “one of the top weeds on the Washington state hit list” that once infested Duck Lake. Dorling said Brazilian elodea has all but been eradicated, with Fluridone (an organic compound used as an aquatic herbicide) treatments in 2007-2008. That marks the first organized treatment with herbicides for the weed growth.

“You couldn’t get a boat through Duck Lake because the weeds were so thick” before those initial treatments, Dorling said. “We haven’t seen any of that weed in the lake since 2008.”

Currently, he sees no need to further treat Duck Lake for elodea, but noted that Ocean Shores waterways continue to have an algae problem because of too many nutrients coming into the lake from everything from fertilizers, detergents, ducks and geese and removal of too much shoreline vegetation.

“The nutrients produce algae. Does Ocean Shores have an algae problem? Yes it does. If you go out in the lakes and the canals in certain times of the year, you are going to see green, scummy water. That’s algae,” Dorling said.

Testing for any health concerns, samples were taken at various times, and there were no toxic levels detected, even though most samples were taken in areas where the algae was evident.

“For some reason, the algae that is in Ocean Shores is not producing a toxin, but the algae species that is in Ocean Shores is capable of producing a toxin,” according to Dorling.

Another weed that floats from location to location is Pennywort, and there are shoreline weeds such as cattail, bullrush and iris. Those shoreline weeds are “probably the most important in the Ocean Shores system,” Dorling said, because they protect and stabilize the shoreline.

“We did notice a lot of property owners are spraying the cattails, and we did notice over the last three or four years that there has been an increase in a mix of materials used to control cattails,” he said.

“A lot of these shoreline plants that around Ocean Shores are there to protect the shoreline.”

Lower-growing plants can be used to replace cattails, Dorling suggested, to retain stabilization and reduce erosion.

Dorling credited the Fresh Waterways group and the city with becoming more proactive rather than reactive to weed control in the lakes and canals. That has come with an increase in the amount of money the city budgets for the treatments and surveys.

“In the last three or four years, you can see there has been a change in philosophy,” he said. “It’s important that the involvement from the community continue, because it’s the community involvement that really drives the program.”

For more information and to volunteer, visit the Ocean Shores Fresh Waterways Corp. online at