Blog

Lake Ecosystem Repair Project Updates

Lago Santa Margarita on ABC7 Eyewitness News

July 25, 2019

​The Lago Santa Margarita, made a special appearance on the evening news on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. ABC7 Eyewitness News showcased the Lake with valuable information on its restoration to a healthy ecosystem. Director Charles Villafana, SAMLARC Board Secretary and Member of the Lago Santa Margarita Ad Hoc Committee, spoke on behalf of the Lake’s progress, and its latest delivery of 1,000 bluegill and smaller fish into the Lake. “Hopefully by late fall,” Director Villafana said, “we should have more catchable-sized fish, and hopefully by next year, have a thriving fishery again.” Over the course of 2019, more than 8,000 small fish have been successfully introduced to the Lake and are enjoying their new home. The return of fisher birds, reduced insect activity, and improved water quality are signs that the Lake’s ecosystem is re-balancing. The Board of Directors looks forward to the return of recreational fishing in fall of this year.

SAMLARC is grateful for the opportunity to showcase the Lake as a valuable community amenity. Click HERE to view the ABC7 segment, which aired on July 25, 2019.

Lago Santa Margarita Ad Hoc Committee Meeting Highlights

July 10, 2019

​The Lago Santa Margarita Ad Hoc Committee was formed in 2017 to provide input and recommendations related to the treatment and management of golden algae, with the primary goal of providing and aquatic environment where fish could thrive and fishing be restored.

The Committee met on June 19, 2019 to discuss the Lake Ecosystem Repair Project and its effects on the Lake’s water chemistry. The Committee is comprised of three Board Directors: Dennis Reid (SAMLARC Director and Committee Chair), Robert Louvar (SAMLARC CFO), and Charles Villafana (SAMLARC Secretary) whose professional insights are invaluable to restoring the Lake’s health and beauty. The Committee’s discussion included:

  • Updates on the Lake’s monthly water quality level test results. According to May 2019 test readings, the Lake’s water chemistry is slowly rebalancing. The concentration of total dissolved solids (nutrients and salinity in the water column) has lowered, and water clarity is considered fair to good for an urban reservoir. While the presence of golden algae was still detected, the quantity of algae has reduced since the April 2019 test readings, and the overall algal community is considered stable.
     

  • The purchase of additional fish for the Lake. Based on the positive 2019 water quality test readings, the Committee approved the purchase of additional fish, including bluegill, small bass, and fathead minnows. These fish are not meant to be caught in recreational fishing; rather, they will help re-establish a baseline for a thriving aquatic ecosystem. These fish will also serve as a food source for larger fish, anticipated to be added this fall as water quality levels continue to equalize. 
     

  • Review of SAMLARC’s Active Lake Management Plan, a detailed maintenance regimen that addresses the health, cleanliness, and operational efficiency of the Lake, Lakeshore Park, and Beach Club Harbor. The Plan is executed by members of the SAMLARC team and professional service providers, including three lake service technicians and one custodial maintenance technician, who each perform water quality control measures. These efforts help to protect the Lake’s place as a valuable amenity of the SAMLARC community.
     

  • Updates on the Lake Water Exchange Project and the installation of a second pump. The installation of a secondary pump at the Lake has accelerated the Project’s completion date. The Project is now anticipated to be completed by late July 2019, rather than its original September 2019 conclusion date.         
     

  • A recommendation to the Board of Directors that the Lago Santa Margarita Ad Hoc Committee be established as a standing SAMLARC Committee. Pending approval by the Board, the Committee will regularly meet to review the Lake’s maintenance procedures, water quality levels and impacts, and appropriate action plans. The Board will consider the recommendation at the July 23, 2019 Board Meeting.

 

For questions regarding the Lago Santa Margarita Ad Hoc Committee, please contact Assistant General Manager George Blair at 949-709-0014 or george.blair@fsresidential.com.

Lago Santa Margarita Update (Rancho Life Summer 2019)

June 07, 2019

We encourage you to enjoy the sunshine at the Lago Santa Margarita during this beautiful season – and to admire the newly-launched floating botanical islands along the Lake! From the delicate white blossoms of water hyssop to the regal ripples of papyrus fronds, the botanical islands enhance the Lake’s beauty and help balance its water quality. As the plants establish underwater root systems, they quickly absorb the nutrients that golden algae needs in order to reproduce, or bloom. Fewer, weaker golden algae blooms will allow the water quality to slowly re-balance and lead to the re-introduction of fish into the Lake. In addition, SAMLARC has embarked on the second phase of the Lake Ecosystem Repair Project: reducing the levels of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) in the Lake.

TDS levels indicate the concentration of elements and salinity in the water column. Additionally, golden algae has historically bloomed more frequently in environments where TDS levels are high. The floating islands help to combat golden algae by absorbing nutrients – simultaneously assisting in reducing TDS levels. However, floating islands alone will not neutralize TDS levels or golden algae blooms. In February 2019, the Lago Santa Margarita Ad Hoc Committee launched the second phase of the Lake Ecosystem Repair Project: The Lake Water Exchange Project. This Project will assist in reducing the TDS levels by exchanging a portion of the Lake’s highly-saturated water with fresh water from the Lake fill.

Over the course of the Project, approximately one-third of the Lake’s volume will be gradually removed and replenished with fresh water. Working in partnership with the Santa Margarita Water District, the “original” water will be channeled into the sewer system through a pump on the west side of the Lake. The pump was selected to slowly reduce the volume of the Lake with minimal impact to Members: it runs quietly between the hours of 10:00 p.m. at 6:00 a.m., and the size of its sewer connection is sufficiently small enough that the rate of water flow will render the removal virtually unnoticeable. The Project began on February 12, 2019 and will take approximately 208 days to complete. The Project does not pose a threat to the wildlife around the Lake, nor will it interfere with Members’ enjoyment of the SAMLARC watercrafts over the summer.

Both the Project and the floating botanical islands are invaluable in bringing the Lake back to life. When TDS and water quality tests indicate that the water chemistry of the Lake is viable for aquatic life, the Lake will be stocked with fish again! We look forward to a new chapter in the Lago Santa Margarita’s life, and thank you for your patience as we continue to revitalize the Lago Santa Margarita’s health and beauty!

Stay informed on the progress of the Lake Water Exchange Project by visiting SAMLARC.org/lake-updates. For additional questions, please contact George Blair, Assistant General Manager, at 949-709-0014 or george.blair@fsresidential.com.

Botanical Islands Update

June 03, 2019

​When SAMLARC was designed in the 1980s, master planner Richard Reese envisioned a community that blended nature and urban living. Over the years, the viewscape of the Lago Santa Margarita has changed: the young trees have developed beautiful canopies, birds have built nests around the Lake, and SAMLARC members loop around the Lake in growing numbers – always framed by the serene waters and the majestic mountains. Now, the Lake is undergoing another change; this one for both its health and beauty.

As you walk around the Lago Santa Margarita, you will notice new additions to the Lake – twenty-two floating botanical islands. Part of the Lake Ecosystem Repair Project, these islands serve important role in restoring the Lake’s health and beauty: their underwater root systems help to keep golden algae at bay.

The islands’ plants were carefully selected for both beauty and effectiveness. The foliage of plants such as canna lilies, waterhyssop, and papyrus complement the movement of the Lake, while their underwater roots create shelters for fish and turtles – and, most importantly, quickly absorb nutrients within the water. The plants consume the same nutrients as golden algae, but they do so more rapidly than golden algae, limiting the amount of available nutrients within the water. This reduces the golden algae’s ability to reproduce (known as a bloom). As golden algae blooms are toxic to fish, it is important to nurture the islands’ root systems so that fish can be reintroduced to the Lake.

The islands were planted and “incubated” in the Beach Club harbor over the winter months so that they could adjust to their aquatic home and develop hardy root systems. They were towed to their permanent locations during the week of May 6, 2019, and are anticipated to showcase beautiful foliage throughout the summer. The islands are an important part of the Lake Ecosystem Repair Project, which aims to revitalize the Lake’s ecosystem so that fish, fowl, and fauna work in harmony.

Over the past few months, a few batches of small “feeder fish” have been introduced to the Lake. These fish (mosquitofish, fathead minnows, and rosy red minnows) are known for their hardiness and insectivorous diets, which reduce aquatic insect activity. Additionally, 1,000 bluegill were released into the Lake in May, and continue to thrive. Once water quality levels indicate that the Lake is viable for aquatic life, larger “game fish” will be reintroduced to the Lake.

Updates on the Lake’s ecosystem, islands, and aquatic life will be provided at SAMLARC.org as they develop. For questions regarding the botanical islands, please contact George Blair, Assistant General Manager, at 949-709-0014 or george.blair@fsresidential.com.

Lake Update

May 18, 2019

We encourage you to enjoy the sunshine at the Lago Santa Margarita during this beautiful season – and to admire the newly-launched floating botanical islands along the Lake! From the delicate white blossoms of water hyssop to the regal ripples of papyrus fronds, the botanical islands enhance the Lake’s beauty and help balance its water quality. As the plants establish underwater root systems, they quickly absorb the nutrients that golden algae needs in order to reproduce, or bloom. Fewer, weaker golden algae blooms will allow the water quality to slowly re-balance and lead to the re-introduction of fish into the Lake. In addition, SAMLARC has embarked on the second phase of the Lake Ecosystem Repair Project: reducing the levels of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) in the Lake.

