The Sewer Proposal
by Bob Meyerson
Upwards of 150 people attended a public meeting at the Atwater Community Center on Saturday Aug 6 to discuss a proposed sewer line around Diamond Lake – notification was posted in the previous issue of the News. The bulk of the presentation was made by Brad DeWolf from the Bolton & Menk Engineering Co., hired by Kandiyohi County to study the question. His presentation was followed by remarks from Gary Danielson, Kandiyohi County Public Works Director. Questions were also answered by Harlan Madsen, representing our area.
DeWolf reviewed existing wastewater systems, with special emphasis on lot sizes and setback requirements. He explained the proposed system, with diagrams showing the probable layout. Costs were estimated to be $6440/unit regardless of hook up, plus $8260/unit for individual hook ups with a grinder pump. Annual fees would be about $300 plus the cost for water usage (typically $35/month). A $1750 hook up charge might be waived if owners tie into the system within the first year. These figures do not include costs associated with the removal of current septic systems. The following arguments were made:
•If you have a good system now, why spend additional money for something you don’t need. •Septic systems can be installed for a lot less than a sewer system. •Septic systems represent a very small part of the lake’s water quality problem. •The additional expense will drive out seasonal owners and those unable to afford the additional cost. •How do you take into account different ownership circumstances, such as multiple lots, long (or short) lake or lot frontage, dependable farmland, bare lots?
•You might as well do it now as conforming systems will be required for a variance or when the property is sold. •If your lot isn’t big enough for a conforming system you may be stuck with a holding tank requiring frequent pumping. •A sewer system will address the problem long into the future. •Full hook-up isn’t mandatory, but a well functioning system is. •Special circumstances will have to be worked out by some advisory group.
A show of hands indicated support for the system by approximately 70 property owners. There was no count of opponents. The decision to proceed will be made by the County Commissioners. Commissioner Madsen did not think it advisable to canvas property owners for their opinion, but it was generally agreed that residents are best off knowing what that decision will be sooner than later so that the installation of new or replacement septic systems could be avoided if a sewer system is going in. A meeting between Association Board members, Danielson and Madsen was scheduled for August 26 and is reported below. Copies of the Bolton and Menk handout are available upon request at 320-231-3956.
At least 2 different petitions are circulating in opposition to the project. One asks that those on Diamond Lake (Dogfish Bay) be exempted if the project is implemented. Interested persons may contact Duane Spicer (220-9003). Another in opposition to the proposal as a whole is being circulated by Duane and Phyllis Losing (974-3072). Thus far the Association has not taken a position on these petitions or the project itself.
August 26 Meeting, County Highway Department
by Bob Meyerson
After the August 6, 2005 public informational meeting the Board of Directors of the Diamond Lake Area Recreational Association (DLARA) was asked by County Engineer Gary Danielson and County Commissioner Harlan Madsen if the Board would like to sit down with them to decide what to do next. The Board agreed. Unfortunately neither the Board nor the County players conferred prior to the meeting to set an agenda.
County Engineer Danielson went into greater detail about the history, function and composition of the Green Lake Sanitary Sewer and Water District (GLSSWD). However, DLARA was more interested in learning about the process of arriving at a decision on the sewer proposal.
Several people present argued that the primary source of pollution of Diamond Lake was agricultural runoff. There was general agreement that the sewer proposal was far less about water quality than it was about future compliance with regulation regarding sewage disposal. Commissioner Madsen went so far as to speculate that, at some point, compliance in some form would be mandatory. Questions about the disposition of assessments were raised, in particular whether it would be possible to dedicate excess funds to other ways of cleaning up the lake. It appears to be possible, in theory, but no commitments were given. There was talk about disseminating more information as well as a possible public hearing to be held in late spring, 2005 when more seasonal property owners would be available.
Many attendees went away dissatisfied. As this was not an official DLARA meeting, no action was taken. The next DLARA Board meeting will be held on Saturday September 17 at 8:30am at the Community Park Shelter. Board meetings are open to Association members only. (For those intensely interested in the process, there will be a hearing about the Lake Florida proposal at 9am on September 24 in the Community Room of the County Health & Human Services Building).
Editor's Note: We have receive three interesting responses regarding the sewer project; we did not receive any that were in strong support but support obviously exists, judging by the show of hands at the August 6 meeting; we will try to keep the question open and encourage more letters, provided they are factual and not repetitious of what has already been noted.
by Tim Groshens
I have attended two meetings on the proposal and read what material I could find. I now know too much about grinder pumps and warranties, and I know there are at least five ways to divide the costs of the project. What I don’t know is why. What would be achieved if the proposal went forward?
