Category Archives: Lake Level

Related to discussions or actions on lake level

Lake Level Update

We would like to thank the DLWID Board for their attempts to preserve our water right by raising the lake to the full impoundment level of 9.53’ during the month of July.  Mother Nature did not however cooperate and the lake never exceeded 9.4’ during the month. Now that we have reached August the lake has been lowered to 9.0’ as per the most recent DLWID resolution on the matter.  Discussion by the Board in the July meeting indicated that the drop to 9.0’ satisfies the draw down requirement for August and therefore can remain until September 1st when we will need to drop another 2 inches.

The current policy has been a great success as it has virtually eliminated the access problems that existed in the previous two seasons.  Residents report unfettered access to their docks and visitors have had no difficulty at area boat launches.  Water quality is greatly improved over the past two seasons as in 2013 we had large patches of algal scum covering the lake as early as Fathers Day; this year scum has yet to surface.  Interestingly water contact advisories were posted in the same week each year based on Microcystin levels.  With the drop in level the algae has concentrated in number as the same number of cells now is suspended in a smaller volume of water.

So today the lake is far from pristine; we have a great deal of algae in the water column but we are light years ahead of the past two seasons.  Unfortunately the algae has begun to surface; but we all have enjoyed July and hope for an August primarily free of scum. We have reasonable access to shallower areas and the canals still are covering the lake bottom. These conditions are greatly appreciated so thanks again DLWID Board.

Recent History of Lake Level Decisions

Around 140 interested parties attended the Devils Lake Water Improvement Association Board meeting in April.  Included in the mix was Mayor Dick Anderson and most of the Lincoln City Council members.  Lake condition and lake level dominated the discussion with nearly 40 testifying during the night.  In the end there were no decisions made by the DLWID board other than to begin the water quality testing for the year as requested by the Devils Lake Neighborhood Association in the March meeting.

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DLNA Offers A Path Forward

Path-ForwardAs a community we are very much aware that the public’s interest in the lake and the activities of DLWID are at an all time high.  The District received 1.5 hours of testimony in its last board meeting attended by approximately 140 citizens and participated in a 5 hour workshop with nearly 60 present.

Following these public meetings DLWID board members and members of the DLNA board mutually reached out to each other and participated in series of meetings with the intent to find a path forward.  In those discussions we discovered that the District and the public agree on much more than they disagree.  Generally all parties expressed a common sentiment that the best outcome from recent events would be to harness the enhanced public awareness into a positive outcome that would benefit the lake and the community.

To that end, the Devils Lake Neighborhood Association has outlined a path forward that we feel can accomplish these simple goals.  Our ask is simple; convert six inches of water into the catalyst that builds an engaged community that is supportive of the Districts efforts as described below.  At the conclusion of our discussions last week we felt hopeful that the District would view this as an option that deserved a chance.

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Lake Level Report – Introduction

DISTRICT MONITORS LAKE LEVEL

During the upcoming December board meeting the DLWID staff will present the Lake Level Report they have been working on the past few month. According to the report “the impoundment regime change for 2012 is being reviewed. Previously the lake was impounded to a height of 9.53’ beginning as earlier as April 15 through October 15th. In 2012 this was modified in an attempt to mitigate impacts that impoundment has on the erosion, the shoreline vegetation, and fish and wildlife. Following two public hearings on this matter, the Devils Lake Water Improvement District Board of Directors opted to begin impoundment no earlier than June 1st, with a target date of June 15th, and then only to 9.0’. This impoundment regime was conducted during the summer of 2012, and this review is meant to provide insight to the District as to the impacts pro or con that may have had. Considerations will include recreational access, fish passage, septic systems, and water quality, shoreline vegetation.”

We have taken the report and posted each section on this website.  Each section has the heading Lake Level Report.  There are five section in all

  1. Boat Dock Survey
  2. Fish and Wildlife
  3. Septic Systems
  4. Water Quality
  5. Vegetation

We have presented this material without commentary.  We will submit a request to the DLWID board to have this material presented an more than one meeting as December 13 is in the midst of the holiday season and it is unlikely anyone will be in attendance at the meeting.  In the meantime we suggest you review all five sections and draw your own conclusions.

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Lake Level Report – Boat Dock Survey

RECREATIONAL ACCESS — BOAT DOCK SURVEY

A section from the Lake Level Monitoring report contained in Staff Report from the December 13, 2012 board meeting material.  This section drafted by district staff.

LLRpt Fig 18The Devils Lake Water Improvement District conducted a boat dock survey this fall. Water depths were taken at each of the 393 structures on Oregon Department of State Lands list of registered and unregistered docks for Devils Lake. These predominately were located in the jurisdictional waters of the state, although some docks which were measured were outside this boundary in dredged out areas or canals. Depths were recorded at 1 to 2 spots on the dock. The primary depth was taken at the point where the motor of a boat would typically be located if moored at the apparent preferred docking locale. For some docks an optional mooring site was recorded which may provide the upland land owner another position within the existing configuration of the dock to moor their boat. The Crystal Lagoon area was not surveyed, but previous outings confirm this area is utilized and anecdotally favored by non-motorized crafts such as kayaks and canoes. Non jurisdictional docks exist in the back canal system, nor for the most part exist as the width of the canal system largely precludes such structures.

