May 22, 2008

City Council - Lake Shore Owners' Meeting

On October 30th, 2007, there was a meeting of lake shore owners called by the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District that only two homeowners attended. We don’t know if that was because of poor contact by the city or apathy by homeowners. We hope it was the first. In that meeting, the two of us (Thomas Day and Kathy Engebretson) were told that we needed to form a “lake owner’s association” to receive any assistance or protection from (or by) the state and city’s neglect of our lake.

In 2002, the City of Little Canada “took over” managing the lake height from a resident on the east side of the freeway. From that point until today, the lake has continued to deteriorate until it is in danger of becoming a mosquito swamp and an industrial and residential chemical waste dumping ground. These government institutions have caused a number of problems leading to the damage to our lake:

  • The Little Canada has poorly maintained the drain traps which allows street runoff to fill the lake with silt and pollutants,
  • the local school has dumped industrial chemicals into the school’s drainage system, ending up in Savage Lake,
  • the Watershed District improperly designed the lake drainage to drop the lake’s water level below historical levels, allowing water lilies to take hold and cover the surface of the lake,
  • and the DNR has ignored the deterioration of the lake while preventing lake shore owners, the county, and the city from correcting those problems.

In 2002, the City of Little Canada took over “managing” the lake height. For years past, a a resident on the east side of the freeway had contributed his own time to setting the gate and watching the water level. From that point to today, the lake’s condition has continued to deteriorate. In 2003, County Watershed District employees improperly measured the lake’s height and, accordingly, constructed a new drain system that lowered the lake height about 18-24” below historic levels. The Watershed district took 2 years to admit this mistake and two more years to make a correction that brought the lake levels up approximately 9” (still 9-15” below historic shoreline levels). The lowering of the lake level, plus the silt build-up from the street runoff, encouraged the dramatic increase in the lily pads covering the lake and other foreign plants along the shoreline. In my backyard, past runoff silt had created a small shelf that extended about 10’ into the lake from the drain, in 1997. Now, that silt-island extends at least 50’ into the lake. Further south, directly west of the island on our side of the lake, silt runoff has practically created a bridge between the island and the houses directly northwest of the island. By mid-June, the lake has been almost completely covered by water lilies, due to the lowered water level and raised the lake bottom.

All of this does more than just create a nuisance and environmental damage: it lowers the value of every property near the lake. Property values near high-quality natural resources are elevated, but those near unkempt swamps and abused waste dumps depreciate. If the city, county, and state choose to damage our property values, we should, at least, require them to accordingly lower tax evaluations.

I have created a blog site to try to help organize our lake owners’ group regarding saving this natural resource: If you are interested in joining a Lake Homeowners’ Association and working together to improve Savage Lake, please contact me at

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