Here are the reasons I heard put forward to support the proposal:
•Property owners with small lots have or will have problems enjoying their property because of the space needed for mound systems. If so, we need to know how many property owners face this difficulty and what alternatives, such as cluster systems are available. For example, if the cost of the proposal is $5.7 million and there are 200 small lots facing this difficult, could the $28,500 per small lot be better spent to solve the problem? (I have now idea if these are the right numbers on either side of the equation). We should not be indifferent to the concerns of the small lot owners, but much more information is needed to understand how big a problem this is. •The new system will improve the water quality. This is the reason I originally supported the proposal, but oddly enough, the people I have heard speak and who should be in-the-know agree that the new system will do next to nothing to measurably improve the water quality. At this point in most discussions, the issue of failing septic systems arises and estimates ranging from “only 3” to “many” are given as far as the number of systems that are malfunctioning and presumably lowering the quality of the water. Mandatory septic inspection is also raised at this point in most discussion. These uninformed side discussions on the state of septic systems only confuse the question of whether the proposed system will improve the water quality of the lake. Somehow, there should be a way to estimate the number of failing septic systems and determine the impact on water quality. If not, improved water quality seems to fail as an argument in favor of the proposed system. •A common sewer system will bring new development around the lake which will generate additional funds to improve the quality of the lake. Perhaps, but not without a good plan.
I have also heard several justifications for the proposed system that attribute bad motives to “others”. I don’t list them here because I don’t believe those reasons. I trust other people operate in good faith and have the best interests of Diamond Lake at the center of their position.
Having said all of this, it may seem I oppose the proposal. I don’t. I think there probably is a good reason to support it. I just haven’t heard it yet. And I would guess I am not alone. Most people I know around the lake strongly believe in supporting efforts that improve the quality of the lake. What concerns me is that if this project moves forward without a clearer understanding of what it will accomplish, the proposal will be too divisive and other common efforts to improve the quality of the lake will suffer.
by Joyce Wittman
I am not against sewer for the lake but I am still seeking answers to a few questions before I would be in favor of the plan. I question the funding for the trunk line down County Road #4. The trunk line being proposed would serve not only 365 homes but also the park, resort and campground, as well as 517 acres yet to be developed. The county believes it could recover half the cost of this line from future development which they project at 517 homes. Because the county lacks a zoning requirement that would require one-acre lots, and the newest homes on Diamond Lake are about a half acre in size, it is more likely that the county would recover assessments on close to 1000 homes. So it is possible that the county would recover twice their initials costs, keeping the difference for itself. But we need to keep costs as low as possible.
One seasonal homeowner at the August 6 informational meeting made the valid point that cost is an issue because her family wants to be able to continue enjoying its cabin and the lake. A speaker told her that the sewer would actually increase her property value. But she was not interest in selling her cabin, she wants to continue using it. Isn’t it just plain Minnesotan to go to the cabin? We should all be concerned about the results of rapid turnover in property. In the short term that could lower, not raise, property values. Many seasonal properties could turn into year-round homes, increasing lake traffic and placing greater demand on services.
Second, why are the park, resort and campground currently set up as one-lot properties when the park has 57 seasonal sites, the resort has 9 units and the campground has 5? To keep costs down that needs to be rectified.
Third, what are the plans to mitigate damage to the lake during construction? Cleaning up the lake is the first propriety and I don’t want to see more damage done in two months of installation work than would be done in twenty years without it.
I hope to find answers to these questions before I decide on sewer. More importantly I hope that every property owner will share their concerns and have their questions answered. There will be three public hearings at the county level: one to hire an engineer, another an improvement hearing, and last an assessment hearing. Every homeowner should receive written notice from the county for each of these meetings. You do no have to be present to comment but can send written comments and ask that they be made part of the record. Between not and then the Diamond Lake Area Recreational Association is serving as a liaison with the county and you can contact board members to share your feelings.
by Jim Teschendorf
Many property owners around Diamond Lake are not convinced that the proposed sewer system should be put into place. There are so many conflicting ideas and issues involved.
One of these issues is that a limited number of properties do not have space to install a mound system. When those systems fail and need to be replaced they have the option of installing a holding tank and having in pumped when necessary. There is no need to install an expensive sewer system around the lake so that a few do not have to pump.
While the survey report indicated there are some non-conforming systems that have failed, most of the non-conforming systems are probably not polluting the lake. Many systems probably do not neet current code requirements. That does not mean that they are not performing safely. A failing system can be replaced for a fraction of the cost of a sewer system. Even for those that need to pump monthly the cost would be less than the ongoing cost of a sewer system.
I have seen water quality reports published by the Environmental Protection Agency “EPA”. Those reports classify Diamond Lake as having impaired water. I would like to see future reports that classify Diamond Lake as having clean water and sewer would only be a small step to achieving that.
The more immediate and larger effort would be to control the nutrient loading from the ditches and the feeder lake chain of Hubbard, Wheeler and Schultz lakes. I believe there is an opportunity through utilizing modern technology such as “Solar Bee” equipment for a fraction of the cost of installing a sewer system. The “Solar Bee” is designed to improve water quality by controlling the Blue/Green algae blooms. To deploy this equipment on Diamond Lake or feeder-lake chain would result in an assessment that is a fraction of the cost per property owner than sewer, with much greater gain to water quality. This will require support by all Property Owners, County Boards, Pollution Control Agency, Local Watershed District, DNR and State elected officials.
by Judge Crater
IYou may have noticed (no, you should have noticed) that there is no insert for dues and no return envelope to our treasure, Jon Hanson in this issue of the News. Our practice has been to do the appeal in the first two issues on the theory that those who ignore it twice have no trouble ignoring it thrice, and for the reason that is costs both time and money to print and enclose said items.