Depth soundings were taken using a fixed device with a 6” square base to standardize the measurements in the variable substrates (muck, sand, bedrock). Depth measurements were recorded in 3” increments which were later converted to decimal feet. Given the nature of taking depths from a boat in real world conditions, the surveyors were conservative in their recording, erring on the low side of a measurement. In other words, the measurements were made in a way that may have slightly underestimated the actual depth of water available by up to 3”. The current lake stage was recorded for each day of sampling, and the depths normalize to water depths of 9.53’ (maximum impoundment), 9.0’ (2012 impoundment), and 8.6’ (anticipated water height after evaporation period for 2012 – this is also near the typical water height seen in the late summer predam modification in 2006). Continue reading

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Lake Level – Fish and Wildlife

FISH AND WILDLIFE

A section from the Lake Level Monitoring report contained in Staff Report from the December 13, 2012 board meeting material.  This section drafted by district staff.

LLRpt Fig 16Devils Lake is home to a genetically distinct line of federally listed Coho Salmon. These fish make their upward migration in the winter period, when the lake is not impounded, but their outward migration occurs from May to Mid July which is typically a period of impoundment. In 2012 the impoundment period was reduced to beginning no earlier than June 1st, with an anticipated impoundment starting date of June 15th, based on lake level at the time. Historically the lake was impounded from April 15th. The District had a practice of pulsing the dam every other night from May 15 to May 31 in an attempt to mitigate some of impacts to juvenile fish trying to make their way to sea. Non-native ambush predators such as large mouth bass and other piscivorous fish may take advantage of the shadowy, narrow outlet the juvenile Coho would necessarily have to traverse in their escapement. Continue reading

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Lake Level Report – Water Quality

WATER QUALITY

A section from the Lake Level Monitoring report contained in Staff Report from the December 13, 2012 board meeting material.  This section drafted by district staff.

LLRpt Fig 4

A full water quality report was given in September 2012, so only a summary of that data are provided here. The key aspect of consideration was could the lake level be shown to have negatively or positively impacted the water quality. It had been said at the outset that the water quality question would be the most difficult to answer as it is much more variable and unpredictable especially when dealing with living organism, blue-green algae.

LLRpt Fig 5

What was apparent from the data set was that while 2012 was a worse year bloom wise from the two previous it was better the 2008 and 2009 when the lake was higher and warmer.

A cursory review of past blooms indicate that 2012 was not the first year we have seen a lake wide bloom. These occurred in 2008 and 2009 certainly, but aerial photographs from the 1990’s show similar events occurring. Bloom constituency was different then, as the more toxic Anabaena and Microcystis dominated the lake compared to the significantly less toxic Gloeotrichia that was the major continuant of the recent bloom. Continue reading

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Lake Level Report – Vegetation

VEGETATION

A section from the Lake Level Monitoring report contained in Staff Report from the December 13, 2012 board meeting material.  This section drafted by district staff.

LLRpt Fig 11One aspect of the decision to not impound as much water as had been done in previous years was the potential impact to the shoreline plant community. In fact it was the concern for the viability of the District’s SOS (Save our Shorelines) program that initiated the Erosion Study (Link) that contributed in many ways to the findings for the recent lake level decision. As a healthy shoreline is integral to the health of the lake it is worth nothing that the District continues to sustain its investment in the SOS program with staff, training programs, a native plant nursery, demonstration sites, and a 75% cash match for shoreline property owners. Additionally, the District paid for the development of the Shoreline Planting Guide (Link), and has since then reinvested in multiple printings of this document, sharing it with property owners, landscapers and the like.

Further the District recognizes with the limits of private property owner participation in the SOS program — to date only six have participated and only two property owners have come forward leading to one site evaluation since the June decision — the best opportunity for restoration currently lies on public property. Not only is this on upland publicly owned parcels such as East Devils Lake State Recreation area where the District has its second demonstration site, but more importantly at all areas around the lake up to the 10.4’ meandered legal boundary of the lake. This areas then includes the ring of the lake from Ordinary High Water which is the 10.4’ to some level near 8.3 which may be consider more or less the Ordinary Low Water. This OLW water is ill defined for Devils Lake, but a 2’ fluctuation in lake stage is often seen through the year. Continue reading

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The Green Monster

Adored in Fenway, Not in Lincoln City

Since we have now made it to the end of the 2012 recreational season it’s time to make a few observations. The season began with two public hearings; the first in May and a second in June where record numbers of the public provided comment on summertime lake levels.  At the conclusion of these sessions the board voted to change the target summertime lake level from 9.6 to 9.0 which began on June 15th.  In the August board meeting the board established an ending summer lake level target of 8.8 to accommodate the terms of the Districts impoundment permit.  The current lake level is at the 8.8 target.  In a week the District will remove what remains of the impoundment structure.

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As a result of this decision we know by observation that the lake was much lower this year.  We know this lower level impacted people as we got many reports from lake uses on how this lower lake level negatively impacted their boating experience.  There was however a more significant, more noticeable contrast in the lake this year from previous years. What happened to our lake this year?

