The following testimony was provided by the Devils Lake Neighborhood Association (DLNA) to the Devils Lake Water Improvement District (DLWID) on March 13, 2014.
My name is Mitchell Moore and I live at 2929 NE Loop Drive. On behalf of the overwhelming majority of residents living in the boundaries of the Association I offer the following written comments in support of the verbal testimony provided at the same meeting.
To begin, we repeat our request that the DLWID add lake level on the March agenda, and resolve to exercise the maximum impoundment right of 9.53’ beginning April 15th through October 15th.
Furthermore, given the extreme conditions that exists in the lake today, the members of DLNA request that the District begin the water monitoring season immediately. The purpose of this action would be to identify health hazards as soon as they exist and document current conditions for future study.
Over the past few years the District has suggested that there is a lot of mis-information out in the community which cause problems between the public and the District. Several statements from unknown origins, were made during the February board meeting by board members and staff that seemed on the surface to be repeats of some of this mis-information. We spent some time researching these statements and our findings suggest they were either incorrect or misleading.
The first statement made by a couple of board members last month suggested that the increased level of algae bloom in 2013 was part of unusual Statewide HABS phenomena. This inferred that an increase in all lakes reasonably explained our experience at Devils Lake. (See image from Leisure Bay October 11, 2013)
Our Fact Check indicates that on a Statewide basis this was not really an unusual year. Each year the Oregon Health Authority publishes a report on Harmful Algal Blooms.
The Health Authority’s data indicates that on a Statewide basis the 2012 and 2013 seasons were indeed pretty average.
In an telephone conversation on the subject, Rebecca Hillwig, HABS Program Director, Oregon Public Health Division stated directly that “2013 was a very average year for Harmful Algal Blooms”.
Statewide total days with HABS advisories in 2013 were equal to 192 days (59%) compared to the four year average of 229 days (66%). Does this even matter? In reality the data doesn’t appear to correlate very well with local conditions. For example during 2010 Devils Lake had zero HABS days where the Statewide data indicates there were 272 days (75%) under HABS.
During the February meeting a couple of board members eluded to their general feeling that 2013 summertime temperatures were much warmer than average.
Our Fact Check indicates 2013 summertime temperatures were generally cooler than average. Only 6 days exceeded average temperature while 116 were lower than average. The temperature profile during 2011, 2012, and 2013 were very similar.
According to the readings taken by the District each year, overall lake temperatures rose 2% to 3% since lowering the summertime impound level. This is out of balance with the air temperature data that indicates 2011, before impound and 2013 after impound had a very similar temperature profile.
During the February meeting at least one board member stated that the 2013 summer was a much drier year than the previous year, others agreed.
Our Fact Check indicates 2013 summertime rainfall at 10.07 inches was roughly equal to the June through September Lincoln City average of 9.77 inches. Indeed 2011 a year with much less algae but full impoundment has much less rainfall than 2013, so it is unclear if this variable directly correlates with lake conditions over the past two years.
The 2012 summertime rainfall was roughly double 2011 with 3.39 inches and the 2013 summertime rainfall was roughly seven times 2011. Rain events were evenly spaced throughout the summer in June, August, and September and reasonably similar to long term averages for each month.
Failed Septic Systems
During the February meeting in response to the discussion of why the lake was green, the Lake Manager stated that “maybe 15 septic systems could have failed over the summer”. This number was not meant to be an exact figure however implied in the statement was the potential perception by the public that many systems had failed.
Our Fact Check indicates based on County records, that there were zero septic system failures on Devils Lake in 2013. This review was performed by Quinn Andreas, Senior Environment Health Specialist, Lincoln County. He stated that there were two homeowner upgrades of operational systems to ATT Advantax systems, the highest standard in on-site treatment. These two were not associated with failed systems but initiated by homeowners trying to improve the functionality of their existing equipment. He also stated that when people’s systems were failing, neighbors or the homeowner generally contact the County. It is a rare occurrence that failed systems, that are in use, are not identified and repaired in a timely manner.
Last year, the lake was impounded to the lower levels than in years prior to 2012. Algae appeared on June 16th, Father’s Day, which was identified in the June 18th water quality report. On that report only a third of the locations were sampled. At that time, large areas of floating scum had already appeared on the lake. The calendar shown below illustrates that substantial algae has been present continually for a full nine months. The image was taken just four days ago with thick scum covering major sections of the lake. We have yet to locate a member of our Association that can remember ever seeing visible scum during the winter and spring months.
With Oregon’s spring break just a week away, our members feel strongly that the District should take immediate action and begin the 2014 water sampling season. With thick algae covering the surface of the lake a determination of its toxicity is critical. The testing should continue from this point forward to document the unusual conditions of the lake which have existed since the adjustment to summertime impound levels which occurred in June of 2012.
From the data presented tonight, we can see that most of the Devils Lake Water Improvement District’s suggestions that climatic variables were the likely cause of extremely poor water quality were unfounded. Changing the lake level reduced water volume by over 300 million gallons, representing a significant alteration in a major environmental variable. The community can continue to debate whether or not lake level was the cause for the worst water in decades, but it seems irresponsible to continue with the current policy if there is any chance that it may be a contributing factor. We therefore, reiterate our request that the DLWID Board resolve to exercise the maximum impoundment right of 9.53’ beginning April 15th through October 15th.
This will remove the largest variable in the current situation. We recognize that a full lake will likely not restore water quality in our lake for the 2014 season. It took several years after the dam repair which provided consistent summertime lake levels for water quality to improve. It is worth the effort; act on this request and let our lake and community begin to heal. Thank you for your attention to this matter.