Dec 16, 2009

Deer Killing Season in Little Canada

Tonight, our city council took on what must be the most menial task ever accomplished by a city council in times of economic depression. By a 3:1 vote (Rick Montour was the dissenting vote), the Little Canada City Council decided to allow hunting in the city limits because a couple of residents complained that they were being terrorized by killer deer or some such equally inconsequential rational. At the council meeting, an equal or great number of citizens disagreed with that decision. Obviously, three minds were made up before they heard public opinion.

This is, of course, the goose game all over again. Against the wishes of the majority of citizens, the city goes off half-cocked on a non-issue. You have to wonder why this kind of thing gets more than a few minutes of consideration. “Frivolous” is, apparently, a word that is not in the councils’ vocabulary.

The city has an overstock of empty business buildings, some of which are new construction and were subsidized by taxpayers. The state is hemorrhaging money and cutting back on Local Government Aid (LGA) payments which will likely result in increased property taxes. Some of us have had the value of our property decimated by actions and inaction by our city government (which was the original reason for this website). I doubt that any Little Canada resident feels well-supported by what the city does with tax money. And the city council spends time worrying about excess deer? Talk about fiddling while Rome burns. It will be interesting to see the council minutes to learn how they justify this waste of public time and resources.

One of the great advantages of living in a rare suburb like Little Canada is that is has the feel of living in the country while having the convenience of being very near an urban center. If the city government can easily be panicked into foolish and unnecessary action every time one or two residents complain about scary wildlife on their property, a good bit of that advantage is lost. This would go under the heading of "bad publicity" for our little village.

Dec 12, 2009

Wild Turkeys in the Trees

I admit I'm totally unfamiliar with northern wild turkeys. I've been around the southwest variety most of my life, but apparently northern turkeys are a lot more capable bird than the southern breed. On an October morning, we had almost a dozen wild turkeys roosting in our trees. I don't mean on low branches. I mean they were perched near the top of our tallest cottonwoods and maple trees, at least 30' feet from the ground. I didn't even know turkeys could fly, let alone fly so high.

A Shadow of Itself

Late this fall, our pitiful, abused little lake recovered a little of its former self. The water was calm. The light was perfect. The lillies had gone dormant for the season. For some reason, the water was the color of the St. Croix, that tea-mix that allows enough light to see into the water but, hopefully, not enough light to sustain those invasive plants. We can only hope winter doesn't spoil whatever it is that is creating this mix of plant material.

I'm sure for Minnesotans a tiny "lake" like this seems immaterial; so small that it isn't worth a moment's consideration. After all, we have Lake Gervais just across the lake in the rich part of town, why bother with a piddling pond that has been misused by MNDOT and ignored by the DNR? A few thousand years of migratory patterns have not been revised by human interference. All sorts of bird-life visits this lake, with some species spending a substantial portion of their year on our lake. As these pictures demonstrate, even a tiny lake has value for both recreation and improving the quality of life for lakeshore residents. We boat our little lake, we barbeque and have campfires on the lake shore, we look out our backyard windows at the lake views, and we take care of it. If only our city and state government did their share or, at least, did no damage to our natural resource we wouldn't have to fight for its existence.

We canoed the lake late one October evening and took these pictures of a practically perfect sundown.

Sep 6, 2009

The Little Canada Deer Hunt

During the August 12th City Council meeting, the longest discussion was about managing the deer population in the city. Apparently, the city's "herd" has increased from 21 head in 1999 to 71 in 2009. Some of our neighbors have been complaining, although they were unnamed in the meeting (as usual), about "plant damage and vehicular accidents."

As an aside, this citizen complaint rumor tactic was used for justifying the "goose roundup" last year. It would seem that a reasonable accounting of the actual number of complaints, who made the complaints, and a minimal bit of evidence would be desirable if the city is going to spend money and take this kind of time out of a city council meeting to discuss these issues. Putting something like this on the agenda, because the "City Administrator reported that he has received a number of calls" is a pretty poor use of the city's time.

John Moriarty, a Natural Resources Manager for Ramsey County Parks, recommended "a sharp-shooter" at $350 a deer. I wonder if he can suggest someone who'd be willing to take a contract on deer for that kind of money? If we're going to pay a local hitman $350 a deer to get the numbers down to the 1999 herd size, we're going to be coughing up $17,500. That would buy a lot of deer repellent and if it turned out that the "number of complaints" was as sparse as the goose complaints, we'd probably have deer repellent in stock for a few decades. Oddly, Moriarty said "noted that if a deer is shot at and the shot misses, that deer becomes trained to avoid the area." Seems like some well-placed fireworks could chase the deer out of the complaining neighbors' yards, if that's the case. I particularly enjoyed the comment that a deer trailing blood and guts across the neighborhood would produce "disadvantages from the public perception standpoint."

