The Devil's Lake Water Improvement District Board of Directors approved a new strategic plan for Devil's Lake at its October meeting. The entire text can be found at this link. Here are some of the highlights.
At its core the new strategic plan is based on the District’s mission and four main goals.
The District is authorized to direct a range of initiatives, programs, and actions to achieve the restoration, maintenance, and enhancement of Devils Lake. These responsibilities can be grouped under four general areas, which form the District’s core mission: water supply, water quality, natural systems, and public access. The District has established goals for each of these areas of responsibility:
Water Supply Goal: Ensure the proper supply and level of water in Devils Lake to provide for all existing and future reasonable and beneficial uses while protecting and maintaining water resources and related natural systems.
Water Quality Goal: Protect and improve water quality to sustain the water resources, environment, economy, and quality of life.
Natural Systems Goal: Preserve, protect, and restore natural systems to support their natural hydrologic and ecologic functions and improve the environment for fish, wildlife, and humans in Devils Lake and its watershed.
Public Access Goal: Improve and maintain public access and awareness, safe and efficient navigation, and recreational opportunities in and on Devils Lake
The District is implementing a wide array of programs and projects to meet these four goals. These activities are grouped under 7 Strategic Initiatives:
- Minimum Flows and Levels Establishment and Monitoring
- Water Quality Assessment and Planning
- Water Quality Maintenance and Improvement
- Aeration and Oxygen Level Improvement and Monitoring
- Conservation and Restoration
- Mitigation of Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Infestation
- Public Access, Marina, and Community Outreach
Each of these strategic initiatives is described in detail in the plan document. Upon approval the Board discussed how this plan will require review and possible modification as required by the impact it has on the lake environment. This review will occur annually.
The Devils Lake Neighborhood Association cannot and does not take a position in any election. We do however try to help keep our neighbors aware of important issues that impact the neighborhood.
On November 8, 2022, voters will be asked whether to approve an increase in property taxes for the next five years for the Devils Lake Water Improvement District (DLWID). If approved, funds will be used to continue District operations, which includes vegetation management, water quality testing, district operations, and special projects.
According to the 2022 General Election Voters Pamphlet the tax revenue from this measure would allow the Devils Lake Water Improvement District to continue its vegetation management program. Programs to be funded annually by the revenue include approximately $200,000 for targeted herbicide treatments, $50,000 for mechanical harvesting and disposal, and $67,000 for re-stocking and managing grass carp in Devils Lake. The district has in their operating budget monies for vegetation management, this additional levy is what the district needs to control the vegetation at its current level.
Given the clear history of rapid aquatic vegetation overgrowth in Devils Lake, vegetation management has become our key priority. Our district completed a successful treatment project which improved several acres of the Lake. However, this treatment only covered a limited amount of invasive milfoil eradication. Since the 2019 project, our waters have taken a major turn. A very prolific submerged plant has all but overtaken Devils Lake. In under 18 months what was very sparse vegetation has exploded to cover very large expanses of our waterbody. If the growth continues at this rate the lake will soon become non-navigable and negative impacts to fish and wildlife will increase. The district has begun a pilot targeted herbicide application program and is working with State Fish and Wildlife officials to reintroduce sterile grass carp as control methods. Additionally, a mechanical harvester has been contracted to work on the Lake to maintain navigability. Due to the cost of these management options additional funding is necessary to continue managing the vegetation overgrowth in Devils Lake.
The levy is $.2499 (In-Watershed) and $.128 (Outside-Watershed) per $1,000 of assessed property value. At the $.2499 rate a home valued at $300,000 would pay $75 per year or less. At the $.128 rate a home valued at $300,000 would pay $39 per year or less.
If you have been following our updates you know we have recently completed three weeks of mechanical harvesting on Devils Lake. The main goal of that project was to gain on lake experience with harvesting while removing as much elodea as we could. In the meantime, the condition of the lake has evolved with large masses of plant material floating to the surface eventually gathering in various locations around the lake.
We have learned from our research that this calving is part of the elodea’s survival strategy. These large mats eventually sink to the bottom where they overwinter and emerge next spring as a new population of plants. In the meantime, they act as a nearly impenetrable “reef” of material that can stop a boat in its tracks. Normally our wind patterns would deposit nearly all of this material on the Southern shore but this has been an unusual fall with winds blowing from the North, South, and East. This has resulted in elodea rafts being deposited all over the lake, with highest concentrations still on our Southern shoreline.