TDS levels indicate the concentration of elements and salinity in the water column. Additionally, golden algae has historically bloomed more frequently in environments where TDS levels are high. The floating islands help to combat golden algae by absorbing nutrients – simultaneously assisting in reducing TDS levels. However, floating islands alone will not neutralize TDS levels or golden algae blooms. In February 2019, the Lago Santa Margarita Ad Hoc Committee launched the second phase of the Lake Ecosystem Repair Project: The Lake Water Exchange Project. This Project will assist in reducing the TDS levels by exchanging a portion of the Lake’s highly-saturated water with fresh water from the Lake fill.

Over the course of the Project, approximately one-third of the Lake’s volume will be gradually removed and replenished with fresh water. Working in partnership with the Santa Margarita Water District, the “original” water will be channeled into the sewer system through a pump on the west side of the Lake. The pump was selected to slowly reduce the volume of the Lake with minimal impact to Members: it runs quietly between the hours of 10:00 p.m. at 6:00 a.m., and the size of its sewer connection is sufficiently small enough that the rate of water flow will render the removal virtually unnoticeable. The Project began on February 12, 2019 and will take approximately 208 days to complete. The Project does not pose a threat to the wildlife around the Lake, nor will it interfere with Members’ enjoyment of the SAMLARC watercrafts over the summer.

Both the Project and the floating botanical islands are invaluable in bringing the Lake back to life. When TDS and water quality tests indicate that the water chemistry of the Lake is viable for aquatic life, the Lake will be stocked with fish again! We look forward to a new chapter in the Lago Santa Margarita’s life, and thank you for your patience as we continue to revitalize the Lago Santa Margarita’s health and beauty!

Insect Activity at the Lake

March 23, 2019

As Orange County’s rainy season begins to subside and warmer weather approaches, visitors to the Lake may notice a few flying insects near the Lakeshore. SAMLARC’s Beach Club & Aquatic Facilities Manager, Jerry Corpuz, worked closely with Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District to determine the species and its potential impacts on Members’ use of the Lakeshore Park. 

Based on Vector Control’s inspection of the Lakeshore, Vector Control has determined that the insects around the Lake are fungus gnats. Samples of the insects were collected by Vector Control to confirm the initial assessment, and SAMLARC is coordinating with its professional landscape and pest control providers to develop a treatment plan once the species is confirmed. 

Fungus gnats are small, dark flying insects that are primarily active in early mornings and early evenings. The life cycle of a fungus gnat is primarily soil-bound: eggs are laid in moist soil, larval and pupal stages are spent on top of the soil and nearby vegetation, and then emerge as flying adults. Fungus gnats pose no threat to humans or pets as they do not bite or carry diseases; they are considered a nuisance insect. 

The insects thrive in moist conditions, particularly during the rainy California winters. The recent rains have saturated the ground soil throughout the Lakeshore Park, which draws more fungus gnat activity. Seasons that fluctuate between cold and warm weather, as have been experienced over the last few weeks, prompt faster development of the fungus gnats. 

The average life cycle of a fungus gnat spans about 17 days, with only 8 days as flying adults. During that period, visitors to the Lake may observe small clusters of the insects in the early mornings and evenings. Though these insects are an unfortunate nuisance, they pose no threat to humans, pets, or wildlife as they do not bite and are not known to carry human pathogens. It is anticipated that the bulk of the insects’ activity will subside as the period of inclement weather passes and warm weather dries out the soil. 

SAMLARC is researching the most effective means of mitigating the fungus gnat population and anticipates developing a treatment plan during the week of March 25, 2019. 

Lake Water Exchange Project

February 06, 2019

With the successful completion of phase one of the Lake Restoration Project, the second phase of the project consists of removing approximately 11,000,000 gallons of Lake water and replacing the water with fresh water from the Lake fill.  The purpose of this phase is to lower the Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) levels that have been shown to promote golden algae blooms when the TDS levels are too high.  On Tuesday, February 12, 2019, site mobilization will begin at the Lakeshore. SAMLARC and the Santa Margarita Water District are coordinating joint efforts to begin draining the Lake water and replenishing with fresh water fill. The scope of work includes the installation of a pump in the Lake to channel water into the sewer manhole located adjacent to the Lakeshore walkway. This area will be sectioned off with fencing, but will not impede pedestrians on the walkway. The Lake draining will occur between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. and will take approximately 208 days to complete, as the draining process has been designed to slowly lower the water levels and not impact the aesthetics of the Lake. 

For questions related to the Project, please contact Cary Haine, Construction Project Manager at 949-709-0018 or cary.haine@fsresidential.com

Lake Diffusers Create Temporary Foam

December 20, 2018

As part of the Lake Ecosystem Restoration Project, eleven fine-bubble diffusers were installed along the Lakebed. These diffusers send minuscule air bubbles throughout the water column. By forcing air upward through the Lake, the diffusers “turn” the water volume of the Lake and assist in improving water quality by oxygenating the water, reducing sediment build-up, and stirring up nutrients for consumption by the new botanical islands.

A temporary effect of the new diffuser system may be observed for the next few weeks at the Lake: small clusters of white foam on the water surface above the diffusers. The foaming of surface waters on lakes is a natural process, prompted by reduction of surface tension mixed with air. As small particles of organic matter and sediment are released into the water column, they reduce the surface tension of the water. The surface tension is also reduced by the streams of air bubbles which create additional turbulence in the water. The combination of air, particles, currents, and fine bubbles result in this harmless foam.

As the diffusers were activated in late November 2018, the potency of the new diffusers may temporarily increase the quantity of foam. Measuring roughly three feet in diameter, these diffusers are estimated to turn over the Lake’s water approximately four times per day. While the foam may be observed in the early mornings at the Lake, the sun and wind dispel the foam over the course of the morning. It is anticipated that the amounts of foam will gradually decrease as the diffusers fulfill their purpose and assist in bringing the Lake back to a healthy state.

For questions regarding the Lake Ecosystem Restoration Project, please contact George Blair, Assistant General Manager at 949-709-0014 or george.blair@fsresidential.com

Lake Ecosystem Restoration Project Complete

December 10, 2018

The Lake Ecosystem Restoration Project is complete and all components are hard at work in the Lago Santa Margarita! The plants on the floating botanical islands have been pruned back in order to develop strong underwater root systems, which will help deter golden algae blooms. It is anticipated that the foliage will return by mid-2019, after which the islands will be towed to their permanent locations around the Lake.

 

While the islands develop at the surface of the Lake, the fine-bubble diffusers are hard at work oxygenating the water. As sediment and nutrients begin to rise, small quantities of foam may be observed in the morning. It is anticipated that this natural process will subside within a few months as the Lake's water quality improves.

 

 Thank you for your patience as we restore the Lake's health and beauty! For questions regarding the Restoration Project, please contact Cary Haine, Capital & Reserve Project Manager at 949-709-0018 or cary.haine@fsresidential.com

The Flora and Function of Floating Islands

December 10, 2018

Visitors to the Lago Santa Margarita Beach Club may have noticed a few new features in the harbor: twenty-two floating botanical islands. These islands are part of the Lake Ecosystem Restoration Project, and will be valuable instruments in maintaining the Lake’s health and beauty. The Lake Ad Hoc Committee worked closely with Eco Lake Solutions to ensure the islands complement the Lake’s natural viewscape while deterring golden algae growth.

The floating islands were delivered and planted in November and December of 2018. Each island covers approximately 52 square feet and hosts approximately sixty plants. The plants on the islands have been curated for both beauty and effectiveness in water quality management. Tall plants such as papyrus and canna lilies in the center of the island will draw the eye upward and towards the peak of the Santa Ana Mountains. Plants that trail over the edges of the islands, like water clover, fairy lily, and water hyssop will visually blend the islands into the waterline. Filling the space between, perennials and shrubs such as calla lilies and water mint will add depth and fullness to the islands. Each of these plants has deep root systems that take well to aquatic habitats and outpace the growth of golden algae.

As each plant adjusts to its new home on the islands, the shoot (or above-ground portion of the plant) will be pruned so the plant can focus its energy on creating hardy underwater root systems. This process can take approximately six to nine months, during which the plants will be held in the Beach Club harbor. Though the islands will look bare for a few months, the plants will be hard at work developing root systems that will display lush foliage in time. The plants will “incubate” in the Beach Club harbor for approximately six months as they adjust to their new environment.

In order to protect the shoots once they have re-established, bird fencing has been erected along the perimeter of each island to deter birds from eating the new plants. It is anticipated that the size of the fencing will be diminished once the Lake’s waterfowl learn to avoid the islands. Fencing is critical to maintaining the shoots’ health so that the islands can be effective underwater in combating golden algae growth.

Beach Club visitors can expect to see baby plants slowly growing on the islands over the winter and spring months. It is anticipated that the islands will be towed to their permanent locations around the Lake in mid-2019, after which fish may be re-introduced into the Lake.

