The Devils Lake Water Improvement District cancelled its December 11th board meeting due to the threat of high winds. There were several important items on the Board’s agenda we would like to call your attention to the last item in unfinished business; the replacement of the water impoundment devices (the dam).
Director Randy Weldon’s report to the board states that “At our November 2014 meeting, my proposal to the board was to explore the idea of removing the concrete foundation of the current dam and using a different type of impoundment device in the summer. I suggested that we use sandbags or water-filled flood control tubes during the short recreational impoundment period instead of our current structure.” The winter edition of the District’s Clearwater Newsletter further describes this proposal; you can find a link on the right hand of the District website.
Mr. Weldon recommended the board take action during the December meeting by writing that, “The US Army Corps of Engineers and Division of State Lands Joint Permit can take up to 120 days to complete. While waiting for our permit to be approved, we could proceed with RFP’s for removal of the concrete foundation and select a contractor to do the removal work.” We anticipate that his request for authorization will be brought forward for action during the January 8th DLWID Board meeting. We strongly recommend attending the January meeting to encourage the Board to meet with the DLNA Board as well as suggest putting the brakes on this potentially DAMaging idea that has not been through any type of public process or outreach.
The Devils Lake Neighborhood Association urges the DLWID to defer taking any action toward authorizing the creation and release of an RFP for the removal of the current dam structure. For a dam of this size Oregon does not require that the design be prepared by a professional engineer however the Oregon Water Resources Department specifically recommended the District “consult with an engineer when making changes to a dam.”
The structure that is the subject of this discussion is considered a “small dam” as defined by the Oregon Water Resources Department. Since the proposal is to remove the current structure completely we have verified that from a regulatory perspective this would be treated as two separate projects, one for the removal of a small dam, and one for the construction of a new dam structure to replace it. This would involve input from a minimum of 11 State,Federal and local Agencies for both the removal and construction phases of the project. Successful completion of the removal approvals does not guarantee approval for the installation of a new structure in its place.
The proposal before the board does not include the recommended professional engineering, or any discussion of the regulatory process required. Why would you remove the dam before you have permission to replace it? The performance of a temporary structure is unknown; the risk is high that permission to build a new permanent structure would not be granted. A project such as this if done without the proper engineering, planning and care could severely impact access to and the use of our lake and potentially result in lower property values.
It is also possible that a properly engineered project could have a positive result. In any case, this project is every bit as complex as the district’s ongoing attempts to restock grass carp which began in mid-2011 or the aeration project that is just getting started. It’s a safe bet that if all these government agencies are interested in these proposed projects that the citizens that live on or near Devils Lake would also be quite interested in the same projects. The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board Guidelines for Dam Removal devotes seven full pages to describing the importance and methods to be utilized to build organizational support through public outreach. The district needs to take this advice to heart. A workshop is a single component of an outreach program that is helpful but not nearly adequate to address the complexity of the projects currently underway.
The Devils Lake Neighborhood Association has offered several times to help the district build a connection with the citizens that live around Devils Lake. Representing the citizens that live on and own the 1,473 parcels of land within our boundaries is the primary reason we exist. We continue to offer the district an opportunity to schedule a public meeting of the DLWID and the DLNA boards so we may engage in a two way dialogue about ways we can work together toward the benefit of the lake.
Since we are nearing the end of another year; might I suggest that the Board of Devils Lake Water Improvement District make a New Year’s resolution and agree to schedule a meeting in January with the Devils Lake Neighborhood Association. They risk so little and they have so much to gain. No let me rephrase that, we have so much to gain.