Faced with this reality the Devils Lake Water Improvement District board has located a second harvesting company with a machine available for use in Devils Lake. The District was able to procure a harvester and a crew to operate it out of the bay area in California from Aquatic Harvesting Inc. They will be arriving September 19th and operating the harvester on our lake for up to a month. This is a different machine than the one we had on the lake in August with a 8 foot wide cutter, a cutting depth of 6 feet and a much larger capacity to store cut weeds. It also is better equipped for unloading the material on the shore once cut.
The goal of this second project is to remove as much material as possible from the lake. If these rafts of elodea effectively are the seeds of next year's weeds we want to get as much of that out of the lake as possible in hopes that it will slow the expansion of this infestation.
This project has come together quickly and is truly a community effort. Several of our local businesses are assisting the District in getting this off the ground. Our sincere appreciation goes out to North Lincoln Sanitary Service, Sexton Construction, and Whistler Construction for their invaluable help. We will also need volunteer help from our community, please consider raising your hand for the effort. If you know of anyone that we can put on the list to volunteer to operate an excavator to load the dump trailers, transport the dump trailers to the dumping location and return the dump trailers to the lake loading site, or if you're willing to occasionally help clean up our offload sites please let us know.
Harvesting is an expensive proposition and the Devils Lake Neighborhood Association has solicited and collected many donations to fund our first project. This second project will be primarily funded by the Devils Lake Water Improvement District who help fund the DLNA project. Our remaining harvesting funds will be forwarded to the District to help fund this important project. We are still accepting donations, so if you made a donation and still want to help or if you committed to a donation and are not sure where to make the payment you can follow this link or the button in the sidebar. All harvester donations will be forwarded to the District to help defer the cost of operations over the next month.
Additionally, the District is working out the details of relocating a harvester owned by Aquatic Harvesting Inc. to Devils Lake which will be its permanent home for the next 4-5 years. This machine includes a barge that connects to the harvester making the offloading task more efficient. This will guarantee we have a harvester on the lake next spring to begin removing the new growth as it appears. Harvesting represents an important component of the District's vegetation management plan which also includes herbicide and the eventual reintroduction of grass carp in the lake.
Thank you all for your participation in this season’s harvesting projects. This is all new to our community but we have gained some valuable experience and hopefully began to reduce the weed population in Devils Lake.
Back in July the Devil's Lake Neighborhood Association asked all of you to write letters to a variety of decision makers. The community responded and many letters were sent. As a result, people who work in the State government quickly became aware of the weed problem on Devil's Lake. Mission accomplished. Thank you for your grassroots efforts.
The Devils Lake Neighborhood Association and Devils Lake Water Improvement District invited many individuals from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, State Legislators, County Commissioners and local government officials to come join us for a tour to see the condition of the lake in person. It was a nice day yet only Representative David Gomberg and Senator Dick Anderson joined us. There were no other attendees. It was, however, a worthwhile event as Representative Gomberg was making phone calls before he even left the boat.
On August 5th, Josh Brainard DLWID Lake Manager appeared briefly before the ODFW Commission at their meeting in Salem. He explained our situation during the three minutes allotted to individuals during the public comment portion of the meeting.
Subsequently, a few meetings have occurred between ODFW staff and the Devils Lake Water Improvement District. In these meetings we learned that it is ODFW staff’s position that the Commission’s existing ability to waive certain restrictions related to grass carp would not be sufficient for placement of fish on Devils Lake. It is their position that it will take an Oregon Administrative Rule (OAR) change to allow the eventual restocking of fish on Devils Lake.
With that position in mind ODFW staff delivered a draft position paper as well as draft proposed changes to the Oregon Administrative Rules pertaining to the placement of sterile grass carp on Devils Lake. Our review found some of the rules to be simply unworkable. However, subsequent conversations have resulted in a commitment to remove or modify most of the objectionable wording. At this time, the greatest outstanding issue is the discrepancy between the State and DLWID over the number of carp they will allow to be placed. Negotiations continue.
The process of making these Administrative Rule Changes is specified in Oregon statutes. Therefore the timeline is dictated by the steps required by Oregon law. Much of the timeline related to this process is to provide ample time for interested parties to become aware of the ruling and comment if they so desire. Our goal is to win approval for placement in the spring. Draft OAR changes will be taking place over the next several weeks. Both parties feel that all changes should be completed and ready for the ODFW Commission's final approval at their January 2023 meeting. If so, this would represent a very quick turn around, so don’t be surprised if this timeline expands some prior to completion.
