Reducing algae blooms and septic tank and drainfield contamination in Devil’s Lake is music to the ears of those who live around the lake and those who rely on income from tourists who come to this picturesque body of water during the tourist summer months.
There have been endless meetings and discussions in public and private about what should be done about summertime algae blooms which have now become common in the winter as well. The city of Lincoln City has launched a program to begin sewering the whole lake – eventually getting everyone off their septic tanks and onto city sewer. But that’ll take a long time.
So with that as a reality, the Devils Lake Water Improvement District is taking bold steps at the southwest corner of the lake where the lake water connects to the ocean under the Highway 101 bridge.
On April 9th, the district board will hold a regular public meeting at Lincoln City City Hall to formally present a plan that the board feels might go a long way to improving the lake’s overall health – especially during the summer months.
What the DLWID board is proposing is to return the river part of the lake, at the southwest end, back into a naturally flowing stream. For a long time a dam has stood between the lake and its short channel flow to the D-River Wayside that opens up to the ocean. District officials say removing the dam won’t drain the lake – but it will lower it by a foot or so, 8 to 9 months out of the year. During those months, water flowing into the lake from the north will move through the lake faster and thereby flow out to the ocean quicker. And because the “lake turnover” will be more rapid, the lake will more thoroughly flush out its accumulated nutrients from septic tanks, drainfields and storm water sediment, not to mention general run-off from individual properties around the edge of the lake – fertilizers and whatever else comes from those properties.
But again, in order for all this to happen, the district board is proposing to remove the dam. Currently the dam is comprised of two components – the submerged concrete footing that stretches across the river bed and the wood and metal vertical extension on top of it. Both have to come out. But in their place the board is proposing to install a new temporary dam that would be placed across that same spot on the river so the lake rises a little higher to maintain its traditional slightly higher summer level. They’re only talking about a foot or so, something the old dam has always provided. But instead of being made out of concrete, metal and wood, it will be comprised of sand bags and/or flood control tubes – something that can be installed late in the spring and easily removed in the fall.
Again, the benefits are lake and river flushing during 8 to 9 months out of the year, less saturation of septics and drainfields around the lake, less algae blooms and easier Coho Salmon access through the lake and up into the spawning streams that feed it.
And there is another benefit – fixing a long running problem between the dam and the beach. There is a permanent sandbar that has built up below the current dam and which attracts huge flocks of seagulls which, understandably, see it as a convenient place to dine on fish that come and go from the lake to the sea. Sort of a ring side seat at a buffet line. But those seagulls leave quite a lot of seagull poop that makes its way out to the beach where kids and their families routinely gather and frolic in the fast flowing water. Not a good thing.
Once the temporary dam is removed in the fall, the river will flow faster through there and that sandbar will permanently melt away back to the beach.
Other benefits of having no dam on the river for three quarters of the year include easier passage by those in canoes, kayaks and on paddleboards. It will also give the river a different feel and character during those 9 months out of the year.
But again the biggest benefit will be keeping Devil’s Lake well-flushed. By allowing the lake’s self-cleaning function to play out, algae blooms and their toxins won’t erupt nearly as often and so those attending regularly scheduled recreational, boating and other watercraft events, won’t have to wonder what the lake is going to look like when their events come up on the calendar. And that should enhance the lake’s tourist draw and therewith Lincoln City’s economy.
The Board of the Devil’s Lake Water Improvement District wants to hear from not only residents around the lake, but anyone from around the region who has a positive attachment to it. What do people think about the district’s plan to replace the old dam with a seasonal one?
Board members say before they commit to the plan they want to hear from the public. They want to hear any and all suggestions that might make the proposal work even better. The board meeting begins at 6pm, Thursday, April 9th, in the Lincoln City City Council Chambers on the third floor of City Hall.