DCL at 92– no in-lake management plan

The following is a Letter to the Editor written by Barbara Beelar after attending the ceremony announcing the Deep Creek Watershed Management Plan and formation of the Advisory Council.

At the macro level the North American Lake Management Society promotes an in-lake management plan functioning within the broader watershed approach. This framework is comparable to that advocated by former  DNR Secretary John Griffin. As enacted, the DC Plan does not reflect a priority for in-lake management, Lake Management Office and the Policy and Review Board.

At the lake/watershed level, the DC Plan and Advisory Council does not integrate the cast of characters which already are involved in DCL. The LTE highlights the issue of herding the “cast of characters” through the lesne of just one threat to DCL health– shoreline erosion.

At 92 years old, DCL suffers from absence of a lake management plan and investment. Recently there was a step forward. DNR Secretary Belton and MDE Secretary Grumbles signed the Deep Creek Watershed Plan and announced creation of the Advisory Group of County, DNR and MDE staff.

There are challenges ahead. A major one is lack of coordination among the myriad of “actors”.  Shoreline protection, a critically needed project, provides an illustration.

Early in the boating season, erosion is observable problem as high water levels and boat wakes combine to create shoreline erosion, turbidity, sediment accumulation and water quality impairment around the lake.

High water levels result from 2011 MDE Water Management Administration decision to amend Brookfield Power license to keep lake levels at upper limit through July. Now defunct SaveDeepCreek pressured MDE and Policy and Review Board for this change.  I failed to convince MDE to monitor impact, possibly because this responsibility lies in another unit, MDE Biological Stressor Identification Division.  

The Deep Creek Watershed Management Plan recommends continuation of these high levels, unfortunately.

In 2011, advocates defined the problem as “water levels” and solution was retention of high levels to support recreational enjoyment in shallow coves. Today, we know the problem is water depth reduction due to sediment  accumulation, lessening recreational uses and impairment of water quality; the solution is dredging and prevention of further shoreline erosion.  

For 10 years, shoreline stabilization has appeared on PRB agenda, awaiting a plan from  Lake Management Office.  Today there is only an “approach”:  abutting property owners maintain and stabilize the state-owned Buffer Strip, if they choose. Numerous owners and HOAs have paid thousands for shoreline stabilization—though public funding for such projects– Living Shoreline and 2010 Trust Fund—are available for the Bay. DCL property owners’ taxes support these Bay projects, not available for state-owned DCL stabilization!

A LMO Plan could include: 1) no-mowing zone along the shoreline; 2) set priorities–points and southern coves; 3) County tax incentives or deductions; 4) increase No Wake Zones, needing action by PRB, Boating Act Advisory Committee and the General Assembly; and/or 5) County DCL Zoning Ordinance to control runoff from private Buy-down easement lands and properties.

I have listed just some of entities involved in one problem. Needed is a focus on “In lake” protection and restoration within the watershed plan supported by state sustaining funding to ensure success for our state-owned lake.”    Barbara Beelar, Oakland MD

 

 

DCL Policy and Review Board meeting April, 2016

The Deep Creek Lake Policy and Review Board was created when the State purchased the lake in 2001. Its purpose is to be the “local voice” in lake management. The Board meets quarterly. The only want citizens can learn what has happened is to read the meeting minutes, which are posted 6 months after each meeting on the DNR web site.

Friends of DCL is committed to an ensuring an informed and engaged lake and watershed community. To this end, we write articles about each of the PRB meetings and submit them to The Republican Newspaper. Below is the article on the April, 2016 meeting.  Unfortunately we do not have access to the various materials distributed at the meeting.

 

The DCL Policy and Review Board recently held its spring quarterly meeting at the State Park Discovery Center, with 20 citizens attending this important meeting. There were a number of important items on their agenda.

Kevin Null, County Administrator, reported a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed by the County, DNR and MDE to move forward on implementation of the Deep Creek Watershed Plan. Deborah Carpenter, Director of Planning and Land Management, will be the County lead staff. A management plan coordinator will be hired by the county and tasked with Plan implementation.

Bruce Michael, DNR Director of Resource Assessment Services, informed the Board that in 2015 there were 4 hydrilla control applications, down from 5 in 2014. One new hydrilla site was discovered in 2015. For the 2016 season, the first treatment will take place in early June.  This year the Department will undertake education and outreach to encourage vessels owners to inspect and clean their boats prior to launching in DCL and a launch steward program will be in place from sun up to sun down for a portion of the season, using Garrett College students as stewards.  The State Lakes Invasive Species Act will go into effect April 1, 2017; DNR did not earmark funds for implementation of this law in its budget.