For questions regarding the Lake Ecosystem Restoration Project, please contact George Blair, Assistant General Manager at 949-709-0014 or george.blair@fsresidential.com.

Lake Ecosystem Restoration Project Breaks Ground

October 23, 2018

This week marks the arrival of key components of the Lake Ecosystem Restoration Project: Fine bubble diffusers and floating botanical islands. These components will work together to help revitalize the Lake’s health and beauty.

 

The fine bubble diffusers will be installed along the Lakebed in eleven (11) designated locations. Fine bubble diffusers send air upward from the Lakebed, creating substantial water movement throughout the Lake. Water movement reduces sediment buildup and increases oxygen levels – key factors in ongoing water quality management and in providing nutrients for floating botanical islands.

 

Floating botanical islands will be instrumental in combating golden algae growth. Working in partnership with the Lake Ad Hoc Committee, SAMLARC vendor Eco Lake Solutions has created an island plant palette curated for deep roots and beauty. The palette includes plants such as dwarf papyrus, water spearmint, calla lilies, and a variety of grasses to harmonize with the landscape surrounding the Lake. As the plants develop underwater root systems, they will compete with golden algae for the nutrients within the Lake – reducing the potency and frequency of golden algae blooms. This will lead to a Lake that is able to sustain a healthy fish population, restoring the natural rhythms of the Lake’s ecosystem.

 

Over the month of November, SAMLARC vendor Eco Lake Solutions will place the twenty-two (22) islands in their temporary home in the Beach Club harbor. Once the islands have been planted, they will remain in the harbor for approximately six months as the plants adjust to their new environment. Immediately after planting, the foliage will be pruned so that the plants expend their energy creating hardy root systems. The foliage that grows back will be heartier than if the plants were permitted to remain in full foliage. After the plants have become established and the foliage has filled in, the islands will be towed to their designated locations around the Lake’s perimeter.

 

Diffuser placement and island construction is anticipated to be completed by December 7, 2018..

It is anticipated that the islands will be ready to emerge from the harbor nursery in mid-2019, when they will be towed to their designated locations. The Restoration Project is a valuable component of the Lake Ecosystem Repair Project, and will prepare the water quality for the Repair Project’s future utilization of recycled water initiatives.

For questions regarding the Project, please contact George Blair, Assistant General Manager at 949-709-0014 or george.blair@fsresidential.com.

Bringing Health and Beauty to the Lakeshore: Lake Ecosystem Restoration Project

October 23, 2018

​The Lake Ecosystem Restoration and Repair Projects aim to revitalize the Lake’s health and beauty. These projects will work in tandem to balance the Lake’s water quality, sustain healthy wildlife, and mitigate golden algae blooms. The Restoration Project is a valuable component of the Lake Ecosystem Repair Project and will help prepare the Lake’s water quality for use in recycled water initiatives.

Background: Golden Algae

Golden algae is a naturally-occurring, single-celled organism that thrives in bodies of water that are high in salinity, high in nutrients, and low in oxygen. These conditions offer golden algae the food that makes it thrive and prompts algae blooms (periods of mass reproduction). During a bloom, golden algae releases a toxin that targets gill-breathing organisms, causing fish kills. Fish kills are disruptive to the Lake’s ecosystem as well as the Community’s ability to fish in the Lake.

 

Repair vs. Restoration Projects

The Repair Project was created in 2017 to determine and arrest the cause of golden algae blooms (the reason for fish kills). This project is comprised of three main components:

  1. Partial draining and refilling of the Lake with water. This would rid the Lake of nutrient-laden water and bring water into the Lake, balancing out the excessive nutrient and salinity levels.

  2. Installation of a pump at the south end of the Lake to flush nutrient-laden water out of the Lake and into the Lakeshore irrigation systems.

  3. Construction of a water fill feature (e.g. waterfall) to bring recycled water into the Lake.

 

As the Repair Project developed, Management learned that Santa Margarita Water District estimates large-scale recycled water initiatives are scheduled to become available in 2021, at which point recycled water grants and rebates will be available to offset costs. Management also learned of another water quality management method that would supplement the Repair Project well. East Lake Village in Yorba Linda implemented floating botanical islands, which have helped to reduce the frequency and potency of golden algae blooms. At the August 2018 Board Meeting, the Board moved to expand the timeline of the Repair Project through 2022, and to incorporate the Restoration Project into this timeline, to be completed in 2018.

The Restoration Project was created in 2018 to balance the Lake’s water quality, mitigate golden algae blooms, and prepare the Lake for completion of the Repair Project. The Restoration Project will be completed in three phases:

  • Phase 1: Lake infrastructure modifications and installation of floating botanical islands.

  • Phase 2: Partial Lake drain and refill with recycled water.

  • Phase 3: Construction of a water fill feature (same as Repair Project).

 

Phase 1 includes two key elements:

  1. Installation of twenty-two (22) floating botanical islands along the perimeter of the Lake. Floating botanical islands will absorb excess nutrient buildup, provide underwater havens for fish, and help oxygenate the water.

  2. Installation of fine-bubble diffusers on the bottom of the Lake. Fine bubble diffusers force minuscule air bubbles up through the Lake, creating water movement and increasing oxygen levels within the water. The water movement will loosen the sediments along the bottom of the Lake, making more nutrients available for plants.

 

These elements supplement the long-term goals of the Repair Project by providing competition for golden algae, increasing water movement, and reducing the levels of nutrients in the water.

Floating Islands Function:

The botanical islands act as floating plant beds. The plants on each island will send roots down into the Lake’s nutrient-laden water. As the plants grow, they will establish complex root systems that thrive on the nutrients in the water, competing with the golden algae population. The golden algae will not be able to gain control of the nutrient resources, as the total square footage of the islands has been calculated to outperform the golden algae. When denied nutrients, the golden algae will not be able to grow and bloom as potently or frequently. Additionally, the root systems will both oxygenate the water and provide underwater havens for aquatic life.

Floating Islands Design:

  • There will be 22 islands organically clustered in groups of two or three along the perimeter of the Lake. Placement has been determined by the Lake Ad Hoc Committee.

  • The islands are planted with a plant palette curated for deep roots, hardiness, and aesthetics. Plant arrangement has been determined by the Lake Ad Hoc Committee.

  • The islands will be anchored in place, but can be relocated if necessary.

  • Eco Lake Solutions is the island design firm, and will be maintaining the islands. Lake Management, Inc. is the Lake’s water quality management and maintenance vendor.

 

Tentative Restoration Project Timeline:

  • Monday, October 8: Trenching (digging) begins at Lakeshore to prep electrical work.

  • Tuesday, October 9: Electrical work begins at Lakeshore.

  • Friday, October 12: Trenching and electric scheduled to conclude.

  • Monday, October 22 – November 30: Installation of diffusers on the Lake bed and islands in the harbor the Lake to foster healthy root establishment.

 

Ecosystem Impacts:

The floating islands and fine bubble diffusers will prepare the Lake’s water chemistry for the completion of the Repair Project (anticipated 2022). While complete eradication of golden algae is not possible, improved oxygen levels and reduced nutrients and salinity within the water will mitigate the possibility of a golden algae bloom. Additionally, proactive Lake management will closely monitor the fish for signs of stress in order to cut potential blooms short.

 

Fewer and weaker golden algae blooms will lead to a more hardy and abundant fish population, which will create natural food sources for birds and offer community members the opportunity to recreationally fish again.

 

SAMLARC and the Lake Ad Hoc Committee are working closely with vendors to pursue the most effective solutions for the Lake’s health and beauty.

To follow the Lake Ecosystem Restoration Project, visit the Lake Updates page. For questions about the Lake Ecosystem Restoration Project, please contact George Blair, Assistant General Manager at 949-709-0014 or george.blair@fsresidential.com.

October Aquatic Midge Fly Treatment Update

October 11, 2018

​At the September 25, 2018 Board of Directors Meeting, the Board approved an additional three aquatic midge fly treatments at the Lake to mitigate the flies’ natural reproductive season. The first round of treatment took place on October 5th, and the second round is scheduled to take place during the week of October 22nd. The duration of each period’s efficacy lasts for three to four weeks; the final round of treatment is scheduled for early November and is anticipated to last through the end of the aquatic midge fly reproductive season.

The aquatic midge fly treatments implement the use of Strike, a growth inhibitor compound that arrests midge fly larvae growth. By inhibiting the maturation of the larvae, they cannot develop wings to emerge from the water and reproduce. Within a few weeks of each round of treatment, a significant drop in the population can be observed. While the compound does not eradicate the winged adult aquatic midge flies, the adult lifespan only lasts for approximately ten days. The treatment does not pose a threat to fish, turtles, crawfish, or other aquatic life.

For questions regarding the treatment plan, please contact Jerry Corpuz, Beach Club & Aquatic Facilities Manager at 949-709-4009 or jerry.corpuz@fsresidential.com

Lake Ecosystem Restoration Project Begins

October 08, 2018

​As summer turns to autumn and cooler weather sets in, be on the lookout for a Lake transformation. SAMLARC’s new Lake maintenance company, Lake Management, is implementing the Aquatic Midge Treatment Plan to arrest the growth of the aquatic midge fly population, reduce algae growth, and increase water clarity; a plan that has already begun to produce results. Over the months of October and November, an even greater change will begin: The Lake Ecosystem Restoration Project.

