Pike Lake’s watershed is 23,405 acres.
That’s 50 times larger than Center Lake’s, 5 times larger than Chapman Lake’s and 1.25 times larger than Winona Lake’s, according to Lyn Crighton, executive director of The Watershed Foundation.
Crighton was one of three speakers at Pike Lake Association’s meeting Saturday on what can be done to help save the lake from pollution and erosion. She was joined by Alex Hall, Lilly Lakes and Streams at Grace College associate director; and Diane Quance, Warsaw Common Council president and Pike Lake Association board member.
Before the meeting, Paddles for Conservation Club and Grace College students did a clean up of Deeds Creek, which flows into the lake.
Quance said, “For the last two summers, every Monday morning, I have taken Grace College students out to do data collection on the lake to see what the health of our lake is.”
She explained that the Lilly Center is mainly a research facility that collects and analyzes data and makes recommendations. The Watershed Foundation is the “action arm” and goes after the grants and money to put ideas into action and get them done, Quance said. Paddlers for Conservation are a volunteer group that helped clear out and maintain the entire Tippecanoe River in Kosciusko County.
Hall said the data on Pike and Center lakes was collected in 2018 and this year, with funding from the K21 Health Foundation. This year, as part of the study, two or three zebra mussel samplers were put into Pike Lake. In June and August, it collected no zebra mussels; but in July there were 50.
“To put that in perspective, in Wawasee we had over 70,000. So 50 is not a number to be worried about,” Hall said, noting that zebra mussels are still a concern because they are invasive and can choke out native species.
“One of the connections that zebra mussels have to blue green algae … is that zebra mussels like to eat algae as filter feeders, but they spit out blue green algae. Blue green algae is the harmful algae,” Hall said.
Lilly Lakes and Streams is studying algae and microcystin. Microcystin is the toxin that the blue green algae – actually a bacteria – produces that is harmful.
A Secchi disk measures water clarity. Hall said Pike Lake’s for the past two years has been about 2.5 feet deep. The deepest part of the lake is right out from Pike Lake beach and is about 33 feet deep. Hall said two years isn’t enough to see a trend.
Lilly also measured dissolved oxygen in the water, which is important for fish because they live where they can breathe the dissolved oxygen.
“We had oxygen in Pike Lake down about 8 to 9 feet the past two summers. Again, it’s not really trend,” Hall said, until they have more years of data. However, based on the information collected so far, he said the fish can live near the top of 27 to 28% of the lake.
Hall also talked about the total phosphorus in the lake. For safe water quality, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends 0.01 milligrams per liter of phosphorus.
“Pike Lake, on average the past two summers, was about six or seven times as high, but none of our lakes in our county reached that .01 level, in any of the lakes we studied,” Hall said. Pike Lake is higher for total phosphorus than all the other lakes Lilly Center studied.
For microcystin, the government recommends dogs not go into the water at 0.8 milligrams per liter. Human recreation is prohibited at 20.0 and there’s a human recreation advisory at 8.0. Lilly’s open water sample of Pike Lake was 0.176 in 2018 and 0.577 in 2019; and at the swimming beach was 0.179 in 2018 and 0.553 in 2019. He repeated that with only two years of data, that doesn’t show much of a trend yet.
Hall told anyone if they think they saw blue green algae blooms, they could email photos and information on it to email@example.com.
Crighton said TWF’s mission is to protect and improve water quality in the lakes and streams in the upper Tippecanoe River watershed.
“We are engaging youth and adults in protecting water quality. We are uniting partners in all the work that we do, and we’re implementing solutions, and that’s where the majority of our focus is – solutions to the pollution problems. We’re working to fix the problems at their source,” she said.
Once sediment is in the lake, and Crighton said the only way to get it out is dredging. TWF works with 16 lake associations to help get it out.
“Attached to sediment is fertilizers. And what happens once that gets into the water … the eutrophication process … is that phosphorus. One pound of phosphorus can grow 10,000 pounds of weeds and algae,” she said. “So anything we can do upstream to prevent that nutrition, which is attached to sediment, from getting into the water is going to help the water quality immensely, and it’s so much cheaper to prevent it from getting in, in the first place, than with dealing with it after it’s in.”
Sampling of Deeds Creek was done in 2016-17. Lilly Lakes and Streams collected data for TWF twice a month for two years.
“In all of that data, all of those samples, 62% of those samples exceeded the state’s E.coli standards. Eighty-seven percent of those samples exceeded a nitrate benchmark that we set as a committee as a good level. Forty-six percent of them exceeded the phosphorus level, and 22% of those samples exceeded the suspended solids,” Crighton stated.
She said they determined 3,310 pounds of phosphorous is being trapped in the lake annually. Additionally, 413 tons of sediment are being trapped in the lake annually. She discussed the Indiana Department of Natural Resources has a lake and river enhancement program that offers a grant to help pay for dredging after a study is completed.
Crighton also talked about a new grant TWF applied for from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management for $414,000 for three years to identify and target 48 priority farmers to implement 179 practices. If the grant is awarded, it would start in 2021.
She discussed examples of projects TWF has completed to address pollution and erosion. She stated there was a lot of work to do, but people can find out more at Indiana.clearchoicescleanwater.org.
Quance talked about the city’s projects regarding Pike Lake, with the completed projects totaling $259,936 and the identified projects totaling over $300,000.
The Pike Lake Association will form a committee of limited scope to work with Crighton to develop a study to get a grant to dredge Deeds Creek.
Quance said, “If we don’t do something, Pike Lake will look like Palestine Lake,” meaning it could become a wetland instead of a lake.
“And that’s why there’s the urgency.”