Devils Lake SolarBee Plan on Hold

Kate Rowland
From the Newport News-Times
June 10, 2009

Water district creates communications committee of volunteers.

After three hours of energetic testimony in opposition to SolarBees from nearly 50 community members in attendance at the Devils Lake Water Improvement District (DLWID) board meeting Thursday , the board voted unanimously to put the project on hold, at least for now.

DLWID has been seeking grants and loans to help fund the $1 million purchase and installation of 20 SolarBees – solar-powered water circulation devices meant to combat potentially toxic cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae.

Board member Otis Winchester made a motion to “defer further actions toward pursuing SolarBees until we have more information regarding the nature, extent and effects of cyanobacteria, and learn more about the safety experience with SolarBees on other recreational lakes.”

The board also initiated the formation of a volunteer, community-run DLWID Communications Committee to advise the board on more effective ways to exchange information between the board, district taxpayers and the lake’s recreational users.

Residents Mitchell Moore, Kerry Richards, Raylene Erickson, Bill Sexton and Donna Elsasser were suggested as possible committee members. Vice-chair Jack Strayer may serve as the board’s liaison.

“This result is proof that public involvement can really work,” said Moore, whose anti-SolarBee efforts include the NoSolar-Bees .com website, yard signs, brochures, mailers, window posters and T-shirts . “I honestly think that more was accomplished than just killing SolarBees. I think the board now understands several things:

“Communication needs to improve, toxin testing methods and advisory notices need to change so that people will trust them and react appropriately, identifying and mitigating sources of nutrients in the lake needs to be a priority, and the axed native re-vegetation project is very popular.”

DLWID Board Chair Brian Green, one of four members of the seven-member board that attended the meeting, said he felt positive about the experience. “I felt it was productive,” he said. “I felt there were several views expressed that were helpful in informing the board’s decision on how to go forward.”

Strayer said numerous valid issues were raised during public testimony.

“It was a good meeting,” he said. “Arguments were the usual – safety, looks, unproven, is there a real problem. Many good points were made. Many speakers wanted long-term solutions like sewers, septic testing , aquatic vegetation and other nutrient controls.

“We were able to report that new developments from the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife may soften its position on aquatic vegetation. That may lead to DLWID being able to plant native aquatic plants before the grass carp disappear.” New committee

After the meeting, Strayer elaborated on the communication committee, saying that the DLWID board recognizes that communication between the board, district residents and non-district lake users needs to be strengthened. “The committee will be comprised of a board member, who will serve as more of a moderator and advisor, and lake enthusiasts,” he wrote. “The committee will survey communication methods, select those that are feasible for DLWID, project the frequency of use, and estimate the cost in time and money to the district.”

When the fact-finding process is complete, the committee will formulate a communication plan for review and adoption by the board. The committee will then serve as a community sounding board, passing information between the board and its constituents . The plan will be reviewed annually.

“The objective is to develop a communication plan. How often we meet, how we communicate and what the plan should look like are all variables,” Strayer said. “We have highly motivated and skilled people on the committee ; the board wants them to be free to apply their creative genius.

“We all want a better lake that everyone can feel good about. It will start with effective communication .”

Strayer urged any residents who would like to be involved to contact DLWID.

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Filed under Cyano Information, DLWID, Ecoli, Solarbees, Water Quality

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