Spring is on its way, and it won’t be long before area residents take to the rivers and lakes to enjoy canoeing, fishing, swimming and other water sports.
Drought conditions, coupled with heavy spring rainfalls over the past two summers, have created the perfect environment for the blue-green algae blooms documented at Lake Tenkiller. These blooms pose a health risk to humans and animals and point to what could be a larger problem for the health of the lake.
According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, is a conglomerate of microscopic organisms that live in water. The algae are usually too small to be seen but sometimes can form visible algae blooms.
Blooms can form in warm, slow-moving waters that are rich in nutrients and generally occur in the late summer or early fall.
According to Tony Clyde, limnologist and reservoir biologist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Tulsa District, Tenkiller has a fairly long history of nutrient data collection in the watershed, which helps identify problem areas and the conditions in which the harmful algae prosper.
Despite efforts by groups like Save the Illinois River Inc. to reduce phosphorus loading in the Illinois River and Lake Tenkiller, long-term effects of nutrient loads in the area promote the growth of blue-green algae.
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