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Lake Level Report – Introduction

DISTRICT MONITORS LAKE LEVEL

During the upcoming December board meeting the DLWID staff will present the Lake Level Report they have been working on the past few month. According to the report “the impoundment regime change for 2012 is being reviewed. Previously the lake was impounded to a height of 9.53’ beginning as earlier as April 15 through October 15th. In 2012 this was modified in an attempt to mitigate impacts that impoundment has on the erosion, the shoreline vegetation, and fish and wildlife. Following two public hearings on this matter, the Devils Lake Water Improvement District Board of Directors opted to begin impoundment no earlier than June 1st, with a target date of June 15th, and then only to 9.0’. This impoundment regime was conducted during the summer of 2012, and this review is meant to provide insight to the District as to the impacts pro or con that may have had. Considerations will include recreational access, fish passage, septic systems, and water quality, shoreline vegetation.”

We have taken the report and posted each section on this website.  Each section has the heading Lake Level Report.  There are five section in all

  1. Boat Dock Survey
  2. Fish and Wildlife
  3. Septic Systems
  4. Water Quality
  5. Vegetation

We have presented this material without commentary.  We will submit a request to the DLWID board to have this material presented an more than one meeting as December 13 is in the midst of the holiday season and it is unlikely anyone will be in attendance at the meeting.  In the meantime we suggest you review all five sections and draw your own conclusions.

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Lake Level Report – Boat Dock Survey

RECREATIONAL ACCESS — BOAT DOCK SURVEY

A section from the Lake Level Monitoring report contained in Staff Report from the December 13, 2012 board meeting material.  This section drafted by district staff.

LLRpt Fig 18The Devils Lake Water Improvement District conducted a boat dock survey this fall. Water depths were taken at each of the 393 structures on Oregon Department of State Lands list of registered and unregistered docks for Devils Lake. These predominately were located in the jurisdictional waters of the state, although some docks which were measured were outside this boundary in dredged out areas or canals. Depths were recorded at 1 to 2 spots on the dock. The primary depth was taken at the point where the motor of a boat would typically be located if moored at the apparent preferred docking locale. For some docks an optional mooring site was recorded which may provide the upland land owner another position within the existing configuration of the dock to moor their boat. The Crystal Lagoon area was not surveyed, but previous outings confirm this area is utilized and anecdotally favored by non-motorized crafts such as kayaks and canoes. Non jurisdictional docks exist in the back canal system, nor for the most part exist as the width of the canal system largely precludes such structures.

Depth soundings were taken using a fixed device with a 6” square base to standardize the measurements in the variable substrates (muck, sand, bedrock). Depth measurements were recorded in 3” increments which were later converted to decimal feet. Given the nature of taking depths from a boat in real world conditions, the surveyors were conservative in their recording, erring on the low side of a measurement. In other words, the measurements were made in a way that may have slightly underestimated the actual depth of water available by up to 3”. The current lake stage was recorded for each day of sampling, and the depths normalize to water depths of 9.53’ (maximum impoundment), 9.0’ (2012 impoundment), and 8.6’ (anticipated water height after evaporation period for 2012 – this is also near the typical water height seen in the late summer predam modification in 2006). Continue reading

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Lake Level – Fish and Wildlife

FISH AND WILDLIFE

A section from the Lake Level Monitoring report contained in Staff Report from the December 13, 2012 board meeting material.  This section drafted by district staff.

LLRpt Fig 16Devils Lake is home to a genetically distinct line of federally listed Coho Salmon. These fish make their upward migration in the winter period, when the lake is not impounded, but their outward migration occurs from May to Mid July which is typically a period of impoundment. In 2012 the impoundment period was reduced to beginning no earlier than June 1st, with an anticipated impoundment starting date of June 15th, based on lake level at the time. Historically the lake was impounded from April 15th. The District had a practice of pulsing the dam every other night from May 15 to May 31 in an attempt to mitigate some of impacts to juvenile fish trying to make their way to sea. Non-native ambush predators such as large mouth bass and other piscivorous fish may take advantage of the shadowy, narrow outlet the juvenile Coho would necessarily have to traverse in their escapement. Continue reading

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Lake Level Report – Septic Systems

SEPTIC SYSTEMS

A section from the Lake Level Monitoring report contained in Staff Report from the December 13, 2012 board meeting material.  This section drafted by Seth Lenaerts.

In order to determine the impact of lake level on septic systems, the following areas were considered.

  • Design standards
  • Groundwater levels and movement
  • Soil characteristics
  • Septic attributes

Design Standards Overview

Design standards are subject to change and evolve on an annual basis. The most dramatic one time change was in 1974, when the Onsite Wastewater Management Program was created and the Department of Environmental was charged with running the program. Previously septic systems had been under the jurisdiction of the Health Department.

For the sake of this discussion, current design standards for traditional systems will be referenced. Keep in mind variances are allowed and DEQ will allow such variances depending on certain conditions. In addition, a property owner can use an advanced treatment technology which may also allow them to vary from the design standards for a traditional system.

Design standards were developed in order to protect the land, surface water, groundwater, and public health. Minimum design standards are intended to meet these criteria. Minimum design standards specify many aspects of the system including, depth of septic tank, linear feet of drainfield, drainfield trench depth, soil characteristics, depth to bedrock or hard pan, depth to groundwater, and setbacks from property lines, public water ways, utilities, and wells. Continue reading

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Lake Level Report – Water Quality

WATER QUALITY

A section from the Lake Level Monitoring report contained in Staff Report from the December 13, 2012 board meeting material.  This section drafted by district staff.