The Restoration Project, approved at the August 2018 Board Meeting, aims to build an aquatic ecosystem that both fosters healthy aquatic life, improves water quality, and deters golden algae. The objective of the Project is to re-balance the Lake’s mineral and nutrient levels without sustained dependence on chemical treatment. This Project is a component of the large-scale Lake Ecosystem Repair Project and will help to prepare the water quality for eventual irrigation usage.

Board Director Dennis Reid, who is also the Chair of the Lake Ad Hoc Committee, met with SAMLARC Staff and vendors on September 10, 2018 to discuss the shape and placement of the floating botanical islands, and again on October 8, 2018 to discuss the plants which will populate the islands. Twenty-two (22) islands will be placed along the perimeter of the Lake, each covering approximately fifty-two (52) square feet. The islands will host about sixty (60) plants per island, creating lush accents above the waterline and nutrient-absorbing root systems underwater. The plants for each island will be carefully selected from a palette of plants proven to thrive on floating islands in Southern California. These plants must include root systems that flourish in nutrient-laden environments, withstand Rancho Santa Margarita’s long and hot summers, and enhance the Lake’s natural beauty.

The project will be executed by Eco Lake Solutions, Inc. Jonathan Todd, the company’s founder, has extensive experience in using botanical islands in water quality management. Eco Lake Solutions’ floating island projects have revitalized water quality management systems and conservation efforts, with some projects located as far abroad as China. One of the company’s most local projects is in Yorba Linda’s East Lake Village. Since the implementation of botanical islands in 2017, East Lake has seen a revitalization of aquatic life and water quality – without massive golden algae blooms. It is anticipated that the Lago Santa Margarita’s botanical islands will similarly absorb excess nutrients, aerate the water and provide havens for fish, leading to a beautiful Lake for all.

In addition to botanical islands, the Restoration Project will also implement fine bubble aerators into the Lake. Eleven (11) aerator disks, placed in various spots on the bottom of the Lake, will release a stream of miniscule bubbles through the water column. Each disk produces approximately eleven billion bubbles per day; when all eleven disks work in tandem, they will be able to turn over the Lake’s volume of water five times per day. This will increase oxygen in the Lake and improving clarity and reducing the build-up of sediment.

The Landscape and Facilities Enhancement Committee will meet on September 18th to discuss a plant palette appropriate for SAMLARC’s aesthetics and efficient nutrient absorption. The island bases will arrive at the Lago Santa Margarita Beach Club during the week of October 22nd, after which they will be planted and placed in the water. The process is anticipated to span approximately two weeks, with staging to take place near the Beach Club. The Project is anticipated to be completed by November 16, 2018.

Timeline:

Monday, October 8: Trenching begins at Lakeshore to prepare for electrical work.

Tuesday, October 9: Electrical work begins at Lakeshore.

Friday, October 12: Trenching and electric scheduled to conclude.

Monday, October 22: Island planting and placement, with staging near the Beach Club.

Friday, November 16: Project scheduled to conclude.

The Lake Ecosystem Restoration Project is a component of the Lake Ecosystem Repair Project, which will commence when reclaimed water grants and rebates become available, and when the Lake’s water quality is sufficiently balanced for irrigation usage.

For questions regarding the Lake Ecosystem Restoration Project, please contact George Blair, Assistant General Manager at 949-709-0014 or george.blair@fsresidential.com.

Board Approves Additional Midge Fly Treatments

September 28, 2018

​During early and mid-summer of this year, the Lakeshore and Beach Club experienced a significant increase in aquatic midge fly activity. Following the initial round of aquatic midge fly treatments (approved on August 22, 2018), a drastic reduction in the aquatic midge fly population was observed and lasted for approximately three weeks. After this period, the aquatic midge flies began to reproduce again in large numbers. Large pockets of flies have been observed around the Lakeshore and Beach Club since then, negatively affecting visitors’ Lakeside experiences.

The Board of Directors approved three additional aquatic midge fly treatments at the September 25, 2018 Board Meeting. These treatments will implement the use of Strike, a growth inhibitor compound that aims to arrest midge fly larvae growth. If an aquatic midge fly larva cannot mature, it cannot develop wings to emerge from the water and reproduce. This means that within a few weeks, the numbers of aquatic midge flies spotted around the Lake will be significantly reduced. While the compound does not eradicate the winged adult aquatic midge flies, the adult lifespan only lasts for approximately ten days. The treatment does not pose a threat to fish, turtles, crawfish, or other aquatic life.

The first round of treatment took place on September 28th, and will last for a period of approximately two to three weeks. The second treatment will take place 14-21 days following the first treatment and the third treatment will take place 14-21 days following the second treatment.  It is anticipated that these proactive treatments will assist in mitigating the population for the duration of the aquatic midge fly season which is projected to end mid to late November.

For questions regarding the treatment plan, please contact Jerry Corpuz, Beach Club & Aquatic Facilities Manager at 949-709-4009 or jerry.corpuz@fsresidential.com

New Lake Maintenance Vendor Makes Improvements

September 20, 2018

​​SAMLARC’s new Lake maintenance vendor, Lake Management, began on September 1, 2018. Within a few short weeks, the Lake has already begun to return to its beautiful state. The Lake’s water clarity was measured at 4 feet this week – a vast improvement from the appearance of the water over the summer. It is anticipated that SAMLARC’s partnership with Lake Management and the commencement of the Lake Ecosystem Restoration Project will continue to beautify, clarify, and reinvigorate the Lake’s ecosystem.

The staff of Lake Management, Inc. offers three generations of lake design and maintenance experience. President Dave Glenn’s father designed many of the Lakes throughout Southern California, including the Lago Santa Margarita in 1985 and Irvine's Woodbridge Lake in 1976. Harlann Glenn’s work has also been featured in communities further afield: he designed the water features of the Mirage Hotel and the Treasure Island Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Dave Glenn’s firsthand experience in managing lakes, fountains, pools, and koi ponds of all sizes has established a wealth of information that helps the company keep water features clean and balanced.

Currently, Lake Management performs maintenance at the Lake three times per week. During this time, water quality is measured in relationship to fish viability, the Lake is treated for algae growth, and aquatic midge fly treatments are applied. The materials used by Lake Management are non-toxic to aquatic life, and provide effective maintenance measures. Historically, October heat has strained golden algae levels across all of Southern California. According to Glenn, the most effective method of avoiding a mass golden algae bloom is to closely monitor fish behavior and treating the golden algae presence within 36 hours.

SAMLARC is also taking strides to enhance its daily Lake maintenance staffing. A proposal is included in the 2019 Proposed Budget to approve an Active Lake Management Program. If approved, this Program includes daily monitoring of Lake water chemistry, debris and filter care, and general Lake operations maintenance. The 2019 Proposed Budget is scheduled to be considered by the Board of Directors at the Budget Workshop on Tuesday, October 9, 2018.

For questions about SAMLARC’s Lake maintenance procedures, please contact Jerry Corpuz, SAMLARC Beach Club & Aquatic Facilities Manager at 949-709-4009 or jerry.corpuz@fsresidential.com

Photo courtesy of SAMLARC Member Maresa Peralta

Portrait of a Healthy Lake (Rancho Life Fall 2018)

September 17, 2018

The Lago Santa Margarita is a focal point of the SAMLARC community and a popular destination for leisure and recreation. The Lake’s current state impacts not only the Membership’s experiences at the Lake, but the ecosystem as a whole. The SAMLARC Board of Directors is committed to pursuing the most effective solutions available to restore the Lake’s health and beauty. Revitalizing the waters of the Lake itself will have a tremendous, positive impact on the Lake ecosystem, resulting in a serene environment for the community – fish, fowl or friend – to enjoy.

Flow:

The Lake holds 31 million gallons of water, covering 11.5 surface acres. Over the past 33 years, much of that water has evaporated under the hot California sun. Although the water is replenished, the evaporation over the years has resulted in an increased concentration of nutrients and salinity, altering the Lake’s water quality and clarity. The most effective method of mitigating the high concentration of nutrients and salinity is the partial draining of the Lake water and introduction of fresh water into the Lake. The movement of water throughout the Lake will also increase its oxygen levels, which will help keep excessive nutrient buildup at bay. A healthy Lake will not only look beautiful, but demonstrate balance in within its water column.

Fauna:

The current, disproportionate levels of nutrients and salinity in the Lake nurture golden algae. When conditions are right, the algae blooms and rapidly reproduces in massive quantities, creating the distinct green and copper colors in the water. Though it may be tempting to rid the Lake of all algae, a healthy Lake includes a thriving algal community. Benign strains of algae, generally categorized as phytoplankton, offer many benefits to the Lake’s ecosystem. They act as food for fish and other aquatic life and produce oxygen while absorbing carbon dioxide during photosynthesis. Additionally, the implementation of botanical plant islands into the Lake will also help absorb excess levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in the water column, provide organic matter for algae and bacteria to decompose, provide a food source for waterfowl and create underwater havens for fish and other aquatic life.