You think?

John Sculley was on hand to complain about deer on his property, but said "the only ones who will hunt Sculley property are named 'Sculley.' Sculley indicated that his brother and nephew are bow hunters and capable of taking some deer on his property."

The deer hunting party was tabled for further consideration. In the meantime, look forward to the possibility of bow hunters and sharp-shooters in your neighborhood any day now.

Aug 4, 2009

Who They Represent

The sad status of our lake has made me wonder who works for us and who doesn't? So, I created a map of where our mayor, city council members, and city employees live (as best I could based on city information and the white pages). The results were interesting. Most interesting is that the White Pages has John Keis listed as a St. Paul resident (533 Brimhall St, St. Paul, MN) while he lists his residence as 3094 Payne Avenue on the Little Canada website.

I was a little surprised to see that two council members, Shelly Boss and Michael McGraw, live on the poor side of the freeway (Boss lives at 62 Bryan Street East and McGraw is listed at 179 Little Canada Road East). That's encouraging, if a little difficult to understand. Rick Montour, Joel Hanson and Bill Blesener live almost exactly where I would I would have predicted.

My difficulty is in understanding how their positions on our lake can be so hostile to our side of the lake and so unconcerned with its condition. Honestly, I expected them all to live wrapped around Gervais Lake, which also depends to a mild degree on the water supply collected by the poor side of Savage Lake.

Where We Are Now

This morning, I awoke to sound of a loon singing on our lake. I can't remember ever hearing a loon here, although it's probably happened sometime. It's one of my favorite natural sounds along with doves and waterfalls. I got up quickly, dressed, and went down to the lakeshore. I couldn't find the loon, but I did spot a family of wood ducks, several egrets and herons, and a couple of hawks circling the island. If the lake weren't so decimated by lilies, water and noise pollution from the freeway it would have been a great way to start my day. All I came away with, however, was sadness that I've been so completely unable to stop the damage to such a beautiful resource in my own backyard.

The comments made by Little Canada City Council members and the town's bureaucrats during the July 22 meeting were discouraging, at best.

For example, "The Administrator [Joel Hansen] reported that the permitting process for lily treatment is more complicated than first thought as individual property owners must obtain permits for treatment adjacent to their property with the City obtaining a permit for treatment in the main part of the lake. Two property owners on the lake are coordinating the permitting process." I don't know who those two property owners are, but I know that John Bibeau and I volunteered, last fall, to distribute the eradication chemical if the town supplied the chemical and the DNR permits. I have volunteered, multiple times, to help Joel round up the signed permits with no response from him. If someone is doing this work, it's not happened anywhere in my vicinity. No one has contacted me either to sign a permit or to help get permits signed.

In regards to the sediment dumped by the city over the past years, resulting in a trio of large peninsulas into the lake, the "Administrator indicated that given the reduced amount of sand used on City streets, thus reducing sediments, this task is no longer relevant." It may be true that we are no longer dumping massive quantities of street crap into the west side of the lake, but the tons of sand and garbage dumped in the past 14 years is still an issue. The inlet at the edge of my property has created a sand bar that is nearly 5x the length that it was ten years ago. Any idiot would realize that sediment has spilled well into the lake, too. The picture above is of the drainpipe on the edge of my property.

The sandbar created by that drain is pictured at left.

During the city's smoke-blowing event, "Waite pointed out that MN DOT had indicated that there was no freeway storm water being discharged into Savage Lake. The City Administrator reported that the Public Works Superintendent contacted MN DOT and was told that the storm water pipe at the northeast corner of West Savage is an abandoned pipe. There is a small sand delta in this area, but it is MN DOT’s position that removing the delta would do more damage than good." The pipe is "abandoned" because the freeway dumped so much sediment into the lake from both the pipe and the freeway drainage system that the pipe filled and the sandbar created by freeway drainage has extended thirty or forty feet past the end of the pipe. Five years ago, the entire pipe was above the shore level. Today, it's solidly buried.

