Environmental problems could change the blue at Bear Lake

Jul 6, 2023, 6:27 PM | Updated: 6:36 pm

LOGAN, Utah — There might be a change right now in the usual bright turquoise we’re used to seeing at Bear Lake. While it’s a temporary change, it may be a sign of a bigger problem.

The environmental group Bear Lake Watch said all the water from the Bear River is diluting the calcium carbonate particles that make Bear Lake’s water blue.

If you can’t truly appreciate what you have you may one day lose it.

“It’s a very pristine lake,” said Dr. Patrick Belmont, head of watershed sciences at Utah State University. “They only get worse from here unless we get smarter about it.”

Belmont said while there is no direct data that the lake is changing color now, aside from people’s observations, there are things happening here that we all should care about.

“And over these last couple of months, a lot of sediment has been coming in, just particles on the water that get distributed all around the lake and sometimes we can see these from the satellite imagery,” Belmont said. “We can see big swirls of sediment moving through the lake.”

That’s likely what we’re seeing now. It will eventually settle but it leaves behind some muddy shores and pushes the shallow beaches out further which he said can be a problem for fish that spawn upstream and the overall ecology.

“That used to be much less of a problem because the Bear River used to filter through Dingle Marsh and Mud Lake and a lot of those sediments would filter out here,” he added.

The other issue is perhaps more alarming. About two years ago algal blooms started to show up here.

“Which is a big concern,” Belmont said. So we’re putting more nutrients in the lake, specifically because there are some septic systems in there that probably need to be upgraded or converted over to real sewer wastewater treatment systems.”

He said cities, counties, developers, and homeowners need to work together to turn that tide back. “Because once you start that cycle, it’s really hard to reverse it,” he said.

While the Caribbean of the Rockies is sure to turn back to its normal color today, we could lose it permanently down the line.

“Now is the time to start taking action and build a better Bear Lake,” Belmont said.

Bear Lake Watch says it is working closely with Idaho’s Department of Environmental Quality and the US Geological Survey to measure sediment and some of those nutrients around the algal blooms.

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Environmental problems could change the blue at Bear Lake