A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

At Freeway Lakes, primrose battle resumes

Written August 21st, 2023 by Hasso Hering

On Aug. 19, it looked like most of the eastern section of Freeway Lakes was choked by ludwigia.

In the summer of 2018, the Freeway Lakes near Albany were still a great place for messing about in small boats. By 2021, boating was much more restricted by the spread of ludwigia hexapetala or water primrose. Things have gotten no better since.

Last week, the east and middle of the three lakes were largely covered with the thick mats of green ludwigia. A channel of open water led from the gravel ramp to the tunnel under Three Lakes Road, and across the middle lake under the freeway to the largest of the three.

Can anything be done to win the war against this invasive pest and preserve the little county park and recreation area on Oak Creek?

Volunteers organized on Facebook (“Let’s Restore Freeway Lakes”) have been working on a trail and picnic tables on the banks, but they can’t do anything about the primrose.

For the past few years, a sign near the gravel boat ramp has said Linn County is “partnering” with the state Agriculture Department and the local watershed council to reduce the size of the infestation.

I asked the county about specifics, and I heard from Stacey Whaley, director of Linn County Parks and Recreation.

“This question is very timely” she replied by email Monday. “We actually have the spray company coming to the park on Wednesday and either Thursday or Friday this week for the annual application of the spray that controls the ludwigia, or more commonly known as water primrose.”

The weed is infesting many waterways in Linn County this year, she said.

Online publications say spraying with an herbicide approved for water use is the only effective way to fight water primrose. Pulling it by hand or machine (as was done on Albany’s Waverly Lake with a different type of growth) could break off  pieces of the plants, and this causes new infestations.

“If we consistently apply the spray annually,” Whaley said, “it can take five years or more for the plant to be controlled, and this is only if it isn’t continually washing in again from upstream.”

She added: “Linn County Parks is interested in partnering with other groups (water conservation groups, etc.) to develop a plan to control the spread of this plant across the entire drainage, so we can more effectively fight this together. This might involve developing a time table for spraying each location, coordinating efforts to reduce downstream spread, and securing grants to help offset the cost, among other things. We are just starting these conversations now.”

“In the meantime, you should notice a die-back of the plants in coming weeks as this week’s spray takes effect.”

Water primrose starts in shallow water, from which the mats of plants expand and send roots down into the mud. So how about this for an aproach with a more lasting effect:

The lakes were dug out for the construction of Interstate 5 some 60 years ago. Let’s have them dredged so they are once again too deep for water primrose to take root. (hh)

This explanation of the problem has been posted at Freeway Lakes County Park since at least 2021.

9 responses to “At Freeway Lakes, primrose battle resumes”

  1. Cap B. says:

    Why are the lakes not as deep as they were, Hasso? I know one of the main reasons, but I won’t mention it here and give you cause to go on a rant as to why I am wrong.

  2. MarK says:

    And what does this spray do to fish and wildlife?

  3. chris j says:

    Water weeds and algae are usually transferred by boats that were exposed to them. Boaters are advised to wash their boats after their use to help prevent the unnatural spread of them. Hopefully this will be taken more seriously and people will understand that preventive measures are necessary if you want to continue to enjoy these lakes. Thank you for researching this problem and shedding light on it to the general public.

  4. Thomas Cutsforth says:

    Freeway Lakes was a very memorable part of my coming of age in Albany during the 1960’s. It was where I learned to slalom waterski at a time when that activity was very popular among the town’s youth. The first (east) lake was mostly an entry point for either fishing or moving on to the other two lakes. After moving under the first bridge, you entered the middle lake, which was made very popular by having lakefront access on both north and south sides for swimming or just picnicking around during the hot summer months. Finally, after continuing under the two I-5 bridges, you entered the western-most lake, the biggest of all, which allowed you to fish, float, waterski, picnic, with plenty of room to feel uncrowded. I remember our family had a 15-foot HydroSwift motorboat with a 30-horse Johnson motor and my brothers Davey, Lee, and I would access the lakes either before or after our shifts at the local cannery, Albany Frozen Foods. I’ve had a lot of great times on those man-made lakes and their surroundings.

    There was a lot of vegetation back then, but it kept itself on the banks nearby where it belonged. It is sad to see the lakes so clogged up today. I hope efforts to eliminate the “primrose” are successful and the lakes can get back to providing many happy memories to those who are lucky enough to experience them today.

  5. cindy says:

    with all the money spent beautifying downtown, the lakes in albany should take a priority because albany has been know for its beautiful lakes, what good does beautifying downtown do, if the recgreational lakes are unuseable

    • MarK says:

      I hate to have to say this, but I don’t think our mayor or council use these lakes and probably don’t see any monetary benefits. They’ll stick to what can be seen by outsiders passing through and waste money on the riverfront “project”.

      • Hasso Hering says:

        Freeway Lakes is a county park far outside the Albany city limits. Even if they wanted to do so, the mayor and council coould not direct city money to be spent on keeping the lakes in good shape.

  6. Tina says:

    Why not use the machines to initially pull out the weed? Then use the annual weed control?

  7. chris j says:

    These situations highlight the weak links in government responsibility and accountability.
    County and city should have coordinated efforts with these projects or state wide protection of all our water sources man made or not, park or not. The city council whether it is their “territory” or not should advocate for the people who live here. Albany is stagnant with elevating the quality of life here. Creating a beautiful, well taken care of city and surrounding natural areas will bring the rewards the city council seek.


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