I realize this picture (at left) doesn't tell you much, but the above-water edge of the freeway sediment sandbar is at the far right of the photo and the end of the now-sediment-buried drainage pipe is just behind (out of the picture's frame) the base of the tree at the far left. Closing the pipe has had no effect on the freeway entrance drainage into this section of the lake, since the slope of the entrance is designed to use the west side of Savage Lake as a sediment pond. There is a clear erosion path carved from the mid-point of the entrance into the lake.

The fact that the City Engineer claims that dredging the delta created by the pitiful design of the freeway entrance would "would do more damage than good" has lost all credibility. Between the incompetence of the DNR, the complete inability of the Watershed District, and the lack of oversight, engineering capability, and capacity to even observe results of the degradation to Savage Lake, I am completely without confidence in any statement, observation, or design expectation from any of these characters. until I see evidence that anything is improving in the condition of our lake, I'm unable to consider any of these bureaucrats to be anything but lazy and incompetent. Every action they have taken has resulted in lower water levels, more lake-killing sediment and unwanted plant life, and more damage to the lake. At some point, west-side Savage Lake shore residents either have to admit that they do not care about their property values, the neighborhood quality of life, and the recreational value of this lake or we will have to become politically active. Otherwise, any fool would know we are rapidly heading toward the status of being on "the wrong side of the freeway."

Continuing into their demonstrations of bias, in response to Waite's suggestion that the drain between lakes be altered to permit water to be retained on the west side, "McGraw stated that he hears what Mr. Waite is saying, but did not agree with taking water from East Savage for the benefit of West Savage." Is there anyone who does not know that water flows downhill and the supply side of water resources always has first rights to the water? The fact is, the through-pipe is set so that in the current incredibly low water level there is still almost 2' of drainage provided from the west side to the east. Our side of the lake could be drained almost completely dry before it stopped providing water to the east side of the freeway.

Since the water in the east side of the lake comes from the west side, it ought to be obvious that the east side is doing the "taking." This kind of statement is so biased, ignorant of physics, law, and logic that I'm doubting the competence of everyone in the room who was not offended by McGraw's statement. If this is the rational we are facing, I'd say it's long past time that residents of the poor side of town get involved and run for office. We are clearly not represented in our City Council.


Mr. Rocky Waite appeared before the Council to discuss issues related to Savage Lake. The City Administrator began by reviewing the 2008 Goal and Action Plan related to Savage Lake water quality. He noted that the first task in the Action Plan was to address the lake level. The Administrator noted the discussion that occurred at the October 20, 2008 Special Meeting of the City Council. At that meeting the DNR and the Watershed indicated that they would not support an increase in water level feeling that the Ordinary High Water (OHW) mark set for Savage Lake was appropriate.

The next task outlined in the Action Plan was to eradicate lily pads. The Administrator noted the discussion on that topic that occurred on 10/20/08, and pointed out that the person the City had been dealing with at the DNR has moved to another department. The Administrator reported that the permitting process for lily treatment is more complicated than first thought as individual property owners must obtain permits for treatment adjacent to their property with the City obtaining a permit for treatment in the main part of the lake. Two property owners on the lake are coordinating the permitting process.

Task 3 was the dredging of the wetland at Demont & Jackson Street, and the Administrator reported that this work has been completed. Task 4 was the evaluation and installation of storm water improvements. The City Administrator reported that the City Engineer has done the evaluation portion of this work. Funding for the improvements is being sought from the Watershed District. The Administrator noted that cost estimates are over $100,000. Blesener noted the money that the City has already spent to improve water quality, i.e. dredging the drainage pond at Jackson/Demont, purchase of a street sweeper, etc.

Blesener agreed that additional water quality enhancements would need outside funding.

The Administrator indicated that the Watershed District is evaluating the potential for funding a pilot project of this nature and will report back to the City.

Task 5 was to evaluate the purchase of a street sweeper, and the City Administrator reported that the sweeper has been purchased jointly by Little Canada and the City of Falcon Heights. The Administrator reported hat Little Canada has been swept twice this year and there will be a third sweeping in the fall. Task 6 called for the evaluation of pre-wetted salt spreading, and the Administrator indicated that given the reduced amount of sand used on City streets, thus reducing sediments, this task is no longer relevant.

Rocky Waite reported that he has discussed the issue of the lake level with both the DNR and the Watershed District. Waite stated that it was his belief that the water level is not where it should be. He indicated that the DNR set the OHW level in 2004 as a result of Harold Schrunk from the DNR looking at Savage Lake, noting the level at that time, and declaring it to be the OHW level. Waite indicated that the DNR did not take into consideration the historic data relative to lake levels in setting the OHW level. Waite reported that he has those documents which include building permit information and information relative to the lake level in the vicinity of Gopher Electronics. Waite reported that when the City Engineer did elevations, he did not check the Highway Department profiles that were done prior to 1979. Waite stated that in 2004 the DNR merely looked at Savage Lake and stated that the current elevation was the OHW level.