LLRpt Fig 4

A full water quality report was given in September 2012, so only a summary of that data are provided here. The key aspect of consideration was could the lake level be shown to have negatively or positively impacted the water quality. It had been said at the outset that the water quality question would be the most difficult to answer as it is much more variable and unpredictable especially when dealing with living organism, blue-green algae.

LLRpt Fig 5

What was apparent from the data set was that while 2012 was a worse year bloom wise from the two previous it was better the 2008 and 2009 when the lake was higher and warmer.

A cursory review of past blooms indicate that 2012 was not the first year we have seen a lake wide bloom. These occurred in 2008 and 2009 certainly, but aerial photographs from the 1990’s show similar events occurring. Bloom constituency was different then, as the more toxic Anabaena and Microcystis dominated the lake compared to the significantly less toxic Gloeotrichia that was the major continuant of the recent bloom. Continue reading

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Lake Level Report – Vegetation

VEGETATION

A section from the Lake Level Monitoring report contained in Staff Report from the December 13, 2012 board meeting material.  This section drafted by district staff.

LLRpt Fig 11One aspect of the decision to not impound as much water as had been done in previous years was the potential impact to the shoreline plant community. In fact it was the concern for the viability of the District’s SOS (Save our Shorelines) program that initiated the Erosion Study (Link) that contributed in many ways to the findings for the recent lake level decision. As a healthy shoreline is integral to the health of the lake it is worth nothing that the District continues to sustain its investment in the SOS program with staff, training programs, a native plant nursery, demonstration sites, and a 75% cash match for shoreline property owners. Additionally, the District paid for the development of the Shoreline Planting Guide (Link), and has since then reinvested in multiple printings of this document, sharing it with property owners, landscapers and the like.

Further the District recognizes with the limits of private property owner participation in the SOS program — to date only six have participated and only two property owners have come forward leading to one site evaluation since the June decision — the best opportunity for restoration currently lies on public property. Not only is this on upland publicly owned parcels such as East Devils Lake State Recreation area where the District has its second demonstration site, but more importantly at all areas around the lake up to the 10.4’ meandered legal boundary of the lake. This areas then includes the ring of the lake from Ordinary High Water which is the 10.4’ to some level near 8.3 which may be consider more or less the Ordinary Low Water. This OLW water is ill defined for Devils Lake, but a 2’ fluctuation in lake stage is often seen through the year. Continue reading

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DLWID Goal Setting Workshop Report

The Devils Lake Water Improvement District Board held its Goal Setting Workshop on Saturday October 13th at 10:00am in the City Hall Council Chambers located on the third floor of City Hall.

Informational Presentation: Lake Manager Paul Robertson gave a presentation on the current goals of the District.  You can download the presentation with this link.  The presentation walked the board through the components of the Devils Lake Plan, including the top five priorities.  These priorities include aquatic vegetation management, septic tank revitalization, communications, bacteria source tracking, and developing strategies for sewering the lake.

Lake Survey: The results of the recent survey published by the District were presented after the informational presentation; it can be found at the end of the downloadable presentation. In total they received 190 responses with 71 coming from the senior fair. The results were presented separating those which came online from those that came in paper form primarily from the fair.  Some of the most popular positive responses pegged septic inspection, sewers, invasive species and grass carp as priorities.  The balance of the responses were less clear cut but informing nonetheless.

Public Comment: There were 4 interested parties in attendance. One person commented sharing a concern that the past year it has been difficult between the public and the Board with tough issues like lake level on the table. The Board was encouraged not to misinterpret the presence of lakefront property owners.   The board was asked to consider that more often than not their decisions significantly impact lakefront residents as evidenced by the lake level decision, as well as septic inspection, sewering, planting guides, etc. It was further explained that the District has many positive things going including the septic inspection program as long as water shut off is removed.  The SOS program was given as another positive and it was suggested that it could be expanded to include planting in the lake to help alleviate erosion issues in certain locations. Concerns were expressed with any plans the District might make that would see it be actively involved in drafting ordinances.  Rather it was suggested they should limit their activities to advocating to State, County and City legislative efforts where appropriate.

Board Comments: The Board carried on a discussion on a variety of topics. There was a mix of opinions on the CAFÉ on whether it should be in the current plan or just have the priority lowered.  Some questioned the activities in the get the lead out program. There was some mention that with the increase in stand up paddle board use there may be more interest in a lake clean-up event as you can see the trash at the lake bottom from this activity.  Some felt that the D-River should be dredged to reduce e-coli levels created by seagulls and make navigation possible. There was a suggestion by a board member that all of the items in the plan were great but lack of funds would hamper their enactment suggesting an increase in the tax base.  Some talk surrounded the topic of phosphorus and nitrogen in soap and fertilizers and what the District might do to lower their use. There was a lengthy discussion on the potential of moving forward with a dual path on the septic inspection ordinance with both the City and the County instead of concentration solely on the City ordinance.  This may alleviate the need for water shut off as an enforcement tool.  It was stated that in the past the County was less willing to participate then the City.  It was felt however that since the process began there may have been a change in the situation.  There was some discussion on ideas of activities that could occur on the lake that the District could promote such as a jet ski race or SUP and/or kayak event, etc.  Finally, it was suggested that the District needs to establish criterion for success, so each project can be judged for impact.

Next Steps:  The meeting was summarized and staff was asked to create a report to be presented to the Board in the December meeting.  Goals will be developed and prioritized after that presentation.

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