From the Newport News-Times
June 5, 2009
Group takes issue with aesthetics, cost and communication
A group of Lincoln City-area residents are protesting the Devils Lake Water Improvement District’s (DLWID) planned $1-million purchase of SolarBees, water circulation devices that combat blue-green algae, and made their position clear by posting about 300 “No Solar Bee” signs in lake neighborhoods last week.
The group also provides window posters and brochures, and planned to hand out about 75 T-shirts to protest SolarBees at the DLWID board meeting Thursday. About 500 mailers were sent to area residents.
The group’s website address is www.nosolarbees.com.
Mitchell Moore, who designed and maintains the website, states that the group’s position on the performance of SolarBees is neutral. They don’t think the ability of the solar-powered devices to do the job is the core issue for Devils Lake.
At issue is aesthetics, cost and what the group perceives to be a general lack of communication.
“While this issue has been on the agenda of the Devils Lake Water Improvement District for quite some time, most residents are not aware of the project,” said Moore, a telecommunications professional who owns a second home in Beaverton.
“I’ve talked to about 200 lake residents over the last few weeks, and I haven’t found a single person in support. Probably five to eight percent had heard about SolarBees. The rest knew nothing about it.”
The website includes a list of supporters of NoSolarBees.com totaling 53 names.
The website states that the group is all for making plans to reduce the “short-lived” algae problem, but that “we don’t think spending over $1 million of taxpayer money for the year-round placement of 20 floating metallic machines, each measuring 17 feet across, is the answer.”
NoSolarBees.com urged people to write the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to ask them to refuse funding when DLWID applied for a low-interest loan, on the basis that residents knew nothing or little about the project, didn’t support it and did not feel there was a large enough problem to justify the project.
DEQ ranked the Devils Lake project No. 9 out of 165 statewide applications, but the funds were not awarded since its application was incomplete.
NoSolarBees.com is also concerned about SolarBees possibly creating a health hazard.
“People are injured on Devils Lake every year,” Moore said. “You can’t say that SolarBees are not going to add to that problem.”
Units need to be placed at least several hundred feet from the Devils Lake shore, but that shouldn’t interfere with boaters, lake manager Paul Robertson said.
“We don’t see people having collisions in their boats, and boats are moving – SolarBees are stationary,” he said. “It would be easier to avoid SolarBees than a moving boat.”
SolarBees are equipped with solar-powered marine flashers, said SolarBee representative Joe Eilers. They also have three reflective markers and flags that stick up.
“We haven’t had problems with boaters interfering with the units,” he said. “As long as people take a reasonable amount of care, they shouldn’t have any problems. Water skiers have never slammed into them.”
NoSolarBees.com includes footage of a SolarBee placed in the middle of Mt. Hood’s Blue Lake. Moore stood on the shore, about a quarter of a mile away, and filmed the unit’s flashing strobe light.
“There might be 20 of those strobe lights on the lake,” he said. “I’ll probably see about 16 of them.”
Several DLWID representatives pointed out that the approximately 450 homes that line the lake are already contributing significantly to light pollution.
Moore sent a letter to DLWID on May 27, formally requesting that the board abandon the SolarBees project.
“We are asking the board to vote against placing SolarBees on Devils Lake at its June 4 meeting,” Moore wrote on the website. “Please attend this very important meeting to ensure the board hears loud and clear our opinions.
“It is our sincere hope that an overflow crowd will have a good chance to end this now.”
Several supporters have left comments on the website. S. Miles Schlesinger wrote, “While I am a great proponent of green energy, I am also a homeowner on Devils Lake. There are many better projects that would yield more important uses of cash.
“I think any funding of $1 million-plus would be very foolish considering the limited amounts of bloom during a calendar year.”
Avette L. Gaiser wrote that she wasn’t sure SolarBees were the answer.
“It seems extremely expensive when no one can guarantee it will work,” she wrote. “I want the lake to be clean, not only for the public’s use, but also to maintain property values on the lake.
“However, this sounds like a very expensive experiment to me. As lakefront owners, we pay ‘extra’ taxes to fund the Devils Lake Water Improvement District. […] I would like to see other alternatives discussed publicly so we all could have a part in the decision-making process.”
DLWID Chair Brian Green said the board spent two years looking at every possible alternative.
“There is a consensus after two years of study that there is no other solution that the district can afford that will work,” Green said. “Opposition to SolarBees is being heard loud and clear by the board, and the board understands that, going forward, it must undertake a substantial effort to provide reliable information and data regarding the magnitude of the problems facing Devils Lake and the pros and cons of any feasible solutions.
“After the available information and data has been provided to the public, and if the board feels that SolarBees are still among the viable solutions, there will be opportunities for public input at public forums before any final decision is made.”
Board member Jack Strayer said he isn’t so sure that SolarBees are the answer.
“If we have a need on the lake for correction of the cyanobacteria problem, then SolarBees may be the solution,” he said Thursday. “But if we have time, or the impact of the cyanobacteria is not as severe as we thought, then there may be other solutions.”
About 25 people attended the DLWID May board meeting. Most of them said they did not want SolarBees on Devils Lake.