Waite questioned previous comments made by the Mayor relative to the operation of the old gate system on the lake which indicated that after heavy rains a board or two was removed to lower the water levels on East Savage.

Blesener pointed out that determination of the OHW level is the responsibility of the DNR, and the City has no authority to determine that level. Blesener also pointed out that the Watershed shot the levels of the homes on East Savage and the weir level was set accordingly. The Watershed determined that there are a couple of homes on East Savage that would be in danger of flooding if the water level was raised. Waite referred to Council meeting minutes from May of 1963 that referenced the OHW level of Savage, and felt that information should have been taken into consideration in determining the OHW level.

Blesener pointed out that there are a lot of regulations that have changed since 1963, and again noted that it is the DNR and the Watershed that have determined the OHW level for the lake. The City has no authority in determining lake levels.

The City Administrator agreed that the DNR sets lake levels, and reported that the Watershed did a hydrological study of Savage Lake. He noted the information outlined in the 10/20/08 meeting minutes relative to the determination that the 100-year flood elevation for the lake is 897.9 and that there are a number of homes close to or below the 100-year flood elevation. The Watershed indicated that raising the weir structure would endanger two or three homes.

Waite stated that he would like to see the West Savage Lake level raised to a point where life would return to the lake.

The City Administrator reviewed the history of the weir system on East Savage and the City’s request of the Watershed to do something with the system when the old one became inoperable. The Watershed then installed a permanent weir structure that would require less maintenance than the old one.

The City Attorney reported that a lot of lake regulations have changed since the 1960’s and 1970’s and noted that ownership of lake best was removed to the State in the late 1970’s. The Attorney reported that the regulation of lake levels is unquestionably the responsibility of the DNR. The Attorney indicated that the City would only be able to lobby the DNR relative to changing the lake level. The DNR has final jurisdiction.

Waite suggested that an L-pipe system be installed that would raise the lake level of West Savage without impacting the level of East Savage. Blesener felt that a dam system of the connection between East and West Savage would result in West Savage filling up and East Savage drying up.

Waite felt the water levels would even out between the two lake segments.

McGraw questioned how the L-pipe would cause West Savage water levels to increase when the lakes are not spring fed. McGraw pointed out that the lake levels are decreasing because there has been no moisture. Every lake in the metro area has been drying up.

McGraw stated that he hears what Mr. Waite is saying, but did not agree with taking water from East Savage for the benefit of West Savage. He did not believe this was fair and equitable. Blesener indicated that he would support Mr. Waite’s request if all property owners on East Savage supported it. Blesener felt that was doubtful.

Waite did not believe the L-pipe would result in East Savage drying up, pointing out that eventually the water level would reach a point where it would overflow the pipe and the excess water would go into East Savage.

Blesener noted that the lake level is currently 2 to 3 feet from the weir, and pointed out the lack of precipitation over the summer. Blesener suggested that Mr. Waite approach the DNR with his request to raise the lake level, as it is the DNR that regulates lake levels.

Waite indicated that he is trying to find a solution for the lake. He noted that there is little wildlife left in or on West Savage. He was also concerned that there were chemicals coming into West Savage.

Blesener noted that the Watershed is responsible for water quality. The City Administrator pointed out that at the October 20th meeting Cliff Aichinger stated that it was very expensive to test for chemicals when you do not know what you are looking for. The City Attorney reported that Metropolitan Council Environmental Services (MCES) has a program wherein homeowners gather water samples and MCES will test them.

Blesener suggested that the City Administrator check into this program and get the information to Mr. Waite.

Mr. Waite then presented pictures of the property conditions at Gopher Electronics which showed a discarded tire, leaves and other debris. He noted that there is a MN DOT storm water discharge pipe that is filling with sand. There is also a sand bar going out into the lake from a freeway outlet. Waite pointed out that MN DOT had indicated that there was no freeway storm water being discharged into Savage Lake. The City Administrator reported that the Public Works Superintendent contacted MN DOT and was told that the storm water pipe at the northeast corner of West Savage is an abandoned pipe. There is a small sand delta in this area, but it is MN DOT’s position that removing the delta would do more damage than good.

