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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

T. W.,

Thanks for the update on the conditions of Savage Lake.

Regarding your suggested option of changing the inlet height that passes under the freeway, what is the opinion of the City of Little Canada and the Ramsey-Metro Watershed District?

This is certainly a dry season already, and White Bear Lake is very shallow also, enough to close the Ramsey County beach because of the dropoff that is now very close to the new shore. It would be helpful if we had more rain to raise the levels of our runoff lakes like Savage Lake and White Bear Lake.

Thanks again.

Bev Scalze
State Representative, 54B
451 State Office Building
100 Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr Blvd
St. Paul MN 55155
651/296-4165 (fax)