Category Archives: Editorial

Opinions of the Devils Lake Navigator

DLWID Considers Dam Removal

The Devils Lake Water Improvement District cancelled its December 11th board meeting due to the threat of high winds. There were several important items on the Board’s agenda we would like to call your attention to the last item in unfinished business; the replacement of the water impoundment devices (the dam).

Director Randy Weldon’s report to the board states that “At our November 2014 meeting, my proposal to the board was to explore the idea of removing the concrete foundation of the current dam and using a different type of impoundment device in the summer. I suggested that we use sandbags or water-filled flood control tubes during the short recreational impoundment period instead of our current structure.” The winter edition of the District’s Clearwater Newsletter further describes this proposal; you can find a link on the right hand of the District website.

Temporary Sandbagging

Temporary Sandbagging

Plastic Water Tubes

Plastic Water Tubes

 

Mr. Weldon recommended the board take action during the December meeting by writing that, “The US Army Corps of Engineers and Division of State Lands Joint Permit can take up to 120 days to complete. While waiting for our permit to be approved, we could proceed with RFP’s for removal of the concrete foundation and select a contractor to do the removal work.”  We anticipate that his request for authorization will be brought forward for action during the January 8th DLWID Board meeting. We strongly recommend attending the January meeting to encourage the Board to meet with the DLNA Board as well as suggest putting the brakes on this potentially DAMaging idea that has not been through any type of public process or outreach.

The Devils Lake Neighborhood Association urges the DLWID to defer taking any action toward authorizing the creation and release of an RFP for the removal of the current dam structure. For a dam of this size Oregon does not require that the design be prepared by a professional engineer however the Oregon Water Resources Department specifically recommended the District “consult with an engineer when making changes to a dam.” 

The structure that is the subject of this discussion is considered a “small dam” as defined by the Oregon Water Resources Department. Since the proposal is to remove the current structure completely we have verified that from a regulatory perspective this would be treated as two separate projects, one for the removal of a small dam, and one for the construction of a new dam structure to replace it.  This would involve input from a minimum of 11 State,Federal and local Agencies for both the removal and construction phases of the project.  Successful completion of the removal approvals does not guarantee approval for the installation of a new structure in its place.

The proposal before the board does not include the recommended professional engineering, or any discussion of the regulatory process required.  Why would you remove the dam before you have permission to replace it? The performance of a temporary structure is unknown; the risk is high that permission to build a new permanent structure would not be granted.  A project such as this if done without the proper engineering, planning and care could severely impact access to and the use of our lake and potentially result in lower property values.

It is also possible that a properly engineered project could have a positive result.  In any case, this project is every bit as complex as the district’s ongoing attempts to restock grass carp which began in mid-2011 or the aeration project that is just getting started.  It’s a safe bet that if all these government agencies are interested in these proposed projects that the citizens that live on or near Devils Lake would also be quite interested in the same projects. The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board Guidelines for Dam Removal devotes seven full pages to describing the importance and methods to be utilized to build organizational support through public outreach.  The district needs to take this advice to heart.  A workshop is a single component of an outreach program that is helpful but not nearly adequate to address the complexity of the projects currently underway.

The Devils Lake Neighborhood Association has offered several times to help the district build a connection with the citizens that live around Devils Lake.  Representing the citizens that live on and own the 1,473 parcels of land within our boundaries is the primary reason we exist.  We continue to offer the district an opportunity to schedule a public meeting of the DLWID and the DLNA boards so we may engage in a two way dialogue about ways we can work together toward the benefit of the lake.

Since we are nearing the end of another year; might I suggest that the Board of Devils Lake Water Improvement District make a New Year’s resolution and agree to schedule a meeting in January with the Devils Lake Neighborhood Association.  They risk so little and they have so much to gain.  No let me rephrase that, we have so much to gain.

 

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We’re Back!

Hope you didn’t miss us too bad over the past few months.  A lot happened over the summer perhaps most notable, an algae bloom that began Father’s day and continues to this day.  The Devils Lake Water Improvement District and the City of Lincoln City have been busy on several projects that will impact you.  We’ll report on these issues more in the future so for now we’d just recommend that you tune in, and share your thoughts with us. 

Please complete the attached poll.  Stop by our coffee and let us know how you feel about the condition of the lake this summer.  Watch our new video “The Greening of Devils Lake” and share your reactions. Bottom-line, we want to encourage you to engage and email us at dlakeoregon@gmail.com to provide the details of your lake experience.

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Summer Break

If you have been wondering where the Devils Lake Navigator articles have gone lately, don’t fret.  We’re taking the summer off while we use and observe the lake.  This break was inspired by the wise advice of Thumper who said “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all…”  Check back in the Fall for news and updates.

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Opinion – Lake Lowering Unjustified

Erosion Study Does Not Justify Lowering Lake

Our first entry for the newly created Editorial Page was originally written for the DLWID board of directors and presented to them for their April meeting.  All indications are that the board may vote to lower the currently authorized summer time lake level from 9.53 feet to a yet to be specified height.

