County, CA plan to reduce sediment buildup in Wilde Lake

March 12, 1997|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF

The body of water that lends its name to Columbia's Wilde Lake village has long suffered a buildup of sediment because heavy rains erode its tributaries at an alarming rate.

Now, after years of complaints from residents and a push by local ecologists, the county and the Columbia Association (CA) are setting aside money to do something about the problem.

A large-scale engineering project, scheduled to start this summer, will stabilize some of the streams to reduce the amount of sediment coming off their banks, said Jim M. Irvin, director of the county Public Works Department.

Wilde Lake village, Columbia's oldest, was built in 1967 before storm water management regulations were put in place, he said.

As a result, in big rains or snow melts, water running off roofs and paved surfaces -- water that would have been absorbed into the soil before the ground was covered because of development -- heads into streams that cannot handle the heavy flows.

The water erodes fragile stream banks, carrying dirt and other natural material into the lake -- where it accumulates over years and creates a water-to-soil imbalance.

"The sediment builds up, like in the bottom of a bathtub, if you will," said Chick Rhodehamel, ecologist for CA.

The buildup fosters algae growth, which takes in oxygen that fish and other lake creatures need, threatening the life of the lake itself. If left unchecked, the soil would eventually fill in the lake, turning it into a meadow, Rhodehamel said.

To prevent that, the 21-acre Wilde Lake has been dredged three times in 30 years. The last time -- in 1994 -- the Columbia Council asked Rhodehamel to find a more permanent solution.

In 1994 and '95, the council and the county funded a study of the lake through the University of Maryland College Park. The study's findings -- that about a dozen stream areas particularly needed help -- led to this project, which will be funded by CA and the county, Irvin said.

CA approved about $40,000 in late February and the county is expected to approve $75,000 in May for the project.

"There is not much you can do about the water itself, but you can slow it down with block structures of plants and other natural materials," Rhodehamel said.

The project will likely last at least two years, and the county will request more money in fiscal year 1999 to finish it, Irvin and Rhodehamel said.

Pub Date: 3/12/97

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