On July 26th the District delivered the first Harmful Algal Bloom Surveillance (HABS) report by email as the season’s historic Blue-Green Algae bloom began.  This bloom quickly grew into large patches of thick green goo floating around the lake.  Early morning visitors to the lake this summer saw significant levels of floating algae over the entire surface of the lake.  Significant suspended algae can be found in the water column at almost any location on the lake on any day this summer.  Universally residents around the lake communicated their observations that they had never seen water that was in worse shape than this year.

Despite the terrible condition of the water, the lake was never posted beyond a moderate risk.  That is because the board changed their methodology for posting where one sample taken at Sand Point on August 28th exceeded cell count standards but did not exceed microcyctin parameters.  I support these new guidelines because they are now based on microcyctin levels, there is no real reason to scare the public if there are no toxins in the water threatening their health.  This year even though the lake looked terrible, the microcystin levels never topped .9ppb when over 8ppb is the health Department threshold.  The mess did however impact most people’s enjoyment of the lake, who would be covered with green dots as they exit the water.  So while not toxic the algae was very bothersome.

Another observation this year is related to the temperature of the lake.  According to the District’s own measurements the lake saw a 3% increase in the temperature this summer over last summer when levels were higher.  This spring, many predicted that lake temperatures would rise with lower water levels.  It appears that that this did occur.  With different weather this difference in lake temperature could have been more dramatic as average air temperature for Lincoln City were 2% lower this year when compared to the previous year. Lincoln City experienced similar amounts of rainfall during the period of impoundment with 1.6” in 2011 and 1.8” in 2012.  This is illustrated in the charts below, click for a larger version.

Devils Lake Temperature

Lincoln City Temp

Lincoln City Precip

There was a presentation given to the Board of Directors at the September meeting which characterized this summers results somewhat differently than we have here.  Let just say that we see the situation from a different viewpoint.  So in conclusion we cannot say with absolute certainty that the lower lake levels authorized by the DLWID board resulted in the observed higher temperatures and higher levels of summer green algae.  It can be said that the board decision on lake level did nothing to improve water quality this summer.

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Low Water Impacts Many

How Much Lower Will It Go

At the July Board meeting Doug McGowan commented he has been on the lake for 20 years and replaced his dock in 2009.  He has had adequate water until last summer, which was the first time it was a challenge.  He warned that to take the lake down further would be disastrous.  The picture shows that at the target lake level of 8.8’ there is less than 6” of water at the transom of his boat.  The boat no longer floats and cannot be driven away from the dock.  Doug must wait for the lake to rise just to remove his boat from the lake.  There are multiple stories such as this on the lake this year.

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Lake Level Is Going Down .53 Feet

Many Attend The Second Public Hearing

The second public hearing on lake level began the June 7th Devils Lake Water Improvement District board meeting. This hotly debated issue has occupied space in board meetings over the past four years. Tonight by my count 79 people came to the meeting to share their opinions with the board.

We will cover the discussion in a minute since I’m sure you are more interested in the outcome. After hearing the public testimony the board had a brief discussion and took action. They considered the text of a resolution offered by the public and eventually they came to a decision. The board considered modifying their water right as filed at the Oregon Water Board, which would have been almost impossible to reverse. Instead the motion was made by David Skivin and seconded by Noel Walker to Change the District’s policy concerning lake level. Specifically, it shall be the policy of the District to construct the D-River dam on June 1st each year and begin impoundment on June 15th or when the water level falls to 9.0 feet and established a impoundment height of 9.0 feet MSL. The motion passed unanimously.

The meeting began with Brian Green rendering a position on whether or not any board members should recuse themselves from the decision. He stated that it was his opinion that this was not the case as a conflict is defined as having a financial gain. He stated that no board member had any possibility of financial gain from this decision.

Continuing, the lake manager walked through the same presentation he made at the first public hearing. His material was in favor of lowering the lake and/or never installing the dam. The presentation was 84 slides long and can be found at the previous link. The manager presentation lasted 45 minutes and was followed by a board question and answer period. Those questions related to the size of the gap in the dam, the impact on blue green algae and the impact of the decision on the District’s grass carp application.

The first member of the public was able to begin at 7:15pm. A total of 33 came to the podium and spoke. 9 spoke in favor of the dam removal and 24 opposed it.

The board was presented a petition that was signed by 500 citizens interesting in the lake. The petition requests them to leave the current policy in place with the lake held at 9.53 feet. Several comments from those petitioners were read into the record. A total of 87 of those who signed left comments for the board. It was explained that these signatures were collected online, door to door, and at a few key retail outlets in town. They stated that this method insured that a cross section of lake users is represented. It has some lakefront homeowners, we have some local Lincoln City residents, and it has many signatures from those people who come to Lincoln City to enjoy the lake and the beach. They stay in hotels and vacation homes, eat in local restaurants, and shop at local businesses.

One person said the lake is filling in and that dam is accelerating that process. He felt that the removal of the dam would slow this process. Another described the wetlands like a lung that can’t be water logged and that can’t be good.

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