Lake-dredging expansion rejected

May 27, 1994|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Sun Staff Writer

The Columbia Council last night rejected a proposal to expand the Wilde Lake dredging project, disappointing a group of Wilde Lake village residents who have done research and field observations to support their contention that too much harmful muck will remain in the lake when the job is completed.

"They've done a very minimal amount of work for a lot of money," said Bill Voss, who led the citizens' research and who is a contractor specializing in constructing tunnels.

The council voted 7-3 against clearing more sediment from the drained lake to make it deeper, minimize conditions that cause ++ harmful algae blooms and stave off the need for another dredging project for a longer period. The project is nearly complete.

Council members opposing the proposal to allocate an additional $125,000 to the $664,000 project and to extend the work by about two months cited disruption to a summer camp at the lake and potential harm to fish and other aquatic life now living in a condensed area.

Mr. Voss said those concerns were "overblown."

Council members also debated whether expanding the project now would be a wise investment, but came to no firm conclusion.

Wilde Lake residents and a village board official said removing more sediment now while the lake is dry would be cost-efficient.

Several council members, saying they had consulted with environmental scientists, recommended targeting efforts and money toward reducing erosion in the watershed that causes the lake to fill with sediment and exploring other methods to contain algae growth.

"This was not one of the easier decisions we had to make. We truly struggled with it," said Council Chairwoman Karen Kuecker.

The Columbia Association project drew criticism from two council members who voted to expand the dredging work.

"Never time to do it right, always time to do it over," said Councilman Roy Lyons.

The council serves as the board of directors for the nonprofit Columbia Association (CA), which maintains Columbia's three lakes and other open space areas.

Councilwoman Norma Rose of Wilde Lake village, who proposed expanding the project, said: "I want to make clear my disappointment with the type of information we've gotten about this project beginning last December. We've spent over $600,000 to remove in effect less than half the silt.

"In the capital project report, it said the silt will be removed from Wilde Lake -- not some of the silt, [but all] the silt," she said.

Ms. Rose said CA staff originally told the council the project might suffice for 20 years or more, but has revised the estimate to five to 10 years.

"I think five to 10 years is a very short time to be lowering the lake and disturbing residents and wildlife," she said.

The dredging work is part of a $1.5 million project that includes repairing Wilde Lake Dam to meet safety standards and fixing a bulkhead. The 21-acre lake -- one of the first amenities built in Columbia in the late 1960s and a popular recreation area -- has been drained since February, leaving much of the bottom exposed.

Wilde Lake residents have contended that the association's contractor is merely skimming the top of a layer of sediment that is 3 to 5 feet deep in some areas. Association officials say the contractor is following orders to re-establish the lake bottom at an elevation of 330 feet -- a measurement taken in 1972.

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