Cleaning up Clear Lake

Anyone who has been to Clear Lake has seen the plant growth clogging the water over the years—many many years—but it appears technology has finally arrived that is addressing the problem effectively, as reported by the Press Democrat.

Clear Lake will be clear again.

An excerpt.

A bright blue machine that resembles a cross between a bulldozer and side-wheel paddleboat is busy cleaning up a big mess Mother Nature left this year at Spring Lake.

The 32-foot-long aquatic harvester operated by a Windsor company is traversing the lake, collecting more than a ton of a floating weed called Azolla in its 8-foot-wide steel mouth on each foray over the 72-acre recreational lake.

At the Spring Lake boat dock, the harvester’s stern transfers the soggy plant mass onto an up-tilted conveyor belt that drops it into a red trailer for delivery to county property at Los Guilicos, where the weed will be mixed with other organic material to make compost.

It’s a new approach to a familiar problem on the lake managed by the Sonoma County Regional Parks, as an unprecedented bloom of Azolla spread a harmless but unsightly reddish-brown carpet over large portions of the lake, popular with boaters and anglers.

“We’ve never seen it like this,” parks manager David Robinson said. “We haven’t had Azolla this bad.”

With the upcoming busy Memorial Day weekend, officials decided on a new type of cleanup, calling on the harvester from Windsor-based Waterworks Industries, a statewide firm whose services include mechanical vegetation removal.

In past years, parks officials resorted to herbicide spraying to get rid of invasive weeds, Robinson said. The drawback is that dead plants sink to the bottom, adding to the lake’s nutrient load that can nourish blue-green algae, which can release harmful toxins.

The diesel-powered harvester, which started work Monday and could continue through next week, is more like a vacuum cleaner leaving little behind in its wake.

The county is paying Waterworks Industries about $3,000 a day for the cleanup, with a total cost not to exceed $32,000, Robinson said.

“It looks leaps and bounds better than it did on Monday,” Robinson said. “We really feel comfortable this is the right method.”

Retrieved May 23, 2018 from


About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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