May 17 Special Election

What follows is an article as it appeared in the Newport News-Times on May 11, 2011 containing interviews with three of the DLWID candidates.  You will find the responses from candidates Joe Banes, Kip Ward and Jack Strayer below. New-Times Editor’s note: The same questions and request for information were emailed to all six candidates. Douglas Pirie, Randy Weldon, and Noel Walker but they did not respond.

Joe Barnes

Occupation: Construction, development, maintenance.

Why are you seeking election(or re-election), and what are your qualifications?

I live on the lake. I use the lake almost everyday. I grew upon the lake and have seen the good and the bad. Owning multiple companies gives me the experience to problem solve, organize and delegate. We have great momentum with our current board. It would be great to keep the ball rolling on our current agenda items.

What are the most pressing issues facing (the council, etc.)?

Invasive weeds. Grass carp are at the end of their life span. Going back to the weed problem of the ‘80s is not acceptable, not only for the lake users, but for the entire city – Devils Lake is a huge asset to our city. We must take its water quality seriously.

What sets you apart from your challengers?

I live on the lake, grew up on the lake, and use the lake on a daily basis. This gives me a daily perspective of the lake that my challenger does not have.

If elected, what are your short-term and long-term priorities?

We have to make a strong case for grass carp in the next year. From there, we need to keep a keen eye on the lake, evolving as a board as the lake evolves. We have to work diligently to keep Devils Lake clean and weed-free for years to come.

Kip Ward

Occupation: Owner of Historic Anchor Inn

Why are you seeking election (or re-election), and what are your qualifications?

Currently, all members of the DLWID board of directors are lake front property owners; I am not. If elected, I would hope to bring a broader perspective to the board. The stewardship of the lake does not and should not rest exclusively with lakefront owners. We are all stakeholders, and for the lake to reclaim its natural health, we will need the involvement of many people.

What are the most pressing issues facing the DLWID?

The most pressing issue is the restoration of the lake to its original pristine condition. This obviously won’t be accomplished overnight, but we have to have the tenacity, courage, and insight to do what is needed to not only tackle the short term challenges, but to remedy the problems that will hinder the recovery of the lake in the future.

What sets you apart from your challengers?

It would be helpful if the lake was in the forefront of the community’s mind, rather than just an afterthought. I would hope to be able to help involve the community as a whole to take part in the decision-making process that with wisdom and luck will help to restore this precious natural resource to both its ecological birth right and its economic promise.

If elected, what are your short-term goals, and long-term priorities?

My short-term goals would be to work with the board and the community to abate the conditions that are negatively impacting the health of the lake. Over the long haul, there should be a restorative process to bring the lake and the aquatic life back to its natural state. Some candidates, as well as members of the current board, are reluctant to endorse the Center for Applied Freshwater Education proposal. It has been stated that the CAFE concept is “outside the scope” of the district’s responsibility, or that “it is the lake that counts, not the education of the masses.” Even though these positions certainly have merit, I would respectfully disagree. If we are to be successful, then it is imperative that we reach out and engage the community. It is not the masses we are seeking to educate, only our community partners. Hundreds of motivated and informed community partners can do so much more than just a handful of board of directors.

Jack Strayer

Occupation: Retired, former U.S. Army captain, U.S. Government Accountability Office investigator, Bonneville Power Administration chief auditor

Why are you seeking election (or re-election), and what are your qualifications?

I want to see the DLWID take steps to restore the lake’s ecology and water quality. Presently, the lake floor looks like the moon – nearly devoid of aquatic vegetation. A healthy lake should have about 20 percent of its surface covered with native aquatic vegetation. In Devils Lake, that amounts to water depths of zero to three feet deep. This vegetation would not interfere with any popular water sports. Lake management would be required to “manage the lake” by devising programs to plant native aquatic plants before the invasive milfoil and Brazilian Water Weed can reestablish itself. The district would also need to develop the most efficient and effective means to control outbreaks of unwanted lake aquatic vegetation.

I have bachelor’s and master’s  degrees in business administration from the University of Oregon, and more than 35 years of experience analyzing complex contentious issues at the highest levels. I have been a DLWID director since 2007, and have received the Outstanding DLWID Director Award twice. I have been a property owner on Devils Lake since 1982.

What are the most pressing issues facing (the council, etc.)?

The water quality in Devils Lake will be seriously degraded because the DLWID’s #1 priority is the reintroduction of grass carp. I want steps to be taken to restore the lake ecology and water quality. Aquatic vegetation covered more than half the lake in 1985. The founding directors commissioned studies, reviewed alternatives and put forth a number of proposals to reduce the aquatic vegetation. Grass carp was selected and introduced as an “experiment” to reduce the surface vegetation to about 20 percent level – the amount for healthy lake ecology. Grass carp were procured and planted in the lake as an experiment; this initial attempt to nudge the vegetation to the side so the people could benefit, with impacts only time would tell.

The results have been observed, and most aquatic vegetation has disappeared, grass carp days have been celebrated, water fowl numbers have greatly diminished, property values have risen, resident fish have nearly succumbed, and wildlife of all kinds have suffered – and the suffering continues today.

But suffering ecology, fish and wildlife is not all. The aquatic vegetation was keeping the blue-green algae in check. With the carp and reduced vegetation, the algae flourished, bringing its toxins that impact the nervous system and liver functions. Devils Lake has received a state health warning for Blue Green Algae toxins for more than 120 days during the last three years. By reintroducing grass carp, the exposure to toxins will only get worse. The State Fish and Wildlife Department has attested that the grass carp is a “failed experiment” and has reduced water quality and disrupted the ecology of the lake (ask the Lake Manager for an electronic copy). These are the best aquatic biologists in the state and they disapprove of reintroduction of grass carp for Devils Lake.

The DLWID Board has put forth a plan with its #1 priority being to reintroduce grass carp. This plan does not include an extensive review of alternatives, a science-based search for nutrient sources and fixes, or an analysis of the water quality impacts after grass carp reintroduction. If the DLWID Board reviewed these issues, I am confident the grass carp proposal will be withdrawn.

What sets you apart from your challengers?

As a director, I have reviewed the issues and made decisions that faced the lake based on the facts and the best science available. Presently, the DLWID board is swayed by potential increases in short term real estate valuation for lakeside property owners rather than hard science and the experiences of other similar lakes. I put the lake first. I will not value real estate over the lake’s usability, water quality or ecology. I have extensive experience dealing with complex contentious issues, researching the facts and making informed decisions.

If elected, what are your short-term goals and long-term priorities?

Short-term priorities are:

  • Commission an Integrated Aquatic Vegetation Management Plan to consolidate the actions and control means needed to restore the lake’s ecology and water quality.
  • Redirect the DLWID resources and energy away from the “failed grass carp experiment” and to an Integrated Aquatic Vegetation Management Plan and reestablish native aquatic plants in the lake up to about the 3-foot depth while activating control measures for unwanted aquatic plants.
  • Commission a Devils Lake Basin Nutrient Study to determine the sources of lake nutrient issues, so future programs can be developed based on sound science
  • Redirect the DLWID resources and energy away from the “CAFÉ” project. Real estate speculation is not what the taxpayers are expecting from the board.
  • Concentrate on programs to make the lake experience more enjoyable and environmentally friendly.

Long-term priorities are:

  • Work with the city, county, and state parks to maximize the usability to lake residents and visitors.
  • Work with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to develop programs like, reintroduction of endangered species [turtles and crayfish], kid fishing facilities and programs, and others based on ideas from the public.
  • Use some to the DLWID money to improve facilities on the lake to make the lake experience more enjoyable for all.

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