During his presentation, Paul Robertson indicated the District was limited to 18 inches of control over the lake level.  That is the height of the summer time impoundment structure.  The board delayed placement of the dam until after the May 10th meeting where a final decision will be made. We have reviewed the final Erosion Study and shared the following observations.  Please take the time to get familiar with the document and make your opinion known.

Comments on Erosion Study

The recently re-released erosion study dated March 8, 2012 (version 2) was an interesting read but much like its predecessor (version 1), it provides little information that would compel the District to take action.  This is due to thestructure of the RFP, which only requested advice on one topic; specifically it requests, “from this overall erosion study the contractor will provide a summary of the data and conclusions drawn as to if and how the dam operation may be impacting the shoreline.[1]  The document did not request that erosion identified by the study be quantified nor did it request the study supply suggestions or techniques that could be employed to prevent or mitigate erosion on Devils Lake.

The erosion study RFP had a very narrow focus. Given its single-mindedness, did the erosion study deliver an answer?  The original study (version 1) made a real attempt as it concludes, whether waves are generated by boats or wind, the highly erodible nature of the soils, the presence or absence of sufficient bank stabilization, and the bathymetric slope are likely more influential on shoreline conditions than relatively small changes in lake elevations.[2]  The new study (version 2), after three months of input from the District fails to reach a specific conclusion.  The report instead suggests more study is necessary, “Due to variability in factors that affect wave energy that impact the shoreline, the vertical zone over which that energy is focused, and the ability of the resulting waves to cause erosion, local quantification of this process can only be done through site specific analyses. This analysis should consider the specific nearshore bathymetry of the lake, the alignment of the shoreline with respect to the predominant wind direction and angle of impact of boat waves, as well as topography, soils, vegetation, and the presence of man-made structures at and above the shoreline.”[3]

A careful reading of the re-released erosion study (version 2) reveals many fascinating additions from the original study; these embellishments do not appear to contribute to the study’s ability to draw a conclusion or make a specific recommendation related to lake level.  Indeed, the revised erosion study contains 117 references to the term “level” in describing the height of Devils Lake.  Six of those references are found in the summary, which is now titled “Recommendations and Considerations”.   This is the section that should answer the question “if and how the dam operation may be impacting the shoreline”1.  It does not.  The section contains no statement confirming or denying the impact lake level has on overall shoreline erosion.  It does not contain a specific recommendation for an ideal lake level, nor does it recommend lowering the lake level.

The original study (version 1) committed to a thesis stating that other factors in the lake environment were more influential on shoreline erosion than small changes in lake levels.  This is a conclusion that the District has rejected.  The re-released erosion study (version 2) goes out of its way to avoid drawing any conclusion whatsoever.  I would caution the DLWID board away from reading between the lines and drawing a conclusion where three professional scientists, engaged by the District have refused.

I have many other concerns related to the contents of the re-released erosion study (version 2) but it is my understanding from the staff report that a change in the authorized impoundment height is not being considered at this meeting. I will therefore withhold any further written comments until the District schedules a public hearing.  As with the original study (version 1), I believe that the findings of the re-released erosion study (version 2) very clearly demonstrate that those public hearings will not be necessary.

Comments on Proposed Board Actions

The Staff Report associated with the April meeting suggests that the board needs to take action on two items related to the erosion study.

  1. Decision on the completeness of the contract and payment of the contractor.

Staff believes that the contract can be ruled complete and thus full payment should be issued to Tetra Tech, Inc. While the re-released erosion study (version 2) misses the mark absent a conclusion; I recognize that there were other deliverables subsequently forwarded to the District associated with the original contract that satisfy the majority of the RFP requirements.

I would agree that Tetra Tech should be paid and outstanding issues if any should be addressed by standard business decorum.

  1. Direction on the installation of the dam prior to the May discussion.

Staff has recommended delaying the installation of the dam structure, normally placed on April 15th until after receiving public comment at the May 10th board meeting. The staff report states that the board would then “make a decision about the use of the dam this summer and thus its installation.”[4]  It is unclear in this statement if the height of the impoundment structure is to be considered or the use of an impoundment structure is to be considered in the May meeting.

I recommend that the District install the dam on the traditional timeline, on or near April 15th.  Unless the District is seriously considering managing the summer recreational lake level without an impoundment structure it makes no sense to delay construction.  Should the District make the unfortunate decision to reduce the lake water level from the currently authorized 9.53′ MSL it can be easily adjusted with the structure in place as it is routinely done each summer.


[1] DLWID RFP: Erosion Study – Page 4

[2] Devils Lake Shoreline Erosion Study (Version 1) Nov 18, 2011 – Page 2

[3] Devils Lake Shoreline Erosion Study (Version 2) Mar 08, 2012 – Page 2

[4] DLWID Staff Report April 5, 2012 – Page 5

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