Does this mean we are going to get approval for grass carp? That’s impossible to say, but so far we are pointing more toward a positive result than failure. In the meantime, patience is required as this will not happen overnight.
During the last five weeks we have completed three weeks of harvesting on Devil's Lake. We wish to thank all of you who made donations to make this learning experience possible. If you have committed to a donation and wish to complete it follow this link.
The main purpose of this project was to gain on lake experience to be used in planning of future harvesting activities and hopefully provide a little relief to the current situation. In the near term harvesting will be part of Devils Lake Water Improvement District's (DLWID) three prong approach to vegetation management. The plan also includes application of herbicides and restocking sterile grass carp in Devils Lake. Here's a summary of what we've learned in the harvesting project.
During our 3 weeks of harvesting we removed 41.5 tons of elodea from the lake. That's 83,000 lbs!
Massive amounts of elodea suddenly appeared in Devils Lake between 2021 and 2022; a plant that was virtually non-existent in the lake two years earlier. To better understand the current situation the Devils Lake Neighborhood Association (DLNA) has funded an engineering survey of the weeds in the lake to document the physical weed coverage of the lake. This survey will provide the DLWID with information that should help the establish the extent of the weeds within the lake and the volume of weeds in the lake. This information will be useful to the DLWID and the ODFW in their discussion as to the appropriate number of sterile carp that hopefully will be approved for re-introduction into the lake at a future date.
Expectations Exceeded Reality
Our harvesting efforts resulted in a tremendous amount of material being removed from the lake. Depending on where you are on the lake the harvesting results vary. The weeds were so thick on the West end we spent a full week just trying to clear a path in front of the docs on the South shore. Because of our prevailing winds within a week more plant material floated across the lake through our clearing and stacked up against the South shore. On the North shore the harvester fared better.
When operating the harvester collects 90% of what it grabs. In the days that follow, bits of elodea that remained in the harvested area eventually break off and float with the wind. This material floats away from the North shore heading across the lake to the South. This phenomenon would continue for a couple of days after the harvester passed.
We had some success in creating channels by removing the first four feet of elodea making the areas somewhat passable by a boat. Unfortunately as the weeks progressed materials continued to drift South overwhelming the recently created channel on the South shore. The North shore channel seemed to remain somewhat intact.
Effort Frustrated by Elodea’s Life Cycle
Our project dates were limited given that we were well into the season when we found an available lake harvester. Our harvesting project completed about the same time that elodea begins its fall shedding. So by mid-August we began to see large floating mats of elodea on the lake. These are not remnants of the harvesting but rather part of the natural life cycle of elodea. Each year the plants shed large sections into the water column in preparation for a second growing season in the fall. These floating mats are a key part of the plant's reproductive strategy, floating off, eventually sinking to the bottom and root in a new location.
If you live on the South shore you’re absolutely overwhelmed by large tangled floating islands of weeds. Some are so dense that you will see ducks hitching a ride. Currently, homeowners on the South shores can clear their shoreline one day only to return to see thick dense weeds solid from bottom to surface within days. This is a huge problem that requires a solution.
Timing May Be Everything
As a community I think we were all surprised, perhaps shocked when we looked in the water this spring. Elodea was everywhere! Due to the relative lack of weeds in the preceding years there were no plans in May to have a harvester arrive at Devils Lake. That's when DLNA attempted to find a harvester and schedule some time on the lake. Initially we received a one week commitment. We were able to extend that commitment to 3 weeks.
Upon initial review it appears the best approach to harvesting in the future would be to begin a few weeks early in May to knock down a channel around the perimeter of the lake. Then return in late August to remove the floating mats of weeds that appear when the plants are sheading.
It's important to remember that the primary reason for using a harvester as well as herbicide is to reduce the volume of weeds in the lake. We want to give our future grass carp, if approved, a chance to have an impact earlier in their life cycle. This revised schedule should maximize the volume of material that could be removed and hopefully accelerate the lake’s recovery.
A Different Model
It appears that for at least the next 5 years harvesting activities will be a part of our lake. Ongoing harvesting will likely be done under contract to the Devils Lake Water Improvement District. We suggest the District fund the spring and fall harvesting projects. Perhaps during the interceding time individuals could independently contract with a harvester willing to come to the lake to work their individual properties.
