PATRICK ALEXANDER The News Guard
Tuesday, July 6, 2010 2:12 pm
Proposal would see greens irrigated with lake water
A proposal to use water from Devils Lake for irrigation at Chinook Winds Golf Resort has won the backing of lake planners, who say the deal will reduce the amount of synthetic fertilizer running into the lake.
At its July 2 meeting, The Devils Lake Water Improvement District (DLWID) Board of Directors voted by 4-1 to support the proposal after hearing Chinook Winds General Manager Sar Richards and City Manager David Hawker make the case for the deal.
The plan would see Lincoln City allow the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians to make partial use of a City-owned water right on Rock Creek – which flows into the south end of the lake – to withdraw nutrient-rich water from the north end.
The City and Tribe have already signed off on the deal and have requested DLWID support the proposal when it comes before the Oregon Water Resources Department for final approval.
Under the terms of the proposed deal, the Tribe would have the right to pump up to one third of the City’s Rock Creek water right out of the lake – making a maximum allowed withdrawal of about 117 million gallons per year.
Richards said the Tribe currently uses about one tenth of that – about 12 million gallons per year – to irrigate the golf course, a figure that would rise to 24 million gallons if the Tribe goes ahead with plans to double the size of the course.
Under the terms of the proposed deal, the City would sell the untreated lake water to the Tribe for half the price of treated water, saving the golf course about $20,000 per year.
City Manager David Hawker said that, while the City will lose money on the sale of treated water in the short term, the reduction in demand makes the deal a win from the City’s point of view.
Hawker said the reduction in demand would extend the life span of the City’s current water sources – Schooner and Drift creeks – by as much as five years, depending on the community’s growth rate.
That, he said, gives the City more time to secure an additional water source to cope with demand in 20 to 25 years’ time, when demand is expected to outstrip what Schooner and Drift creeks can supply.
“I think it’s in everyone’s interest to ensure that the water supply lasts as long as possible,” Hawker said.
Richards said the Tribe currently applies tons of synthetic fertilizer to the golf course each year and that switching to the nitrogen- and phosphate-loaded lake water for irrigation would lead to a “drastic reduction” in fertilizer use.
Opposition to the plan, which was seen in force at DLWID’s June 3 meeting, appeared to have largely evaporated, with just one member of the public urging the board to oppose the deal.
Larry Brown, of Indian Shores, said the proposed deal is a “horrible idea” and that the City should allow lakefront residents to use lake water to irrigate their lawns rather than making a deal with “rich friends who want to water their golf course.”
Hawker has previously said the red tape involved with water rights means such a deal only makes sense for very large-scale users.
Lakefront resident Mitchell Moore asked the board to request three conditions on the deal: that the Tribe stop pumping if the lake level drops below a certain level; that the agreement be reviewed annually after five years; and that the City or Tribe be required to implement a nutrient-monitoring program to keep tabs on run-off entering the lake.
Hawker said the first two conditions would be deal-killers, with the first denying the Tribe a reliable water source and the second paving the way for “brain damage” on the part of City staff.
“I put some time into this already,” he said. “I don’t intend to do this every year.”
Analysis by Watermaster Greg Beaman and Lake Manager Paul Robertson has indicated that the deal will not affect the level of the lake due to the quantities of water passing through.
Board members Brian Green, Randy Weldon, David Skirvin and Joe Barnes voted to support the proposed deal, while Jack Strayer voted against.