Fish:

From the Lake’s first filling in 1985 until 2014, the Lake supported an abundant fish population. The Lake was stocked twice a year with hundreds of pounds of fish. Community members enjoyed year-round recreational fishing on the Lake and an annual Fishing Derby was held every June. In 2014, the Lake experienced its first massive golden algae bloom, which released a toxin called prymnesin and created a hostile environment for fish, causing a “fish kill” where all of the fish perished. However, a well-balanced Lake will be able to foster a flourishing fish habitat: bass, trout, bluegill and catfish, as well as crawdads, turtles and other aquatic life. Fish also act as a natural method of wildlife management. For example, fish feed on aquatic midge flies’ underwater larvae, cutting down the population before the flies have the opportunity to hatch and mature. The fish also act as a food source for the waterfowl around the Lake. The reintroduction of fish into the Lake will create new opportunities for recreational fishing – including the reinstatement of the annual Fishing Derby!

 

Fowl:

Canada geese, mallards and the occasional American Coot are presently the most frequent visitors of the Lake. A healthy Lake ecosystem exhibits great diversity in its waterfowl. Great egrets, herons, and even American white pelicans visit lakes to feed on fish, grass, and insects. The feeding habits of these waterfowl help to keep the insect population at bay and provide more competition for aggressive species such as the Canada goose. Additionally, tree-dwelling species of birds such as the tree swallow are primarily insectivores. One tree swallow can consume hundreds of thousands of insects each year! Birds of all shapes and sizes play a vital – and beautiful – role in the Lake ecosystem.

Friends:

The Lago Santa Margarita is a treasured space within the SAMLARC community. It serves as a gathering place for families and friends, a convenient locale for recreational activity and an important stage in community events. A healthy Lake will enhance the loveliness of the distinct SAMLARC lifestyle during these activities. Community members will be able to spend time meditating on the calm waters against the backdrop of the Santiago mountains. Kayaking and pedal boat trips on the Lake will be serene explorations of the Lake’s bends. Community events such as the annual Christmas Tree Lighting and Carols ‘Round the Lake will be enhanced by the ambiance of a beautiful blue lake and the parties and weddings held at the Amphitheater will be enriched by a Lake that proudly displays its beauty.

SAMLARC’s aim is to restore the Lake ecosystem, creating an idyllic environment for its community and wildlife. SAMLARC is continuing to pursue the most ecologically responsible and effective methods of Lake stewardship possible. Please follow the progress of the Lake Ecosystem Restoration Project and Lake Ecosystem Repair Project at SAMLARC.org/Lake-Updates. We thank you for your patience as we diligently work to bring the Lake back to a healthy and beautiful state!

Fish and Fowl at Lago Santa Margarita

September 14, 2018

Within just a few weeks of treatment, the Lake is beginning to display its beauty again!

The Algae and Aquatic Midge Fly Treatment Plan began on September 4th and has already begun to significantly reduce the midge fly population, lower algae levels, and clarify the Lake’s water. The treatment does not pose a threat to fish, turtles, crawfish, or other aquatic life. In fact, it has become easy to spot the underwater aquatic life. Be on the lookout for fathead minnows, mosquitofish, and crawdads!

As the minnow and mosquitofish have adjusted to the Lake, their numbers are beginning to grow. Several schools of these small, hardy fish have been spotted darting about the Lake – and have caught the eye of long-unseen waterfowl such as the brown night heron. We look forward to the return of the Lake’s health, beauty, and wildlife.

It is anticipated that the Midge Fly Treatment Plan will assist in arresting the aquatic midge fly population through the remainder of their reproductive season. We look forward to beginning a new season with blue waters and clear skies.

For questions concerning the Aquatic Midge Fly Treatment Plan, please contact Jerry Corpuz, Beach Club & Facilities Manager at 949-709-4009 or jerry.corpuz@fsresidential.com

Midge Treatment Process Update

September 04, 2018

​The first phase of the Aquatic Midge Fly Treatment Plan began on Tuesday, September 4th. This plan was approved by the Board at the August 28, 2018 Board Meeting to assist in the mitigation of the aquatic midge fly population. Lake Management, SAMALRC’s new Lake maintenance vendor, is responsible for administering the treatment and will be closely monitoring the Lake for the flies’ response.

Aluminum sulfate was added into the lake during the morning of Tuesday, September 4th. This compound pulls floating particles and sediment to the bottom of the Lake, improving water clarity. A Strike pellet treatment (which disrupts and arrests the midge fly life cycle) was applied during the morning of Wednesday, September 5th. The second treatment of aluminum sulfate is scheduled for Friday, September 7th, and copper sulfate (which reduces available food sources for aquatic midge flies) will be added to the Lake on Monday, September 10th. The treatment does not pose a threat to fish, turtles, crawfish, or other aquatic life. It is anticipated that visible reductions in midge fly population will be observed within three weeks. Once fully effective, the treatment is anticipated to last for thirty days or more.

For questions concerning the Aquatic Midge Fly Treatment Plan, please contact Jerry Corpuz, Beach Club & Facilities Manager. He can be reached at 949-709-4009 or jerry.corpuz@fsresidential.com

Board Approves Algae & Aquatic Midge Fly Treatment Plan

August 30, 2018

​​Over the summer of 2018, Southern California has experienced a dramatic increase in aquatic midge fly activity, and the Lago Santa Margarita has seen a similar swell in its aquatic midge fly population. Though the aquatic midge fly is harmless and a normal part of the Lake’s ecosystem, the abundance of flies has detracted from the Community’s pleasant experiences at the Lake over the summer. At the August 28, 2018 Meeting of the Board of Directors, the Board approved a three-step treatment plan to assist in the mitigation of the aquatic midge fly population.

The three-step treatment plan will begin on Wednesday, September 5th and is anticipated to become fully effective within three weeks, lasting thirty days or more. The treatment plan applied to the water poses no threat to the aquatic life currently in the Lake – fish, crawfish, and turtles will not be harmed. The plan consists of the implementation of copper sulfate, aluminum sulfate, and Strike to help contest the growth of the midge fly population.

The first element to be applied to the water will be Strike, which arrests the growth and reproduction cycle of aquatic midge flies. After a one-day waiting period, aluminum sulfate will then be applied to the water: aluminum sulfate pulls floating sediments and particles to the bottom of the Lake, improving clarity. After another day, copper sulfate will be applied to the water to diminish the algae within the Lake – reducing available food sources for aquatic midge flies.

The treatment will be implemented by SAMLARC’s new Lake vendor, Lake Management, Inc. beginning Wednesday, September 5th. This treatment is a 14-21 day process, and is anticipated to last for over 30 days. Due to the length of the fly life cycle and the specific mode of action of Strike products, reduction in the aquatic midge fly population occurs roughly 2 weeks after treatment.

For questions about the Midge Fly Treatment Plan, please contact Jerry Corpuz, Beach Club and Aquatic Facilities Manager. He can be reached at 949-409-4009 or jerry.corpuz@fsresidential.com

Aquatic Midge Flies around the Lake: August Update

August 23, 2018

​SAMLARC recognizes that the density of aquatic midge fly population poses a hindrance to Lakeside visitors and residents, marring the serenity of the Lake during the early morning and evening hours. Though complete eradication of the aquatic midge flies is not possible, SAMLARC has implemented the most ecologically responsible methods of midge fly mitigation.

Though the aquatic midge flies are an unfortunate nuisance, there are a few positive facts to keep in mind. Aquatic midge flies do not bite or carry diseases. The lifespan of an adult midge fly lasts between 3-5 days and their reproductive season typically comes to an end in the fall.

SAMLARC has implemented environmentally-sensitive long-term solutions aimed at returning fish to the Lake, which in turn will help manage the aquatic midge fly population. Over 5,000 hardy fish were introduced into the Lake: mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) and fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas), which have been spotted happily feeding on midge fly larvae ever since their introduction in July 2018. Additionally, fifteen tree swallow boxes have been installed in the trees around the Lake to attract tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor), which feed on adult midge flies. We anticipate that we will see a thriving tree swallow community develop in the spring.

As a large-scale project, commencement of the Lake Ecosystem Repair Project will dilute the nutrients in the Lake water, upon which midge larvae feed. In addition to this project, the Board will consider a short-term, supplementary treatment plan at the August 28th Board to span the last few weeks of the midge fly season. The proposed treatment plan includes measures to rapidly increase water clarity, reduce the presence of algae, and inhibit midge fly larval maturation. If approved, this treatment plan would begin in September, implemented by Lake Management, Inc., SAMLARC’s new Lake management vendor. According to Dave Glenn, owner of Lake Management, this treatment plan does not pose a threat to the Lake’s wildlife, and will help to arrest the growth of the midge fly population. The proposed treatment will take up to three weeks to be fully effective, and will last thirty days or more, which will stretch beyond the projected midge fly season. We recognize that these projects will take time to produce results, and thank you for your patience as we work to implement ecologically friendly, effective mitigation strategies.

The following recommendations may assist Lake visitors in diminishing their interactions with the aquatic midge flies until the cessation of the flies’ reproductive season, which should begin late next month.

Timing: Midge flies are attracted to cool, shady areas during the day, and bright lights in the evening. Consider adjusting the timing of Lake visits to avoid interacting with large numbers of flying adults.