Removal and Disposal
One of the biggest challenges in harvesting Devils Lake is setting up dump sites and removing the weeds from the site. This season we relied heavily on the generosity and expertise of North Lincoln Sanitary Service who helped stage drop boxes and backhoes in various locations as the harvesting progressed. We were able to use some public access points such as the boat ramps and a few homeowners gave us access to their lakefront. Some sites worked better than others. We learned drop boxes work but dump trailers may be a better solution as they're more readily accessible to the shoreline. We also need to find better methods of pulling the weeds out of the lake and putting them in the trailer. The 41 tons of material was hauled to North Lincoln Sanitary Service where it was laid out to dry. It was then gathered up and trucked out for composting. Our activities at shoreline dump sites made a bit of a mess and many of you volunteered to clean up these sites at the end of each day. Thank you all for your assistance.
A Learning Experience
Again we wish to thank all who participated in this project. It provided us with valuable information. The information we learned will be incorporated in the Devils Lake Carp Management Plan which will be a requirement of any permit granted by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Next year ongoing harvesting activities will benefit from the knowledge gained.
Elodea canadensis is a submerged aquatic plant of slower flowing rivers and lakes, native to North America. It has been intentionally introduced into areas outside of its native range as an ornamental aquarium species. This species has a wide ecological tolerance and grows relatively fast. It is a perennial, overwintering in the deeper water, and reproducing asexually. Disturbance increases the dispersal of numerous buds and the vigorous re-growth is enhanced through changes in availability of nutrients. Elodea canadensis can form dense mats which can interfere with recreational activities, navigation and port infrastructure. In addition to this, the dense mats outcompete native plant species and therefore decrease the biodiversity in an area. It also accentuates the accumulation of finer organic silts which enhances its growth further as nutrients are released. Elodea canadensis originates from North America, concentrated around the St Lawrence Valley and the Great Lakes regions and the Pacific West Coast, but now occurs throughout the US. Elodea canadensis is considered invasive in Australia, New Zealand, Cuba, Alaska. Oregon classifies Elodea canadensis as a native plant.
Elodea male plants are less common than female in its native range. Plants are usually dioecious (individuals bear either male or female flowers only) and produce seeds in ellipsoid or oval capsules. The plants reproduce readily by asexual fragmentation, and many invasive populations consist entirely of individuals of the same sex, having originated from a single, introduced, plant fragment. The main growing season is between mid-April and October. Plants can die back in Autumn but may survive in temperate climates. Turions or short, densely-leaved resistant stems, develop then break off to float around the water body before they sink to the bottom over winter, where they rest until they re-grow in spring.
Over-wintering buds and fragments of the brittle branches are easily detached by waves, currents, foraging animals and boat traffic. New roots develop quickly on the nodes of these fragments which are carried away to form new stands. This method of propagation gives Elodea canadensis a considerable advantage over annual species and resulted in its rapid spread throughout North America.
Survival is by densely-leaved crowded ends or turions. During autumn, turions cease to elongate and come to bear tightly clustered dark green leaves, which contain increased starch and are slightly more waxy than the normal foliage leaves. These turions may be liberated when the parent stems disintegrate and sink to the bottom, or remain attached throughout winter. The turions remain dormant until spring, when the leaves expand, roots develop from the lower nodes, the axis elongates and a new plant is formed. Elodea canadensis begins to grow during the spring season and is well formed by early May.
More detailed information is available at this link.
The few individuals who have volunteered to assist the DLWID in trying to solve this crisis are just homeowners like you. They did not plant elodea in the lake. They do not get paid. They have better ways of spending their time and we are grateful for their assistance.
As the summer rolls on, the DLNA has been fielding emails and comments that draw from frustration and border on nasty. That’s not going to help solve this problem. Please, let’s keep our discourse civil and continue to work together on solving this problem.
Week one of weed harvesting on Devils Lake has come to a close an we removed an astounding 12 tons of weeds from the lake. We got five pretty good days of harvesting in this week but midday on Friday the ECO Harvester suffered a major breakdown. One of the large steel rollers for the main belt drive failed. You can see from the image something's very wrong. Unfortunately the repair couldn’t be done in Lincoln City so the machine is headed back to its home port in Coos Bay.
Overall the harvesting cut a tremendous amount of material out of the lake, as measured in tons! Western Shoreline Restoration will be back on August 15th for two more weeks of harvesting on Devil's Lake. Overall we learned a tremendous amount of information about what to expect in a harvesting project. More than anything we learned just how dense the Elodea is in some areas especially the West end of the lake. We are learning about what to expect in terms of daily progress. We’re learning about what's required in terms of staging drop boxes and excavators. We learned that no matter how much we take out the lake just keeps on giving.