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Exploring Hicklin Lake

November 6 2014

TAF (The Access Foundation) and DiverLaura hope to team up and empower youth to follow their curiosity with the help of OpenROV. TAF was founded in 1996 to help reduce the opportunity gap in education and bring more youth of color to STEM-related disciplines and careers. Since then, school reform has not produced the types of lasting gains we need, but TAF has persisted. Hundreds of students have graduated from our programs and attended their first or second choice of college. Over half have graduated college already and many of those have since returned to their communities as invested role models and leaders.

November 6 2014


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Preparation Stage

These kids are AWESOMENESS!

Great video! Go team!

Learn more about the floating islands at Hicklin lake

All the boxes are here! So excited to start our build tomorrow!!!


We are getting super close to starting our build! Earth day is coming up fast and you can tune in to portions of the day at TAF by following @diverlaura on Periscope. Get the Periscope App for your iphone/pad now :)

Got out with TAF teacher Omar to do a pre-survey of Hicklin Lake before we start the build.


Super excited to get our expedition started with the kids from TAF!

This map is showing the Hicklin Lake Drainage area. As our micro-expedition progresses we hope to document the flow from Hicklin Lake during high stormwater runoff events into Puget Sound, specifically a stormwater outfall near the mouth of Salmon Creek.
In doing so we hope that our team can be instrumental in encouraging the county to put in aerators which will enhance the efficacy of the floating islands and possibly even add additional floating islands to reduce the toxics load being discharged into Puget Sound.


I'm watching the weather like a hawk and hoping to get out to Hicklin lake for an investigatory dive tomorrow! (waiting because i didn't need the added challenge of breaking the ice to get into the pond) It has been a cold and mostly dry couple weeks so I'm expecting the lake visibility to be reasonably clear. Stay tuned!!

Sheesh ice?! That's why I moved to California, Good luck Laura!

I know, right? Today is warmer but now its raining. meh.

I've always been a big fan of programs to give students the opportunity to learn and be inspired through hands on experience. I think what you're doing is fantastic! As for ice, that can be an issue for us here in New England too. :/

I hope to get out as soon as the weather warms up a bit (no huge desire to break ice) and do and investigation dive at Hicklin lake with my current OpenROV. I will make a video of the fun and if it turns out well, hopefully get the TAF kids interested in the project (and anyone else who happens to be walking by at the time)

Additionally my friend Neal C has developed a neat stand for growing and studying algae. Perhaps we could utilize this type of device to house collected lake water and study the algae blooms and techniques to reduce the nitrogen and/or inhibit the blooms in the mean time.


This is interesting. Would you mind explaining us how it works in a future post?

Expedition Background

Help is on the way for Hicklin Lake – the small lake with big water quality problems in King County’s Lakewood Park.

In addition to the ongoing work of finding and eliminating illegal and inadvertent sewer connections that discharge pollutants into the stormwater system that flows into the lake, this year King County will experiment with technology that uses floating “islands” of vegetation to capture excess nutrients in the water that lead to Hicklin Lake’s water quality problems.

Thanks in part to a $50,000 grant from the Washington Department of Ecology Algae Control Program, King County will install four floating islands in Hicklin Lake this summer and measure their effectiveness.

Each floating island is 250 square feet in size and built of a durable polycarbonate, anchored in place.

The islands are perforated with dozens of holes that are planted with a variety of native wetland species. The plants’ roots will reach into lake as they grow, where they will take up excess nutrients.

A bio-film of microscopic organisms that forms along the bottom of the floating islands and the plant roots will also take up nutrients from the water.

King County staff will take monthly water quality samples from locations throughout the lake to test the islands’ effectiveness at absorbing pollutants for three summers.

The project is expected to start this spring and will be completed by June 2015 at a total cost of more than $86,000.

Hicklin Lake water quality has been a concern for years, with elevated levels of fecal coliform bacteria and phosphorus, as well as a history of harmful algae blooms that have posed potential health threats to people, pets and wildlife.

The lake has been treated twice with alum to reduce phosphorus levels – first in 2005 and again in 2011. It is hoped that the floating islands will prove to be effective and will help to reduce the need for alum application or types of in-lake nutrient controls.

Wow, how awesome and gross! Do you have to get in the water to install the islands? What kind of decontamination protocols does one follow with dive gear in a polluted zone?

Yes, they mucked around in the shallows to float the islands :( With regards to diving in contaminated water, it depends a lot on what the water is contaminated with. At minimum, its been recommended to wear FFM and full protective gear that can be rinsed well. I've chatted at length with the head of our local EPA dive team and he'd prefer I wore full protective gear anytime I'm visiting any storm drains and the likes. This lake is full of stormwater so I'm very happy that the OpenROV is available to do the 'dirty work' for me.

Here are some images of the islands being placed in Hicklin Lake...

Here is a bit more back story:“floating-islands”-aid

Of note, the founder of the Friends of Hicklin lake passed away a few months ago, so this project is in part to carry on his legacy :)