Waite asked how deep the sand deltas were. The City Administrator pointed out that the City Engineer had done some analysis of the deltas and agreed that removal would cause more damage than good. Waite felt that the lake was so low at this point and a better analysis of the depth of the sand deltas could be done. McGraw noted the damage that would be done in removing the sand deltas as the property around West Savage is fully developed. Waite felt the deltas were deep and if the lake could be dredged to a depth of 15 feet, West Savage would be restored to a lake again.

McGraw asked Mr. Waite to outline his requests.

Waite replied that he would like to see the weir raised. He was unsure as to how much but suggested a range of 1 ½ to 3 feet. He felt the lake level should be raised to a point just under the top of Don Smith’s wall. Blesener suggested that if the lake level were raised 1 ½ feet, the water would be over the top of this wall.

McGraw asked how Mr. Waite proposed that the City cause the weir to be raised. Waite requested that the City get behind his request and propose it to the Watershed and the DNR. Blesener noted that it is the DNR that has the authority to control lake levels. The City Administrator indicated that even if the City could support the increase in lake level, the property owners around East Savage will likely not support it given the Watershed’s study that shows two or three homes would be at risk.

Waite noted that when the Watershed did their study they did not take into consideration the historical levels of the lake. Waite pointed out that the freeway fence was never moved and the culvert was never moved.

Keis asked if Waite’s position was that raising the West Savage water level will resolve all other concerns. Waite thought that was true as raising the water level will cause the lilies to go away.

McGraw suggested that the City contact the DNR, its State Legislators, and the Watershed and indicate its support for raising the water level. McGraw noted that the DNR has the ultimate control and will respond to the City’s letter documenting their position on this issue. McGraw felt that this response should be the final decision and put the matter to an end.

Waite again commented on the actions of Harold Schrunk from DNR in visually looking at Savage Lake in 2004 and declaring that the level of the lake at that time was the OHW level. Keis stated that this is what Waite believes was done, but there may have been more analysis into the OHW than that. Waite indicated that he has Schrunk’s field notes.

Blesener recommended that the City Administrator write a letter to the DNR and Watershed requesting that the OHW level be reviewed. Blesener also noted that Savage Lake is not considered a lake.

Waite asked about the Gopher Electronics property concerns. Blesener directed the City Administrator to contact Gopher Electronics and ask that they clean up their site. The Administrator reported that Gopher Electronics had indicated in 2008 that they would work with the Watershed about the issue of surface water from their parking lot flowing into Savage Lake. The Administrator indicated that he would follow up with Gopher Electronics.

The Council reported that City staff would keep Mr. Waite informed as to the status of letter to the DNR and Watershed.

Jul 25, 2009

New Developments

At the last Little Canada City Council meeting, July 22, Rocky Waite attempted to revive the issues surrounding our abused little lake, especially the west side (from here on referred to as the "Poor Side" of Savage Lake). Apparently, the City Council thinks it has much more important issues than the decimated condition of our lake. Inspired by their comments, I hiked 80 copies of a page I'd printed some time ago; advertising this webpage as a resource for Savage Lake residents.

Currently, the Savage Lake Association Blog site receives about a dozen visitors a month. Each entry is currently automatically sent to ten "interested parties." That's the maximum number of email contacts Google allows a blogger. So, if you are currently on that list and you'd like to be sure you continue receiving this information, I'd appreciate it if you'd use either the "Follow" button below "Registered Lake Shore Owners" or have the blog relayed to your Google or Yahoo! email account through the "Subscribe" link. Eventually, I hope to cycle the names in the email list to include more interested parties.

May 31, 2009

Geese and Immigrants

The connection between Canada Goose and immigration probably isn’t obvious. Stick with me for a few paragraphs and I’ll try to draw lines between my dots.

Canada Geese are pretty amazing birds. They are physically large with a 50-88 inch wingspan, weighing 7-24 pounds. They live 10 to 24 years. They create large families and mate, sometimes, for life. They aren’t found in every area of the country. When you see them in their natural habitat, it is hard not to admire them for both their beauty and their resilience. By the 1950s, they were driven to near extinction by the combination of over-hunting, chemical poisoning (DDT and other pesticides and industrial farming chemicals), and loss of habitat. The received a little federal protection about the time there were fewer than 50 birds left in the world. And they have bounced back. They, unlike many migrating birds, have adapted their migration to the eastern United States and as far as Siberia, eastern China, and Japan. If you can’t admire that kind of toughness, you probably hate everything and everybody.