Michael stated DNR continues to monitor Submerged Aquatic Vegetation as well as 14 stations for water quality. He did note that over the past couple of years, staff has observed increase in turbidity levels, which is suspension of sediment and pollutants in the water column causing lake water look muddy and distributing sediment and pollutants.

DNR Wildlife and Heritage personnel are now oiling Canada Geese eggs, according to Eric Null, Lake Manager. He said that if anyone observes a nest which needs to be treated they should contact him at eric.null@maryland.gov  or by phone at (301) 387-4111 and report exact nest location.  The unit is in conversation with the City of Oakland about possibility of organizing a goose hunt at Broadford Lake, where in some years, the resident Canada Geese overwinter. The DNR hunt late last fall resulted in no Geese shot.

Bob Browning, Co-Chair of the PRB Sediment Committee, reported on their March 17 meeting at which Kevin Null and Bruce Michael made presentations. Michael informed the group the Governor would be signing a position statement against dredging at DCL, but such action has not occurred.

Kevin Null provided an update on state actions on sediment removal. The County is currently working on development of a grant application to the Waterway Improvement Fund for dredging at DCL. It will enter into a contract with Maryland Environment Services, an independent public agency which provides wide range of engineering services to government and other entities. The application will include a sediment management plan, looking at all 10 sediment impaired coves and will develop a prioritization and action plan, a process which may take 12-18 months.  DNR will review this application along others from across the State and generates a list of priority applications. This list is presented to the General Assembly for consideration and funding.

Delegate Beitzel expressed dismay on the time delay. “Why is this taking so long to move forward?”  “We have been dealing with this issue for a very long time. It is not acceptable for DNR to do more and more studies” stated Beitzel.

Senator Edwards provided a framework for the discussion. “A couple years ago we learned that Waterway Improvement Funds were not available for Deep Creek dredging. We got this changed last year, with Secretary Belton’s support. The Department is being very cooperative and making good progress.” Edwards said the next challenge is to look at the cost-share formula and create a new one for inland waterways. “We can all agree that New Germany Lake needs to be dredged. There has to be state funds. How else can such funds be raised? From the few folks who go there for fishing or canoeing? It will never happen.”

Bob Hoffman, the other Co-Chair, said given the changes which have taken place, “Do we have a role? No. We are available to contribute our expertise as needed. We will have another meeting of the Sediment Committee to explore the issue of shoreline erosion, a source of sediment accumulation.” Though the State owns the shoreline buffer strip, the accepted practice is for abutting private property owners take full responsibility for shoreline retention projects—from initiation of work, filing application, securing permitting along with payment of MDE permit fee as well as covering full costs of installation.

The Board had invited Mark Hoffman, DNR Assistant Secretary for Mission Support, to make presentation on DCL financing. Hoffman made a similar presentation several years ago, which lead to formation of a PRB Finance Committee. PRB Chair Snook thought it was important to revisit this topic, since there are 4 new Board members and the presentation took place prior to Paul Edwards becoming a member.

Hoffman asked Board members: “Did you get your tutorial on the PRB?” Delegate Beitzel provided historical context for the PRB.  When the state bought the lake in 2000, it formed the PRB to provide “meaningful local input” into lake management. Further, there was an understanding that all funds raised at Deep Creek Lake would stay at the lake to support management activities. These funds go into a designated fund call the Deep Creek Lake Recreation, Maintenance and Management Fund.

Of the total funds raised for the DCL Fund, 38% go to non-lake management purposes. 25% of revenues go to Garrett County as a payment in lieu of taxes; 13% of revenues go for various DNR administration overhead costs. For Fiscal Year 2015, of the $953,541 revenues, $335,433 were so obligated, leaving only $618,108 was left for lake management.

The duties of the Policy and Review Board are defined in Maryland law. The Board “shall review and advise the (DNR) Secretary on matter the Deep Creek Lake Recreation Maintenance and Management Fund and the Deep Creek Lake management program.” The Board “may review and make recommendations to the Secretary on a budgetary matter that concerns the management and maintenance of the lake and buffer areas. “  In the past the Board has not fully assumed these duties.

Mark Hoffman shared with the Board and audience a copy of the financial statement from FY 2014 to 2017 appropriation. The discussion cover questions about specifics.

