Sand Lake Vegetation Management Project
June 2013 Quarterly Update
First, thank you to all of you who signed up for our email list. It is tremendously helpful in being able to send timely updates and information. We still only have about 20% of the emails that we need to reach all of the adjacent property owners, but it's a start. The Sand Lake project has been progressing; here are updates to each of the issues:
Legal Ownership - The ownership status of Sand Lake has been a question, briefly, because even though the Municipality has been acting as an owner for several decades, as you told us, the Municipality of Anchorage had sent a letter to the State of Alaska in September 2011, in essence denying ownership of Sand Lake and attaching a brief engineering study denying an on-going issue with Sand Lake's water level. This is the same engineering firm that designed and oversaw installation of the water level regulator in Sand Lake that keeps the water level at 86.5-feet or less - but the lake has been below this level for approximately two years now, caused by an unknown reason though evidence points in a certain direction, more research needs to be completed before it can be definitive.
We received a copy of the State's response in a meeting last week - The State has responded (actually had responded in February of 2012 but even with all of our inquiries throughout this project no one we spoke to knew of the existence of the response and were still treating it as a continuing question) seeming to, at least partially, accepting State ownership of Sand Lake - with the dam/weir in question and the State requesting more information.
I am attaching both of these letters - and will let you know if anything else happens. For us, while the State seems to be clear about their ownership, as you know, the Municipality and taxpayers have invested significant funds in Sand Lake through studies, filling of the original outlet to the outlet at the end of the canal, and the engineering and construction of the water level regulating mechanism in 1993, etc. For any of this work to have been done, it would seem that someone in a permitting agency or other authority would have asked or confirmed ownership - and as you know, the Municipality has been acting as owner for several decades. So for us, it's still not a conclusive answer and we are pursuing permission for this project from both the Municipality and the State should the issues be settled either direction.
Water and Sediment Sampling - In March, our water quality folks took water and sediment samples from several locations on the lake and the laboratory results have come back. The purpose of this round of sampling was to get data from the lake during the time of year that no drainage is entering the lake. We will be continuing sampling, data-collection, and monitoring of the lake throughout this project. The results of the lab tests show high iron content in the sediment, one of the factors that Elodea must have present in order to prosper (the other two basic elements necessary are the presence of nitrogen and phosphorus).
Short-Term Plans -In the short term, the ASWCD will start work in the canal. It has become imminently clear that the most cost effective option that provides the longest-lasting results comes from restoring the health of the lake so the lake itself is regulating its water quality. To help the lake take a huge step in the right direction, the sediment (sludge) layer on the bottom of the lake must be reduced or removed, hence decreasing or eliminating the Elodea habitat that is taking over portions of the lake. Elodea grows in fertile sediment and grows best when poor water quality and/or excess nutrients are present in the water. By decreasing or eliminating these conditions, experts in the field believe the Elodea will return to the limited populations it used to be. By completely eliminating its habitat, we believe Elodea will respond accordingly
Based on our work and research since the project began in August 2012, and with confirmation from discussions with property owners and experts, it is clear that Sand Lake's decline began in the early 1990's - some property owners adding that it's been almost 15 years since they used the lake for swimming due to the condition of the lake. The current condition of the lake is causing negative impacts to all of you, the planes, and the rowing club.
We will host a meeting for all property owners interested in this initial work - an experiment to ascertain the effectiveness of microbes in the removal/digestion of the sludge on the bottom of the lake. If this method proves successful in Alaskan conditions, as is anticipated from its success in other cold-climate conditions similar to Alaska, this natural method will remove the sediment without harming the fish or oxygen levels of the lake. Further, we see no danger of impacts or damage to the adjacent wetlands, avoiding or lessening the cost of traditional dredging either by suction dredge or heavy equipment, and providing a cost-effective solution with the longest-term results of all options under consideration. This experiment will begin in mid-June, contingent on the securing of the necessary permitting.
Long-Term Plans - In the long-term, in partnership with you and others involved, the restoration of Sand Lake's health is the main goal. If we don't step in to fix or address issues that are contributing to the lake's decline, the lake will continue its downward cycle; Elodea will overtake the lake given enough time; water quality will continue its decline, and Sand Lake will get back to the healthy state it was prior to the 1990s. We have the opportunity now to intercede and restore the lake to a healthy state, including the management or elimination of the nuisance overgrowth of the aquatic plants.
The ASWCD has compiled all management methods that have been used around the world to control/eliminate freshwater aquatic plants and we are ready to talk to all of the property owners and make decisions on the course to take from here. If you are interested in hosting an informal meeting with your neighbors adjacent to the lake please let us know using the contact information below. Ideally, the meetings won’t exceed 25-30 people at a time. This allows time to answer everyone's questions.
Thank you for your time - as always feel free to contact us anytime.
Ryan Stencel, Project Manager
Phone: 907.677.SOIL (7645)