Deeper cleaning asked for Wilde Lake

May 25, 1994|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Sun Staff Writer

Several Wilde Lake village residents say they want the Columbia Association to dig deeper into Wilde Lake's floor -- and into the association's coffers -- to remove what they contend is harmful sediment.

The Waterfowl Terrace residents whose homes overlook the 21-acre lake say the association's current sediment-removal project is only skimming the top off three to five feet of muck in some of the drained lake's more shallow areas. They contend that more of the sediment -- deposits carried to the lake by tributaries and runoff -- must be removed to increase the lake's depth, improve its health and prevent algae blooms that are harmful to aquatic life.

They have conducted their own studies, measuring the depth of sediment and bringing a soil sample to county soil experts for analysis, in hopes that the Columbia Council will agree to expand the project's scope.

"I've lived here since 1971. I know what the lake was like before, and I know what it's like now. There's a difference," said Bill Voss, who is a contractor who specializes in constructing tunnels and who has led the residents' effort.

Mr. Voss uses a simple method for measuring the sediment: Just beyond his back yard, he plunges a thick wooden stick into the moist, mushy lake bottom in various spots until it hits hard soil and takes a reading -- as deep as 55 inches in one location yesterday.

"They're spending $650,000 to take sediment out of the lake," Mr. Voss said. "If you're going to spend that type of money, at least end up with a lake that's deeper, cleaner. Now we're more than likely getting minimum value for what we spend."

But Fred Pryor, the association's director of open space management, questions the residents' conclusion that the original bottom of the lake in some areas actually is several feet deeper than what contractors have cleared. The contract calls for the bottom of the lake to be restored to an elevation of 330 feet, a measurement recorded in 1972, the earliest one of the 26-year-old lake's bottom, Mr. Pryor said.

"We can only go with the facts we have," he said.

The Columbia Council plans to vote at 8 p.m. tomorrow on whether to require the contractor to remove more sediment to make the lake deeper, a change Mr. Voss estimated would cost an additional $200,000 to $250,000.

However, Mr. Pryor estimated that such a change would tack on more than $250,000 to the $1.5 million project to repair the deteriorating Wilde Lake dam and remove sediment while the lake is lowered.

Mr. Pryor said he anticipates dredging will be completed and the man-made lake will begin filling up by early June.

Four Waterfowl Terrace residents implored the council May 12 to take action while construction equipment is in place and the lake is drained. They said the lake has become "scummy" in recent summers, largely because of algae growth.

The residents say they are not acting out of self-interest, but are in a good position to monitor improvements to the popular recreation area.

"Open space of various types around Columbia should be protected and managed properly. Everyone will gain by that," said Clara Kimbro, a Waterfowl Terrace resident since 1969. "Lakes make Columbia unique."

"It's for the whole city. We're all paying for it," Mr. Voss said.

Mr. Pryor said there are indications that sediment is being removed all the way down to the lake bottom. For instance, storm water pipes in a cove area are resting on the lake bottom at an elevation of about 330 feet, he said.

He acknowledges that sediment remains in the lake area even after the dredging. But he contends that sediment is a characteristic of the flood plain in which the lake was constructed in the late 1960s and makes up a natural component of the lake bottom's soil composition.

But conservation planner Wesley Earp, of the Howard Soil Conservation District, said his analysis of a core sample showed that the material is sediment that has been deposited since the lake was built, and is not part of the makeup of the original soil underlying the lake.

Deposits of sediment of 40 inches or more -- the depth claimed by residents -- generally are not a natural component of flood plain soils in the region, he said.

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