Lincoln City City Councilors Monday night decided to move ahead on trying to clean up Devil’s Lake while admitting it may take years to do it. A number of factors may be causing the lake’s more frequent toxic algae blooms, which are hazardous to people and pets. But the main culprit is said to be old leaky septic systems installed, in some cases forty, even fifty years ago alongside homes that line the lake.
City Manager David Hawker recommended the council consider four options on how to move forward on the clean-up. Three of the options got the green light from the council. So Hawker is tasked with exploring ways to set up a Devil’s Lake septic inspection program among the 100-150 homes that are prime suspects in the lake’s pollution. Almost all of them are among older homes that are either right on the lake or close by. Once the inspection process is approved by the council, a septic inspection service would be hired to do an assessment on the tanks and issue a report to the council, the cost of which would be born by the property owners. Whatever company does the assessments will not be allowed to perform any work on the septic systems they test, this in an effort to prevent any conflict of interest. Councilors said by being able to physically document the condition of those septic systems they’ll have a data base to guide them on extending the city’s sewer lines out to homes on the west and even east side of the lake. Hawker said he’s pretty sure the testing could begin this summer. No word on how many summers it might take.
The council also told Hawker to initiate discussions with the Devils Lake Water Improvement District aimed at gauging the Devil’s Lake community’s attitude about passing a property tax override to pay for permanent sewers. Also, what kind of incentives the city might offer to induce a more favorable response to the idea like deferring system development charges until the property sells or putting them on a payment plan. Mayor Dick Anderson said he liked the fact that the council is committed to doing something upfront about inspecting the septics while working on a framework for what will be a very costly project of installing a sewer system at Devil’s Lake.