The Devils Lake Water Improvement District held its First board meeting of the New Year in their offices on Thursday, January 7, 2010. The meeting was attended by 35 interested parties. I will attempt to cover the entire meeting in this report, if your major interest is the septic revitalization program, select the link below labeled “more” and look for the septic revitalization heading. Otherwise read on…
After minor corrections to the minutes and additions to the financial report the first action taken by the board was the appointment of Joe Barnes to fill the open board seat. I would like to thank Mr. Mark Christie and Mr. Douglas Pirie for their willingness to serve. Due to the large crowd the agenda was adjusted moving the public comment following the scheduled presentation on the septic revitalization program.
The District Manager, Paul Robertson reported that he is pursuing different methods to frame enforcement actions against property owners that have modified their property in a way that would warrant a land-use complaint. The District has been meeting with the Department of State Lands staff structuring an argument that Essential Salmon Habitat endangerment could justify an enforcement action. Other aspects of enforcement involve the Flood Plain Permits required by Lincoln County for activities in flood-prone areas which could establish the jurisdiction required to take an enforcement action.
It was reported that the lake has been flowing to sea freely without further intervention since the emergency dredging last month. The lake level has hovered around the 8.9 – 9.2 range for most of the month.
An update on the native re-vegetation project was provide indicating that the District has met with the contractor Tetra Tech, Inc. to review the draft plant list and the mock up native vegetation plant and planting guide. The planting guide will be grouped based on each plants habitat zone. Discussions have begun with local nurseries which the District hopes will make the plants found in the guide available locally. The board approved funds for the District to develop 2-3 initial re-vegetation plots to use as examples for lake homeowners.
Next up, septic revitalization!
Seth Lenaerts the DLWID intern made a presentation which described the Districts activities since 1972 related to septic tanks. Not surprisingly, there has been a great deal of discussion on this topic over the past several decades. You can review the presentation beginning on page 8 of the Managers Report.
David Hawker, Lincoln City Manager spoke attempting to explain the document that he intends to forward to the City Council to begin the Ordinance drafting process on Monday January 11th. The original proposal has changed in some key areas for the better; we’ll document these differences in separate article. Unfortunately, the most controversial issue remains. The plan still calls for the disconnection of water service should a homeowner fail to inspect or fail to correct items identified during the inspection. Following his initial comments a sometimes chaotic, sometimes heated, two-way exchange occurred between Mr. Hawker and the audience. I appreciate that Mr. Hawker came to the meeting to address our concerns.
During the public comment portion of the meeting the sometimes chaotic, sometimes heated, two-way exchange model continued except it was now between DLWID and the audience and between various members of the audience.
There were many comments made, but they can be easily grouped by theme. Of those comments in opposition by far the most fervent were related to the threat by the City of the termination of water service to enforce the proposed ordinance. This was commonly referred to as “the hammer”. Several commenter’s requested that the district do more science to determine what impact this expensive action would actually have on the lake. Many felt it unfair that the proposed ordinance would only apply to lakefront properties rather than all septics in the watershed. There was a general distrust expressed toward bureaucrats; most distrusted what was being said as they felt the final ordinance could be far worse. The board was asked by the opposition to pass a resolution asking the City to cancel their efforts to draft an ordinance.
Comments in support came primarily from the DLWID staff and a portion of the board along with one individual in the audience. That said, there was almost unanimous support in the room for some form of septic revitalization program as long as the issues listed above were addressed. One supporter shouted “If you want a clean lake you have to pay for it!” The supporter on the board expressed they were trying to make a positive impact on the lake.
Following the public comment staff asked the board to pass a resolution in support of the City’s efforts. Brian Green attempted to formulate a resolution in support which failed for lack of second. He made three subsequent attempts each failed for lack of second. The board then discussed the reasons that they were having trouble passing a supportive resolution. It came down to the hammer, not necessarily the use of a hammer but the proposed use of water service was identified a problematic. Finally Brian Green proposed the resolution below which approximates that which passed 3-1. I apologize as it was read quite fast and difficult to record.
“The DLWID supports the efforts of the City of Lincoln City to enact an ordinance requiring that properties that abut the lake or its tributaries have an inspection of their septic system to insure proper operation in accordance with their original design and that any penalty not include cut off of water.”
The meeting continued on to the remaining items. A description of the Save our Shoreline campaign was provide by Seth Lenaerts; the goal is to improve Devils Lake water quality with a focus on land immediately surrounding the lake. Re-vegetate 500 (ish) feet of shoreline, develop example site plans for homeowners who want to make improvements, develop a website and handouts for homeowners, and engage local businesses so that the businesses are encouraging shoreline restoration.
Finally, a presentation by Dr Raymond of Raymond Environmental and Chemistry was made about the proposal they made in response to the recently released RFP to develop a nutrient budget for Devils Lake. The District decided not to proceed with the project. Dr Raymond suggested an alternative; the use of a lake model in particular one titled “bathtub” developed by the Army Corps.
He explained that these models are mathematical representations of a body of water. In this process the District would input historical measurements of the lake and insert generally accepted values for data that is missing. These models are not good at predicting an outcome but are very useful to compare one result to another. With a model such as this you could ask what might happen to the lake if all septic tanks were inspected and/or placed on sewer. That result could be compared to doing nothing to help prioritize such a project. The District did not ask Dr Raymond to provide a proposal or additional information. It is unclear exactly why the District decided not to proceed with this project except perhaps staff time constraints.
It being a late night, the meeting adjourned. The next DLWID board meeting is scheduled for February 4, 2010 at 6:00 pm.