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Fish Lake may reopen Monday

Fish Lake is open for fun and business three weeks after a toxic algae bloom prompted federal officials to warn swimmers and fishers to avoid the water.

The U.S. Forest Service plans to officially lift the advisory Monday after recent samples collected showed acceptable levels of blue-green algae.

The test results were music to the ears of Fish Lake Resort owner Jim Blodgett.

"We depend on the water and the mountains to earn our living," Blodgett said. "It's finally clear."

Blodgett's business took a hit when a federal test on Aug. 3 revealed the presence of blue-green algae.

"We've been dealing with some cancellations since the warning," Blodgett said. "We are looking forward to (the Forest Service) coming in and taking all the signs down that they posted."

Water monitoring at Fish Lake, 30 miles east of Medford and just west of Lake of the Woods off Highway 140, confirmed the presence of blue-green algae, which can produce toxins harmful to humans and animals, according to state and county health officials.

Authorities said it may be dangerous to eat fish from water that has the toxins, or to drink or swim in the contaminated water. They also warned that people and animals shouldn't swallow, inhale or touch the water.

Drinking contaminated water is especially dangerous. Toxins cannot be removed by boiling, filtering or treating the water with camping-style filters, health officials said.

They recommend that people who choose to eat fish from waters where algae blooms are present remove all fat, skin and organs before cooking because toxins are more likely to collect in these tissues.

The all-clear signal at Fish Lake follows a string of good news at local watering holes that had been under a cloud of algae-related health advisories this summer. Health officials recently lifted advisories at Diamond Lake and nearby Lemolo Lake. Lost Creek Lake was cleared earlier this summer.

Willow Lake near Butte Falls, which labored under an algae warning since April, was finally cleared by federal officials Thursday. The advisory on Willow Lake was the second-longest in Oregon history.

Blodgett said he is looking forward to seeing more people on the water in the coming weeks.

"We are getting calls for bookings," he said. "It was a short bloom and really didn't hurt us too bad."

Blodgett has owned the resort for eight years and in that time does not recall a blue-green algae problem developing in the water.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.