Lakes plan tabled

Council voices concern about paying for program

stillwaterThe Stillwater City Council agrees that Lily, Long and McKusick lakes need aquatic lake management. What council members want to know is how to pay for and sustain it long term.

Recommendations of Wenck Associates Inc., aquatic biologist Joe Bischoff include a combination of harvesting, herbicide and alum treatments to get rid of algae, vegetation and some invasive species in the three lakes at a total cost of $62,000 per year. He added that each lake has different needs and lake  herbicides are designed to disappear quickly in the water so there is not much concern for environmental impacts.

Lake management costs would stretch over 15 years due to the aquatic harvester life span. Bischoff said that Lily Lake has the least need for upkeep and could cost $2,000 a year if the city agreed to the herbicide treatment recommendation. Whether Lily Lake will be open to the public for swimming remains to be determined, although the lake has a boat launch.

Bischoff said McKusick and Long lakes have more dense vegetation that should be cleared so people can use the lakes for recreation. McKusick upkeep would include harvesting and herbicide treatments and algae skimming at annual cost of $42,000. Long Lake treatments include harvesting and herbicide treatments at an annual cost of $18,000.

Council members questioned treating all the lakes the same way. They noted that the lakes all have different uses and levels of access and are connected by a chain, saying what happens to one lake could affect them all.

Mayor Ken Harycki said the aquatic management issue was before council several years ago and taken care of for a couple of years, then discontinued causing the vegetation to grow back.

Councilman Doug Menikheim aked about possibly creating a lake improvement tax district.

“Could we create a lake management district and set it up to charge for taxes and services to help us continue with funding of upkeep,” he asked.

City Attorney David Magnuson said that Menikheim’s idea would be feasible. City Engineer Shawn Sanders said funding options that could be considered by the council include using funds from the storm water utilities, or establishing lake improvement districts that would require one or two public hearings. Lake management efforts need to start in May.

“I think a lake district would open up a can of worms. If we did that I think we’d have people who wanted everything, even drainage ditches treated, and that’s what you’re going to get,” said Councilman Mike Polehna.

Despite objecting to the lake district, Polehna agreed with other council members when Sanders was asked to run the numbers to see how it would affect residents.

“If we go with the storm sewer fund to the three lakes, it would be in one lump sum,” Harycki said. “I’d like to see what the numbers would be, if it was $4 to $6 per year per household, it would be very different than if it was $60 to $100 per year per household. Could you bring those back to us at the next meeting.”

Sanders will provide lake management district cost numbers at the council’s April 16 meeting.