Lakeside Property: If your property borders the Lake, temporary relief from infestations is possible by periodically washing down surfaces with a garden hose and high-pressure nozzle. As the midge flies are attracted to lights in the evening, consider closing window shades and directing outdoor lights away from the home.

While the presence of aquatic midge flies at the Lake is an unfortunate indication of the Lake’s imbalanced ecosystem, it points to the necessity of restoring the Lake to create an environment where fish can thrive to naturally reduce the aquatic midge fly population.

 For more information about the Lake Ecosystem Repair Project, please contact Jeremy Pipp, Assistant General Manager. He can be reached at 949-709-0014 or jeremy.pipp@fsresidential.com   

Tree Swallow Boxes Installed at the Lake

August 16, 2018

​In a unanimous decision at the July 24th SAMLARC Board of Directors Meeting, the Board approved measures to reduce the Lake’s aquatic midge fly population and reinvigorate the Lakeside ecosystem. In addition to introducing fathead minnows into the Lake, SAMLARC is creating an environment that attracts another natural predator of the aquatic midge fly: the tree swallow.

 

The tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) is a lovely blue and white bird – with a voracious appetite for midge flies. One tree swallow family can consume hundreds of thousands of insects each year, significantly decreasing the midge fly population. In fact, the Orange County Water District posits that tree swallows are “at least as effective as the historic use of pesticides.” This is a long-term approach; while there may not be immediate relief, facilitating a tree swallow population will naturally enhance the Lake’s ecosystem – and cut down on the aquatic midge fly population.

 

Ten tree swallow boxes have been installed in the mature trees around the Lake. Keep an eye out for these rectangular boxes in the sycamores, eucalyptuses, and alders near the Lake. Their pale green or light blue colors may make them difficult to spot at first – but they’re the perfect canvas to showcase SAMLARC’s artistic community!

For questions concerning the Lake Ecosystem Repair Project, please contact Jeremy Pipp, SAMLARC Assistant General Manager, at 949-709-0014 or jeremy.pipp@fsresidential.com

Minnow Release into Lago Santa Margarita

August 08, 2018

As you walk around the Lake, keep an eye out for these little minnows that were just released to help combat aquatic midge flies!

The fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) is a natural predator of aquatic midge flies, feeding on the flies’ underwater larvae. This is an important facet of midge fly population control: though chemical sprays provide temporary relief from adult swarms, underwater treatment is expensive and ineffectual. Fathead minnows offer a natural method of battling the larvae population, reducing the number of flies that reach adulthood. As water samples taken in July 2018 have shown sufficient decrease in golden algae levels (the primary instigator of fish kills), it has been determined that these hardy fish can be introduced to the Lake to mitigate the midge fly population without great strain on the Lake’s ecosystem.

 

We hope to see a reduction in the aquatic midge fly population within a few weeks, and we are continuing to research additional, environmentally-sensitive methods of midge fly population management!

Click HERE to watch the minnows' arrival in their new home!

For questions about the minnow release, please contact Jerry Corpuz, Beach Club & Aquatic Facilities Manager. He can be reached at 949-709-4009 or jerry.corpuz@fsresidential.com

Aquatic Midge Flies around the Lake: July Update

July 30, 2018

​If you’ve noticed flying insects around the Lake, you have also seen the reflection of an imbalanced Lake ecosystem. The creatures hovering near the Lakeshore are harmless aquatic midge flies. They may look a little like mosquitoes, but don’t worry! Midge flies do not bite, do not feed on blood, or carry diseases like true mosquitoes. They are an unfortunate nuisance, but also reflect the importance of a healthy Lake.

Aquatic midge flies (from the family Chironomidae) are a natural component of lake ecosystems worldwide. The life cycle of a midge fly spans between 3 and 7 days, from larva to adult. Swarms tend to occur throughout the summer, when the warm weather spurs reproduction. In a balanced ecosystem, midge flies play a valuable part in the larger food chain: several varieties of fish eat the underwater larvae casings, and other insects eat the flying adults.

However, as a result of the Lago Santa Margarita’s golden algae bloom and subsequent fish kills, the Lake no longer had the organic resources that would normally keep the midge population at bay. SAMLARC briefly considered insecticide treatments, but decided against harsh chemical sprays: fumigation only deters the population by 24 hours, and lingering fumes could pose a threat to the ecosystem and community at large.

At the July 24th, 2018 Board of Directors Meeting, the Board unanimously approved the introduction of fathead minnows into the Lake. The fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) is a natural predator of midge flies, feeding on the midge flies’ underwater larvae. This is an important facet of midge fly population control: though chemical sprays provide temporary relief from adult swarms, underwater treatment is expensive and ineffectual. Fathead minnows offer a natural method of battling the larvae population, reducing the number of flies that reach adulthood. As water samples taken in July 2018 have shown sufficient decrease in golden algae levels (the primary instigator of fish kills), it has been determined that these hardy fish can be introduced to the Lake to mitigate the midge fly population without great strain on the Lake’s ecosystem.

The fathead minnows were purchased on Friday, July 27th and are expected to arrive at the Lake on Tuesday, July 31st. We hope to see a reduction in the aquatic midge fly population within a few weeks, and we are continuing to research additional, environmentally-sensitive methods of midge fly population management.

Thank you for your patience as we research and implement the most impactful and sustainable methods of Lake ecosystem stewardship. Updates on the Lake Ecosystem Repair Project will be published as they become available.

For questions regarding the Lake, please contact Jerry Corpuz, Beach Club & Aquatic Facilities Manager. He can be reached at 949-709-4009, or jerry.corpuz@fsresidential.com

For more information on the Lake Ecosystem Repair Project, please contact Jeremy Pipp, SAMLARC Assistant General Manager. He can be reached at 949-709-0014, or jeremy.pipp@fsresidential.com

The Research Behind the Restoration

July 12, 2018

As lakes across the United States experience more frequent and aggressive outbreaks of golden algae, it has become imperative that lake management organizations learn to mitigate this harmful algae. SAMLARC has partnered with science and engineering professionals to determine the primary causes of golden algae and responsible methods of deterring harmful algal blooms within the Lago Santa Margarita. This partnership includes the Lake Ad Hoc Committee (including a veteran water quality engineer and NOAA fisheries biologist), architectural engineering firm Woodard & Curran, and leading algal ecology scholar Dr. David Caron.

Dr. Caron is the University of Southern California Associates Captain Allan Hancock Chair in Marine Science, a Professor of Biological Sciences, and head researcher of the USC Caron Protistan Aquatic Microbial Ecology Lab. In 2017, SAMLARC, the Lake Mission Viejo Association, and the Woodbridge Village Association commissioned an on-site study by Dr. Caron to determine possible ways to manage golden algae blooms. He examined each lake’s nutrient levels in comparison to known golden algae environments and compiled recommendations for each lake to reduce the chances of further outbreaks.

Of the three lakes, the Lago Santa Margarita demonstrated the highest concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus: essential nutrients for algal growth. Additionally, the Lake contained relatively high levels of salinity due to surface water evaporation. The combination of these factors creates a “tipping point,” which means the Lake environment fosters harmful algal blooms.

Dr. Caron’s general recommendation is to reduce excessive nutrient and salinity levels by the exchange or dilution of Lake water. This will create an environment that dissuades the development of harmful algal blooms. He further suggests avoiding heavy usage of copper sulfate (a common treatment that reduces algae levels) as it leaves a harsh chemical legacy in the water and does not address the toxicity of golden algae blooms – the primary cause of fish kills in the Lake.

In 2019, SAMLARC will construct a flow-through Lake fill system to mitigate the excessive nutrient buildup and restore the Lake’s ecosystem. This system will draw fresh water in, move the water through the Lake, and pump the old, nutrient-laden water into surrounding irrigation systems. The decrease in nitrogen, phosphorous, and salinity levels will deter further harmful  algal blooms. After nutrient levels have balanced, SAMLARC will be able to re-introduce fish, and the Lake’s ecosystem will thrive once again.

Project Phasing

June 20, 2018

Whether walking, biking, people-watching, or even caroling, the Lago Santa Margarita has always been a source of Community relaxation and connection. Over the past 18 months, the SAMLARC Board of Directors has sought out the most environmentally sensitive, community-conscious and viable method of Lake ecosystem stewardship. Following careful review and study by the Lake Ad Hoc Committee, the Board is moving forward with a restoration project to revitalize the Lake’s ecosystem without excessive dependence on chemical treatments.

While the Project was scheduled to take place this fall, following a thorough review of the overall project scope and timeline for completion, at the June 26, 2018 Board of Directors Meeting, the Board took action to complete the project in two phases.  Phase I is the design phase which will be completed in 2018, and Phase II is the construction phase, to take place from January through May 2019.  There are multiple benefits to phasing the project and starting the construction phase in 2019 including:

  • Diminished impact to homeowners as Lakeshore usage decreases during the winter months

  • The cooler winter months may assist in reducing possible odors that could arise when the Lake water level is dropped

  • Drought level sensitivity: Santa Margarita Water District has expressed a preference to supply the Lake re-fill water during the winter, when drought levels and water demand decrease

  • A larger pool of reputable contractors will be available to bid the project during the winter months, at more competitive pricing as industry work slows

  • Additional time to accommodate any unforeseen impediments to the construction process

 

Phasing the Project will result in a thoroughly-attuned Lake pump system with plenty of time to spare before the summer recreation season begins. Ultimately, the Project will provide a well-designed, sustainable solution to the Lake’s health and beauty at minimal disruption to the Community and the environment.