If you live on the edges of their flight path, you may be among those of us who think a Canada Goose sighting was a rare and special thing. I nearly bought a house in eastern Colorado, almost exclusively because there was a small pond behind the house where Canada Geese nested during the summer. Moving from southern California to a place where wildlife co-existed with human population was such a shock that I was overwhelmed by the opportunity and put my money down to take advantage of the prospect. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on the state of the Colorado economy of the moment, the seller turned down my offer in hope of finding a more motivated buyer. I still remember the backyard of that house and seeing a “v” of geese fly over and land a few yards away.

Today, I live in Minnesota and have a larger pond in my backyard that is usually populated with a dozen geese and a family or two every spring. In Minnesota, Canada Geese are not particularly appreciated. My wife and I love them and every year we look forward to their arrival in the spring and their families in the early summer. Many of our neighbors hate the droppings and the noise and actually fear being “wing-whipped” or "pecked" by the dreaded geese. To be honest, I am incapable of respecting anyone who is afraid of a bird. Chubby little city-boy Alfred Hitchcock references included, death by birds is not something a human should consider likely or particularly scary. But I’ve witnessed a few of our neighbors petitioning our city council to “protect” the neighborhood from the terror of Canada Geese and the city complies by hiring a local college professor and his gang of “naturalist” students to round up the geese, kill them or sell them to game “farms,” and, thereby, save the neighborhood from the goose threat.

Fear is a strange emotion. People will say any damn thing when they are afraid. Personally, I’d rather be wing-whipped to death by a million sparrows than to admit publicly that I’m afraid of a bird. But that’s just me. Likewise, I’d rather live under a bridge and eat grocery store castoffs than to admit that I can’t compete with third world immigrants for a job. When you give in to that kind of irrational fear, you are setting yourself up to be taken advantage by all sorts of con artists, fanatics, extremists, and every other Rush Limbaugh-type. You have to learn to control your panic if you want to live in civilized society.

On my way to work last week, I was heading west on I694 just past the new rats’ nest of freeway convolution when I passed a group of Canada Geese gathered on the edge of the freeway. The new freeway design has incorporated a collection of drainage ponds that attract waterfowl to the hazardous environment of a poorly designed fast moving freeway and we’re going to see a lot more of this sort of road kill as this design matures. The geese, one adult and several goslings, were all looking at the mangled body of an adult goose that had been recently hit as the geese crossed the freeway. They looked and acted exactly like a family of humans would look and act if they witnessed a parent being killed; they were shocked and stunned and appeared almost ready to go back into the traffic to assist the slaughtered parent.

One of the evolutionary tricks nature played on geese is that after eggs are laid, both parents loose their ability to fly for almost 30 days. This forces the parents to travel at the pace of their offspring until the goslings attach themselves to the parents and parental affection forces the parents to stick with their children until they are ready to care for themselves.

Nature has one sick sense of humor. Geese are not well-designed for walking, but walk they must until they can fly again. So, while we humans think the geese are just jamming up traffic out of stupidity, it’s really something more complicated.

Twelve hours later, I returned from work on the same path. The body in the road was much more mangled than it had been when I first saw it. There were feathers floating in the air almost like large flakes of snow. The whole family was still stuck on the edge of the freeway, all looking at that unrecognizable gory shape, all unable to believe life was over for that parent and the rest of the family would have to figure out how to get along without the dead parent.

This connection between geese and humans struck me particularly hard that evening. It was too easy to see myself in the surviving family. Usually, it’s easy to imagine geese, raccoons, bears, lions and tigers, and people who don’t speak the same language as being something lesser than ourselves. “Them and us” is a convenient perspective when we feel our resources are being taken by someone or something that we can simply run over with our cars, our police, our military, or our majority vote. The truth is that many of the animals on earth love their families. Nature designed us to care for our offspring, our mates, and to protect them with our lives. The connection between geese and humans is painfully close and, sometimes, unavoidably obvious.

May 11, 2009

A Golden Eagle in our Neighborhood

It's hard to tell from these pictures (no excuses, I took them), but for almost an hour we had a golden eagle perched in a tree on our lake this past Friday afternoon.

He seemed to be torn between lunching on the squirrels who taunted him and the geese swimming just below his tree branch. I was able to walk fairly close to him, but he became agitated and shrieked at me before I got near enough to find a clear spot for a good photo. So, we're stuck with what I managed to get between the leaves and branches from no less than 50 feet. Still, having a huge golden eagle spend an afternoon on our dinky, abused lake was a special moment.