However, all is not lost. You can still join for 2005. The benefits are many. Practically speaking, you become eligible for the septic pumping reimbursement (see Missile Lane notes in this issue). Reputationally, your name will be inscribed in the Roll of Honor, and listing of paid up dues members, that will appear in the first issue of the News, appearing in your mailbox next Memorial Day weekend, a listing of inestimable value for checking up on your neighbors. Morally, you will have done your voluntary part to support the only organization solely dedicated to the welfare of Diamond Lake. Also, you can attend board meetings or even serve on the board if you are crazy enough.
If you have not already done so, please make your $25 check payable to the Diamond Lake Area Recreational Association (a cumbersome name adopted when we first started applying for grants in order to demonstrate that our concern was broader than just the interest of property owners around the lake), and mail it to Jon Hanson, using your own envelope. Each check received undercuts by just a little bit the bad attitude of this author.
P.S. The claim has been made that dues are going for weed cutting on the north side of the lake. While that is true, it represents a very small percentage of our expenditures. Furthermore, it was the Association that implemented the no-wake zone on Dogfish Bay and successfully fought development of the east side of the Bay several years ago. We also sponsor projects that benefit the entire lake, such as septic pumping refunds, agricultural best management practice reimbursements, water quality monitoring and studies, informational mailings, lawn aerations, phosphorous-nitrate-coliform testing, educational projects with ACGC School, publishing this newsletter, hosting a website, maintaining the carp trap and much else. Sometimes projects benefit only a few and at other times they benefit all – in that sense we are similar to what government and most civilized societies do. But we do lack official authority.
New Technology Used to Clean Lakes
by Jim Teschendorf
The latest strategy to be used in the improvement of water quality in lakes is a piece of equipment called the “Solar Bee”. The equipment designed and marketed by Pump System Inc. has been very successful in preventing the bloom of the dreaded Blue/Green algae present in Diamond Lake. Blue/Green algae is found in many lakes in Minnesota and across the US.
A short video was presented at the June 18, 2005 Lake Association meeting illustrating the functionality of the “Solar Bee” equipment. The discussion that followed the video presentation prompted the association to continue researching the possibility of deploying the “Solar Bee” in the Diamond Lake or the small lakes that feed into Diamond. The “Solar Bee” is powered by the sun’s energy and is self contained and floats on the surface of the lake to perform the task of circulating water to balance oxygen levels in the lake water column. This application is less invasive than chemicals, and is completely safe for environment and fish and wild life living in the lake.
The use of “Solar Bee” technology in fresh water lakes is relatively new. Only a few installations exist at the present time. The most recent application involves a project being administered by the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District Association. Five of the “Solar Bee” units have been installed on Lake Minnetonka (Stubbs Bay). They believe this technology will improve the water quality in Stubbs Bay. The small bay of Lake Minnetonka has experienced the Blue/Green algae blooms the past couple of summers. This is the same stinky, ugly colored scum that has been showing up on the shoreline of Diamond Lake the past couple of summers.
The DLARA will be working with the county, state and governing officials to determine the impact and opportunities of using this new technology. If you would like to learn ore about the “Solar Bee” and see a picture of the equipment go to www.solarbee.com.
That line green vine that seems to be covering the tops of just about everything in the wild is probably echinocystis lobata, or wild cucumber. It is characterized by an almost ivy-type leaf with small greenish fruit in a spiky casing. Vines may grow to 15 feet or more but, according to the DNR, probably don’t represent a problem. It blooms from July to September and is found in almost all the US. On the other hand, Weeds of Nebraska labels it “invasive”. The DNR doesn’t know whey it is so prevalent this year. If you have a problem with it, call Congress.
A recent letter to the West Central Tribune critical of the sewer proposal claimed that notification of the August 6 informational meetings was not published in any newspaper or general mailing flier. It was noted in the July 4th issues of this publication in the lead article on the front page and in the Missile Lane notes on the back page. The News goes out to everyone in the Diamond Lake Watershed, whether and Association member or not. In addition 4 radio stations and the Kandiyohi County Times were also notified.
You can still qualify for the $50 septic pumping rebate. You must be a paid up dues member, have the work done by October 31 and send a copy of the paid bill to Treasurer Jon Hanson by November 30. Thus far we have made 59 reimbursements – 4 requests by non-members have not been honored. 239 memberships have been already been paid. Can we reach 250 this year?
No news is good news? A group of volunteers doesn’t think so. They are hoping to start publication of the Atwater Sunfish Gazette this fall. It will be mailed free to all residents with a 56209 zip code. Brace yourself: contributions will be solicited. Connie Feig at the Atwater Area Living at Home Block Nurse Programs is chair of the Board.