Bob Hoffman asked the Assistant Secretary about the process by which DNR decides to allocate these revenues, referring to payment of $200,000 for the hydrilla control contract from the Fund, a new expenditure. Bob Hoffman informed the Assistant Secretary the Board was not consulted about this action or even informed about this expenditure. It was revealed in the December meeting when Barbara Beelar reported it had taken place.  The Assistance Secretary said that the lack of notice and consultation indicates a “communications breakdown that concerns me.”  He urged a dialog between the PRB and DNR, stating the Board should start talking about the budget in January in order to get their requests considered by the Secretary for the following fiscal year departmental budget. The PRB had formed a Finance Committee but it met only once in April, 2014.

Boat launching revenue. According to the Financial History Spreadsheet, State Park boat launching fees are supposed to go into the DCL Fund. In FY 14 there was income of $81 and none for FY15 nor projected for FY 16 and 17. In contrast, between FY 09 and 13, the launch fee revenues ranged from $19,121 to   $32,854, decreasing over the period.

Assistant Secretary Hoffman concluded his presentation by saying the combined expenses for management of DCL and the State Park is about $2 million but revenues generated only range from $1.2 to $1.3 million, resulting in an annual loss to the State of $600,000 to $700,000. He volunteered that State Park fees are “demand” driven so in more popular Parks, the fees are higher; at DCL that is not the case hence lower revenues.

Jim Bailey, Co-Chair of the PRB Personal Watercraft Committee, reported he held an information meeting on March 31. This Committee was formed to undertake review of petition requesting that the current limitations of hours of operations for certain week-ends be dropped. One member of the public (Carol Jacobs) attended the meeting. The Committee consensus was to recommend to the Board that their scope of work be expanded to consider a number of boating related issues which have surfaced. After some discussion, PRB Chair Snook urged the Committee to focus on the PWC matter. Bob Browning noted that the petition must obtain the approval by the PRB before the Boating Act Advisory Committee will consider action on the matter and Snook acknowledged the Board had missed the 4/15/16 deadline for submission of comments to the BAAC, a state wide body which has ultimate decision-making over boating at DCL

Paul Edwards, Chair of the County Board of Commissioners, informed the Board the County Planning Commission will be considering a petition submitted by certain DCL business owners asking the DCL Zoning Ordinance incorporate a prohibition of siting of natural gas wellheads in the lake watershed, which was part of the Deep Creek Watershed Plan,

Under New Business, Lake Manager Eric Null announced a drone manned by local real estate agent has been flying over the lake. Such drones are subject to FAA regulations. If a drone is observed and at lake stakeholder is concerned, they should contact Lake Manager Eric Null at eric.null@maryland.gov or by phone at (301) 387-4111.

Bob Nickle from Bill’s Marine brought up the issue of the April 1 date for starting to put in docks into the lake. In previous years there has been some leeway given, in order to ease the pressure on the various dock companies. Null responded that under the Code of Maryland, the lake is deemed to be a “snow mobile resource” until March 15, so earliest dock launching permissible is March 16.  To change the April 1 date, a legislative initiative would be required.

There was no Board consideration of the agenda item regarding how to secure placement of additional “speed limit” buoys in sediment impaired coves, as requested by Jim Yoakum from Waterfront Greens.

In the public comment section, both Dick Bolt and Barbara Beelar reported that they did not know about the PWC meeting, though both had submitted materials to the Committee for its consideration. Beelar asked that the PRB take action to implement the Deep Creek Watershed Plan Goal 2, “to nurture an informed and engaged watershed citizenry” and to ensure that meeting notices go to all lake stakeholders.

Ed King, member of the PRB Sediment Committee, spoke at length about sediment removal plans. “I have had enough of this negative press about the lake”, he stated. He was reacting to an email from Richard Matlick, member of the Sediment Committee and representative of Green Glade Guardians, who wrote to the Board asking they take action and address the water quality and recreational use impairments created by the accumulated sediment and attached pollutants. King said he had done some investigation Green Glade and found that this cove is “very healthy except where it is a swamp.” Holding a copy of the Sediment Study released December, 2013, he said the report has a lot of useful information and he said he objects to taking a political decision on the sediment issue.

The next meeting of the Policy and Review Board meeting is scheduled for Monday, July 25, starting at 6 pm at the Discovery Center. In the past, these meetings have not provided teleconferencing capacity to enable participation by those not able to attend the meeting in person.