Apr 30, 2009

Spring Is on the Way

Finally, spring is on the way. You can tell because the lillies are popping up all over Savage Lake's western half. It won't be long before the lake will be covered with the DNR's precious invasive weed and all other signs of life in our lake are choked out.

Last year's bout with the Ramsey County Watershed District and the DNR bureaucrats left us with limited options for preserving our neighborhood lake. Although long-term residents on the lake pointed out evidence that the water levels "measured" by those bureaucracies had serious calculation errors, we ended up in our usual position of being told "this is all you are going to get" in no uncertain terms. This is why voters often call for regime changes. I'd be all for eliminating the DNR and renaming that disorganization "Hunting and Fishing Promotion." The state could use an EPA that actually, actively protected natural resources, but the DNR is not up to that task.

After a dry winter and, so far, a dry spring, the lake level is the lowest it has been at this time of the year since Elvy and I moved to our home in Little Canada in 1997. We have never experienced a spring with water levels so low that we have drag our canoe 15' from our boat rack to a shore so shallow that we have to wade another 10' through the mud to find enough water to float the canoe. Nothing even the all-powerful and infinitely-useless DNR can do could have done more damage to the lake than a drought. If we don't get a lot of rain, soon, this will be a terrible year for our lake.

I spent a good bit of time walking the lake this winter. Since it was frozen solid for almost 4 months, I had time to prowl all over the west side lakeshore. It is obvious that a lot of recent damage to the lake came from the freeway construction and the runoff from that widened and reshaped roadway.

On the northeast end, the drain (supposedly now capped) poured sediment at such a high rate that the outlet in the lake is all but completely filled. I have pictures of that outlet from early last spring that show more than 3/4 of the drain pipe was exposed and that the sediment "island" was only a few feet long. Now, the pipe is all but closed up and the island extends 25-30' from the pipe outlet.

At the southeast end of the lake, the downward slope of the freeway directs the runoff from the road directly into that end of the lake. We're not talking abopt a 20" drainpipe here. This is several hundred yards of highway and ditch system all aiming runoff into the west side of Savage Lake. Anyone foolish enough to claim that this isn 't an intentional attempt to turn our lake into a catch basin for highway runoff is too incompetent to employ in any serious engineering capacity. The freeway security fence has been repaird, I think, at that end of the lake. It was, apparently, destroyed during the freeway construction and it took almost a year before an effort was made to repair it.

Speaking of foolish excuses for engineers, the unemployable character who claimed to have done a noise survey justifying the lack of barriers or other noise protection for lake residents before the freeway expansion was started ought to be among those looking for work today. My own measurements during the winter found that the new freeway traffic upped my backyard noise level by as much as 8dBC (No, you acoustically uneducated moron. I did not use A-weighting for noise levels of 82-91dB unweighted. A-weighting is for low-level noise environments, typically 55dB unweighted and below. Only government stooges use A-weighting in high noise level environments.) At some point, Little Canada neighbors will have to face the fact that this freeway "improvement" has seriously degraded our home investments and selling prices will reflect that fact. The best we can hope for is $10/gallon gas.

Finally, from walking around the lake this winter, it struck me that we have two problems on the two halves of the lake and we've been treating them as if they were a single problem with a single solution. On the east side of the lake, poorly considered planning and development has resulted in a water level limit that prevents the current limited drainage system from being raised to a level that returns the lake to a historic height. On the west side, no such limitations exist. All of our homes are 20' or more above the lake level and even basements are considerably above any resonable water table issues. So, the one thing we haven't been considering is changing the inlet height that feeds the east side of the lake from the west; the pipe that passes under the freeway. That inlet could easily be redesigned to raise the west side lake levels by several feet without putting the east side housing in jeopardy. Something to consider, since we seem to have come to an impass on fixing the Watershed's drain design flaws at the east lake.

I don't have much information about the status of the lake on the east side of the freeway. If any residents would like to add information about that hemi-lake's condition, I'd be happy to post it here.

Jan 15, 2009

The DNR's Proposed APM rules

Thanks to our Representative Bev Scalze, I received the most recent rules for the DNR's APM permits.


Judge Luis recommended that the DNR's proposed APM rules be adopted, with the changes proposed by the DNR in its response to public comments. The judge also suggested some additional minor wording changes, which the DNR is considering.

