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Lost Creek algae warning may be over soon

Lost Creek Lake's water is more blue than green again, signifying that the more than three-month-long advisory against water contact because of an algae bloom could finally be ending — maybe as early as next week.

Sensing that the outbreak of potentially toxic blue-green algae has finally died off, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Wednesday began steps to remove the warning that has been in effect at the lake since Sept. 23, said Jim Buck, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operations manager there.

If lab samples show no unsafe levels of algae-related toxins, then the state-required weeklong waiting period would be over Wednesday, allowing state and local public-health officials to lift the "scarlet A" off Jackson County's largest reservoir.

Public-health advisories are in effect at Lost Creek and three other water bodies in Oregon, including the South Umpqua River near Myrtle Creek, Sru Lake in Coos County and Gerber Reservoir in Klamath County, according to public-health records.

Eighteen public-health advisories were issued in Oregon last year because of potentially unsafe levels of blue-green algae, a cyanobacteria known to produce cyanotoxins that are potentially deadly to people and pets.

Lost Creek Lake water sampled in September showed levels of aphanizomenon at more than 25 times the level deemed safe, as well as levels of anabaena flos-aquae that were five times higher than the safe threshold.

The lake, which feeds the upper Rogue River, had a similar advisory in June that lasted three weeks.

There has never been a confirmed human illness in Oregon caused by the algae or its related toxins, though two dogs have died, one in each of the past two years, from algae-related toxins along the Umpqua River near Elkton.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com.