waskington state lake images
WATERLINE - September, 2017

WALPA: a valuable public resource

By Jim Gawel, WALPA President (again)

The theme of this year’s WALPA conference is Lakes: A Valuable Public Resource, which I think sums up WALPA’s vision in a nutshell. I first arrived in Washington in 1999. Having moved here from the East Coast for a faculty position at the University of Washington Tacoma, I had no professional connections when I arrived and little idea of the challenges and resources available for lakes in the region. I was invited to join the WALPA Board in 2001, and saying “yes” was one of the best decisions I ever made.

The WALPA Board has always been incredibly open and inviting, and I have found WALPA conferences and volunteering with WALPA as a Board member and President to be the best way to get connected to others doing work on lakes, and ultimately to citizens interested in protecting lakes in the region. I have made valuable professional connections to other academics doing lake research, to city, county and state natural resource scientists and policy makers, to citizen activists, to consulting companies interested in collaborating, and to companies making instrumentation that I use almost every day.

These connections have proved valuable in so many ways over my years here. As an educator, I have brought these great people into my classroom, I have collaborated on research projects, I have worked with them to develop initiatives, and I have asked them for help and expertise. For me, these connections have led to collaborative projects and proposals to address water quality issues and find solutions, because I believe that lakes ARE a valuable public resource, but are underfunded.

One thing that stands out in my mind about WALPA members throughout the years is their interest in serving the public through lake management and improvement. The talk among conference-goers is how to make a difference, how to turn research into an applied solution, how to address funding shortfalls and policy shortcomings, and how to mobilize citizens. Some of WALPA’s biggest achievements have been getting legislation passed to remove phosphorus from fertilizers and detergents to improve lake water quality, and WALPA members have had enormous impacts in their own jurisdictions as well.

Currently, WALPA is organizing to create a state-wide volunteer lake monitoring (VLM) program. This initiative involves partners from public universities across the state [University of Washington (Tacoma, Seattle, and Bothell), Washington State University (Vancouver and Pullman), Western Washington University (Bellingham), Central Washington University (Ellensburg)], county [Snohomish and King Counties; Pierce Conservation District; Tacoma Pierce County Health Department] and state agencies [Department of Natural Resources, Department of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Ecology, Washington State Parks], and many former and current WALPA Board members, and the list is growing! Only through a network like WALPA with a vision of improving public use of lakes is something like this possible.

The WALPA community and what it stands for have enticed me to serve two terms as President and otherwise spend 10 years on the WALPA Board as of 2018. I have met and served with great people and been mentored by wonderful leaders like BiJay Adams, Beth leDoux, Rob Zisette, Ellen Preece, Chris Knutson, and Marisa Burghdoff.

Whether you are a newbie to the region or a seasoned veteran, I invite you to join the WALPA Board, to attend and present at this year’s WALPA conference, and to get involved in WALPA’s VLM initiative.


September 2017 HOME

Harmful algal blooms – getting the word out

Register for the 30th annual WALPA conference! Join us October 11-13 in Spokane!

Glacial relict snails found in Washington lakes

WALPA: a valuable public resource

Lost Lake: a gem in the Okanogan Highlands


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