The changes proposed by DNR in its response to public comments include:
1) Eliminate the provision preventing commercial aquatic pesticide applicators from applying pesticides to public waters under an APM permit for violation of APM rules;
2) Provide for the full appeal process to occur before an APM permit is revoked;
3) Eliminate the phrase "but not limited to" in several places;
4) Clarify that more than 100 shoreline feet of submersed aquatic plant control may be allowed adjacent to commercial campgrounds;
5) Specify public participation requirements for lake vegetation management plans on the grandfather lakes (notice or news release in a local newspaper, public meeting, and a 30-day comment period);
6) Clarify ambiguous language for landowner approval requirements for APM permits so it does not appear that landowners need approval from their next-door neighbors before controlling aquatic plants; and
7) Retain current penalty language in rule, which specifies that violations of APM rules are misdemeanors.

You can review a pdf file of the Judges report at the web page below under "Rulemaking documents."

You can also review the rule making record including the ALJ's report at the Office of Administrative Hearings web page by clicking on the link below.

Steve Enger
500 Lafayette Road
St. Paul, MN 55155-4025

Jan 12, 2009

10-20-2008 Lake Shore Owner's Meeting

This is somewhat old news, but since my notes ended up on a computer that I rarely use these days, I'm late in posting it.

10-20-2008 Meeting

Officials Present:

Bill Dircks – Public Works Superintendent
Cliff Aichinger – Watershed District
Neil Vanderbosch – DNR
Lee Elfering – City Engineer
City Council Members


Early on, it was declared that the DNR and Watershed District have decided that the current oversized, improperly positioned lake drain is an immobile object. The DNR is claiming the oversight in preventing the lake from being raised to previous levels. The Watershed District has decided that their latest attempt at correcting their original mistake will be their last attempt. The city is confused and isn’t sure who to believe.

“Nobody called me,” Neil Vanderbosch said in reply to a citizen’s request that the state review its position on water lilies. He seemed to believe the policy that if government is unresponsive, government has no responsibility. I know that I wrote, emailed, and called the DNR several times in 2002 asking for assistance with the artificially low lake height. I’m not even close to the only local citizen who called the DNR, Watershed District, city officials, state legislators, and anyone else who might have been able to help if anyone else had given a damn.

Vanderbosch continued his comedy act by saying, “We can’t go on individual lakes. We’d never get anything done,” regarding the DNR’s ability to review our lake’s situation. I’ve only been in Minnesota for a dozen years, but I’ve not yet seen any evidence that the DNR gets anything done outside of inflating their bureaucracy and attending meetings in resort areas (particularly during winter months). I guess it’s true that if the DNR bothered with monitoring individual lakes and rivers, it would be more difficult for them to attend junkets in Hawaii.

The one piece of information I obtained from questioning Vanderbosh is that the Division of Waters should be in charge of monitoring water quality. Now, I need to figure out who is in charge of the Division of Waters.

Proposed Actions

Dredging the “wetlands” (at the corner of Jackson and Demont) and other drainage issues

This “wetlands” was designed to route water from Demont to Savage Lake, trapping sediment before reaching the lake. The wetlands hadn’t been cleaned “since the mid-80s.” Elfering has recommended not removing sediment from the other lake sediment inlets. Elfering is pushing rain water gardens and strongly argued against drain traps due to the maintenance costs and effort required. If the gardens are built, they will try to get started on them during the winter.

One drawback to the gardens is that they will prevent some water from getting to the lake. Another drawback is that they won’t take back any of the existing damage to the lake.

Preventing water from reaching the lake

The city is planning on switching to all salt winter street treatment to reduce the sediment from the streets. Bill Dircks said the city is planning on sweeping more often and earlier in the spring and through the summer. He is recommending a vacuum or regenerative air sweeper to remove both the small and large particulate material. The City is planning on purchasing a regenerative air sweeper at a cost of $50,000 more than a traditional sweeper. Pre-wetting the salt should reduce the need for quantity (30% less salt) and increase the effectiveness. Other salt delivery systems are also being considered.

Ye Old Water Level Controversy

The water level, supposedly, is currently at 895.4’ above sea level. The DNR lists the lake height at 898’. Mayor Blessner requested that the DNR’s numbers be revised to match the Watershed District’s number. This is newspeak at its finest. If the current claim to being the “right height” doesn’t match the old data, we’ll just revise the old data and hope nobody notices. In the meantime, the lake continues to fill with sediment and the level continues to drop.


The city resolved to have the city engineer look further into having the state highway department pay for dredging the sediment that was dumped into the lake near the freeway.

The city offered to pay the DNR fees and the chemical costs for spraying the water lillies next spring. Thomas Day and John Bibeau volunteered to be responsible for spraying the lake according to the DNR specifications.