SAMLARC is dedicated to constant communication with the Community, and Project updates will be posted on SAMLARC.org as they become available. This article is the first in SAMLARC’s Lake Project series – stay tuned for next week’s discussion of golden algae and the Lake!

Rancho Life Lake Update Correction

June 27, 2018

The following information is a correction to the Comprehensive Lake Update article published in the summer edition of Rancho Life.

Emerging equipment design and data project that the Lake pump system’s average rate will be comparable to current Lakeshore irrigation usage: 31,000 gallons per day, with total Lake water volume replacement approximately every four years. This updated projection more accurately depicts normal usage rates than the maximum capacity estimate of 120,000 gallons per day and Lake water volume replacement approximately every 250 days stated in the published article. The initial calculation published in Rancho Life took into consideration the dual functions of the Lake pump system: replacement of Lake water to reduce the Lake’s nutrient buildup, and the successive use of that nutrient-saturated water to irrigate the Lakeshore Park.

Further calculations and assessments have also determined that the pump need not run continuously. The pump will instead respond to weather-sensitive irrigation timers (similarly to other SAMLARC landscaping practices). This means that the duration of time the pump runs will adjust according to seasonal need: more frequently in summer and less frequently in winter. Once the water has flowed through the Lake’s pump system, it will be redirected to irrigate the Lakeshore Park landscaping, reflecting SAMLARC’s commitment to responsible water stewardship. The maximum-stress scenario stated in the article assumes the Lake pump system would need to supply water to all Lakeshore Park irrigation heads simultaneously for an extended period of time, and is not likely to occur in normal operations.

The Lake Ecosystem Repair Project continues to be developed through close partnership with industry professionals, scientists, and engineers to create a Lake pump system aimed at reinvigorating the Lake’s ecosystem, controlling nutrient buildup, and deterring toxic algal blooms. Project updates will be published on SAMLARC.org to provide the Community with the most current information available.

Comprehensive Lake Update (Rancho Life Summer 2018)

May 28, 2018

The Lago Santa Margarita has long been the focal point of the beautiful SAMLARC Community. It represents the serenity and quietude of the city and serves as a popular destination for family picnics, walks and recreation. Unfortunately, nature has invaded this perfect oasis. The Lake was infected by golden algae (Prymnesium parvum), an aggressive algae similar to the “red tide” occasionally seen at California’s beaches. Golden algae is a naturally occurring, single-celled organism that is frequenly found inhabiting lakes and rivers in coastal states. When provided the proper nutrients, golden algae produces a toxin, called prymnesin, which is lethal to gill-breathing organisms like fish. As a result, it is impossible to restock the Lake with appropriate fish species until the golden algae problem is resolved. To achieve that goal, SAMLARC has approved plans to begin the Lake Ecosystem Repair Project, a comprehensive construction project which will revitalize the Lake ecosystem and restore the Lago Santa Margarita to its former glory.

The project focuses on the root of the problem in addressing the golden algae crisis: poor water quality. Because the Lake is man-made, it lacks a natural water replacement system—like a stream or river—and in its current state is more akin to a puddle of standing water than a healthy aquatic ecosystem. The Lake Ecosystem Repair Project addresses this concern by creating a pump system to continuously replace 120,000 gallons of water in the Lake each day. This means that roughly every 250 days, the entire water volume of the Lake will be replaced. Performing this daily circulation will balance the nutrient content of the water, reduce its overall salinity, and maintain healthy fish and plants. Studies conducted on the toxicity of golden algae have confirmed that nutrient buildup is a leading cause of harmful algae blooms and subsequent fish kills. By creating a natural cycle of water in the lake, concentration of nutrients like nitrogen (in the form of nitrate and nitrite) and phosphorus will be reduced significantly. The project aims to correct the imbalance of Lake nutrients and foster a safe, healthy environment for aquatic creatures.

SAMLARC is a leader among homeowners associations in maintaining water-wise policies and procedures. The Lake Ecosystem Repair Project will maintain that reputation. The 120,000 gallons of water removed from the Lake will be recycled for irrigation purposes on landscape bordering the Lago Santa Margarita and surrounding areas. The toxin produced by golden algae, prymnesin, is not toxic to plants and only impacts gill-breathing organisms. In other words, while the water is not suitable for fish to inhabit, it is perfect for watering plants.

To jumpstart the restoration process, the initial construction phase will begin by removing almost 30% of the Lake’s total water volume, or about eleven million gallons. Once the project is complete, that missing 30% will instead be refilled with clean, pure water. The process is similar to one which you might take to clean a home aquarium, but on a much larger scale!

SAMLARC is committed to addressing the Lago Santa Margarita. During this process, however, SAMLARC will need your cooperation to accommodate the construction necessary to repair the Lake. The project will require construction sites at the north and south ends of the Lake, which will impact pedestrian traffic.

The construction at the southern end of the Lake will build the pump unit necessary to extract water from the Lake and repurpose it for irrigation. The unit will be housed in an underground vault, minimizing both the aesthetic and auditory impacts of the site.

At the northern end of the Lake, a fill line will be constructed to replenish the Lake with fresh water. Recognizing the importance of creating an aesthetically pleasing fill concept, a cascading waterfall design is proposed.

Please remember, construction takes time. The Lake Ecosystem Repair Project will begin in early September and be completed by early December. SAMLARC is making every effort to meet the Community’s expectations for the Lake ecosystem. The Lake Ad Hoc Committee has worked tirelessly with water quality experts and the architectural firm Woodard & Curran to establish a holistic plan to address the Lake. SAMLARC’s goal is that by the end of the year, the Lake ecosystem will be restored.

Updated Project Overview

February 12, 2018

At the November 21st, 2017 SAMLARC Monthly Board of Directors meeting, the Board approved a contract with the engineering firm Woodard and Curran for them to provide design services throughout the Lake Eco System Repair Project. The kick-off meeting for the preliminary design phase of the Lake Eco System Repair Project was on Wednesday, January 31st, 2018 and included members from the SAMLARC Lake Ad Hoc Committee along with SAMLARC Management and several engineers from Woodard and Curran. This meeting occurred on-site at the Lago Santa Margarita to provide a complete picture of scale and design for the project.

The purpose of the SAMLARC Lake Ad Hoc Committee is to provide input and recommendations related to the Lago Santa Margarita in an effort to treat and manage the Golden Algae problem. The goal of this Lake Eco System Repair Project is to bring the Lake back to full health using technology that has proven results supported by experts who will carry the project from the design phase to completion.

Throughout the initial kick-off meeting, the engineers and committee members discussed design elements for the Lake Eco System Repair project. The project is currently in a preliminary stage with the actual construction to begin in mid- to late July 2018 once the design and planning phase is complete. Although the project elements will be mostly contained underground, Lake users and Lakeshore walkers may be impacted during the construction process. 

The project from design to completion should take approximately 8-12 months to complete, and it is currently scheduled to be completed in October or November 2018. The SAMLARC Lake Ad Hoc Committee looks forward to continually serving the community by pursuing a proven solution that will restore the Lake Eco System and continue to maintain superior facilities on behalf of the Membership! Watch SAMLARC.org and SAMLARC’s Facebook page for updates during this process.

Tentative Project Overview

December 15, 2017

The first major step to repairing the Lago Santa Margarita Eco system has begun with the recent Board approval of retaining the engineering firm Woodard and Curran. Woodard and Curran will provide design services for the irrigation pump station, Lake water fill, and irrigation system connections which will enable SAMLARC to use Lake water for irrigation of the surrounding turf and planter areas. Utilizing Lake water for irrigation will assist with the management of the Lake water quality by consistently infusing the Lake with fresh water. The goal of adding fresh water to the Lake on a continual basis is to affect the eco-balance by reducing salinity and total dissolved solids, which in turn should lessen the frequency of Golden Algae outbreaks which historically have resulted in what is known as “fish kills”.

 

The Lake Eco-System Repair Project is scheduled to begin in January 2018 and barring any major setbacks, the project is anticipated to take 9 months to complete. The project is scheduled in phases with the first phase being design of the plans for the pump station and irrigation connections. Once the planning phase is complete and design approved, the construction phase of the project will begin. Finally, once construction is complete, the system will go live. Once live, the Lake water quality will be closely monitored prior to re-stocking the Lake with fish.

 

The Lago Santa Margarita Eco-System Repair Project demonstrates great potential to reduce the likelihood of future Golden Algae bloom “fish kills”. However, it is important to note that the Golden Algae can never be completely eradicated from Lago Santa Margarita or from any other local lake. The main objective of the Lake Eco-System Repair Project is to give SAMLARC the ability to manage Golden Algae by way of managing the Lake water quality. Testing for Golden Algae has shown that water quality is a major contributing factor to Golden Algae outbreaks and “fish kills”. The project is intended to reduce the odds of future outbreaks significantly.

Golden Algae Bloom Update

November 08, 2017

​What is that smell? Why are the fish dying? 

Golden Algae Bloom Update


On Saturday, November 4, the Lago Santa Margarita Lake began to experience a golden algae bloom otherwise referred to as a “fish kill.” You may have noticed a rather strong odor and unpleasant sight. Historically, the Lago Santa Margarita experienced its first ever golden algae bloom in October 2014, and again in October/November 2015, which resulted in a similar ecology incident. 


For incidents such as these, the timeline can vary from a couple days to a week or potentially longer. Factors as to why this incident occurred can only be theorized by fluctuations in the weather, water runoff from rain or other natural occurrences. As soon as SAMLARC staff noticed that the fish were perishing due to the algae bloom, staff immediately started to remove the expired fish from the Lake to dispose of them properly and continue to do so multiple times per day. 


Many factors come into account when managing a Lake affected by golden algae. The water cannot be completed eradicated of the algae as reintroduction of the algae is inevitable. Golden algae (Prymnesium parvum) is a single-celled organism that occurs worldwide, primarily in coastal waters, but it is also found in rivers and lakes. The presence of golden algae doesn't always cause problems, but when it "blooms," (enters a phase of rapid growth and reproduction) the algae can produce toxins that cause a “fish kill.” The toxins affect organisms that have gills including; all types of fish, freshwater mussels and clams, and the gill-breathing juvenile stage of frogs and other amphibians. The turtles, birds and crayfish should not be affected by golden algae. 


Unfortunately, once a bloom is underway there is no proven method of stopping the bloom. Per SAMLARC consulted aquatic life experts, the only viable option is to let nature take its course. SAMLARC staff will continue to work with the Lake management vendor to monitor the Lake both by boat and on shore with extra ongoing daily clean-up of the Lake for the duration of the golden algae bloom. 


While Golden algae runs its course, Lake visitors may notice a smell and continue to see fish that have perished at the water surface. Please see the article below for further information. 

Golden Algae Bloom Results in Fish Kill

November 04, 2017

Golden Algae is a natural occurrence in fresh water lakes.  It can lay dormant for months, and suddenly bloom.  When Golden Algae blooms, it releases a toxin that is harmful to fish, causing the fish to die.  There is no effective short term or long term treatment for Golden Algae at this time.

 

Golden Algae is known to most frequently bloom during the months of October and November.  Although Lago Santa Margarita successfully went through the month of October without a bloom, Golden Algae has released its toxins, resulting in what is referred to as a fish kill which began Saturday morning, November 4th.  SAMLARC staff is onsite all weekend to remove stressed fish and fish that have perished due to the Golden Algae bloom.

 

SAMLARC is developing a project to address Golden Algae through reducing salinity and the Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) in the Lake.  However, the project is not scheduled to begin until 2018.  We ask for your patience and understanding as we address the current Golden Algae bloom.  Should you have questions, or wish additional information please email Assistant General Manager Jeremy Pipp at jeremy.pipp@fsresidential.com.

Exciting New Repairs to Lake Ecosystem

October 23, 2017

On Tuesday, October 17, 2017, SAMLARC met with engineers to discuss the design aspects of a pump station to be installed at the Lago Santa Margarita Lake. SAMLARC is working with top engineers to repair the Lake ecosystem by utilizing an irrigation pump station to help purify the Lake water while also providing water for landscape irrigation system surrounding the Lake.

 

When the Lake was created, the intent was for it to be an active ecological system with aquatic life similarly found in a natural Lake. This intention can only be maintained by converting the current “closed system” to an open flow through system with continuous fresh water being added to the Lake.  This will be achieved by adding a pump station and creating a systemic irrigation system to help turn-over the lake water thus decreasing mineral and salt levels in the Lake water.

 

Once installed, the pump station will pull water out of the Lake and into the existing irrigation system, additional fresh water will then be added to the Lake. Since the Lake was original designed and constructed in 1985, mineral levels have increased dramatically due to debris, animal life, water runoff and fluctuating climate changes. The pump station will be designed to cycle water into the Lake and decrease unhealthy mineral levels that prevent possible disruptions within the Lake’s ecosystem.

 

The new design creates a friendlier ecosystem for the fish and wildlife to inhabit the Lake. Without this process of controlling the mineral and salt levels, the Lake water could become very harmful for fish and wildlife.  A healthy fish-friendly Lake is one of the major goals within the Board of Directors Strategic Plan for 2017-2020, which will be achieved through the hard work of all teams involved in the project.

About Golden Algae

October 11, 2017

Historically, Lago Santa Margarita has been affected by golden algae during the months of October and November.  The first outbreak of Golden Algae occurred in October 2014, again in October/November 2015 and very high levels of golden algae were seen in October and November 2016.  Because of this, SAMLARC is taking proactive preventative measures in an effort to restore the Lake back to a healthy eco-system.

 

During the months of October and November SAMLARC performs extended diligence to maintain the health of the Lago Santa Margarita. Due to temperate and weather changes, including excess debris in the Lake from winds, an increased risk of algae blooms may occur. As a result, water testing is performed monthly to track the Lake algae levels in the lake and look for any indications of an algae outbreak.  You may have already noticed crews out at the Lake performing further maintenance. Special divers are actually in the Lake working on Lake Aerators to ensure they are clean and working properly.  However, if high levels of golden algae occur, there are very limited options available to prevent golden algae from releasing its deadly toxin.  For more information on golden algae and the steps being taken to repair the eco system at Lago Santa Margarita please read more below.  

Lake Aerators Update

October 09, 2017

SAMLARC’s lake vendor performed their semi-annual service maintenance of the aerators on Monday, October 9th. Five aerators require additional maintenance, which is expected to continue through Friday, November 17, 2017. Currently 7 of the 12 aerators are properly functioning and oxygen levels are being maintained.

For more information, please contact Capital & Reserve Project Manager Cary Haine at (949) 709-0018 or at cary.haine@fsresidential.com.

Golden Algae Threat to Fish

September 01, 2017

A small number of carp, catfish and mosquito fish are currently thriving in Lago Santa Margarita along with an abundance of turtles, crawdads and birds. However, Golden Algae is still a very real threat to fish, not only Lago Santa Margarita but to the neighboring Lakes in and around Southern California. 

 

Golden alga (Prymnesium parvum) is a single-celled organism that lives in water. It occurs worldwide, primarily in coastal waters, but it is also found in rivers and lakes. It doesn't always cause problems, but when it "blooms," (enters a phase of rapid growth and reproduction) this algae can produce toxins that cause fish kills. The toxins affect organisms that have gills: all types of fish, freshwater mussels and clams, and the gill-breathing juvenile stage of frogs and other amphibians. 

 

A golden algae fish kill may last for days, weeks, or months. Sometimes only a portion of a lake is affected, but the location can change from one day to the next. Blooms are more likely to occur in cold weather, and sometimes taper off as the water warms and other species of algae become more active — but not always. An extended kill can have long-term effects on a fishery and cause economic hardship for parks and businesses that serve recreational anglers. 

 

SAMLARC has been battling Golden Algae for more than two years with the last fish kill occurring in November 2015. Since that time, various treatments have been tried with no long-term success. Until Golden Algae can be managed, the Board of Directors has elected not to re-stock the Lake and risk another fish kill.

 

The Lake water is tested on a monthly basis to measure the levels of Golden Algae, Blue Green Algae and other microorganisms living in the Lake. For the most part, the levels of harmful Golden Algae have been low or non-existent within the Rancho Santa Margarita Lake when recently tested. Golden Algae levels are likely low at this time because of winter rainfall in Southern California and the summer heat warming the water; however, the Lake is still at risk of a Golden Algae bloom.

 

Golden algae-related fish kills have occurred in inland waters with high salt or mineral content. Because Lago Santa Margarita was not constructed with the ability to turn over water, the salt and mineral content have increased over the years to a level that is believed to contribute to the success of Golden Algae lying dormant and blooming when the conditions are optimal.

 

Recently, SAMLARC reached out to Santa Margarita Water District (SMWD) requesting a partnership to address the high salt and mineral content in the Lake. SMWD is partnering with SAMLARC in the development of a project that will convert the Lake from a closed system to an open, “flow-through” system. This will be accomplished by recycling the water in the Lake for use as irrigation water in landscaped areas around the Lake. The water used for irrigation will then be replaced with fresh water. The continual flow of fresh water into the Lake will maintain healthier water quality levels which is intended to keep the Golden Algae levels and toxins under control. 

 

The Board of Directors recently approved a proposal with an experienced engineer to design a system to convert Lago Santa Margarita from a closed system to a “flow-through” system. The design process for Lago Santa Margarita has just begun, and the design will take approximately 9-12 weeks to be completed. At the same time, SAMLARC is working with landscape irrigation consultants to obtain designs to link all of the irrigation zones that surround the Lake. Linking the irrigation zones will maximize the water usage for irrigation around the Lake and keep a recurrent flow of fresh water going back into the Lake.

 

While the design and construction process will take time to complete, other animals and fish in the Lake continue to thrive in their natural home. Please be sure to check the SAMLARC website for updates on the health and revitalization of the Lake as more information becomes available.