- The Watershed
The ice is out, the snow is hopefully stopped but it is way too soon to “go jump in the lake”. Yesterday lake users
are the hard working folks in waders putting in our docks, people fishing and, alas, the resident Canada Geese!
So much for Earth Day!
MAKE AN EARTH DAY RESOLUTION: RECYCLE MORE WHILE AT THE LAKE
Install Compact Fluorescents light bulbs. Each bulb reduces tons of air pollution while saving you money.
Since these lights contain mercury they must be recycled which you can now do at Lowe’s.
We are finalizing sites for installation of shoreline grasses in conjunction with area high school students and supported by the County. We are looking for a few more sites with gentle slopes for this demonstration project. If interested, please send us email at firstname.lastname@example.org ASAP!
DNR wants public input on land preservation and outdoor recreational needs. The Vision, Satisfaction and Suggestion sections provide space for comments on the DCL watershed. We must continually strive to remind Annapolis policy makers that Deep Creek Lake needs programs and funding, even though it is west of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Our board is finalizing our programs for 2013 season. Our framework will be comprehensive presentations on watershed issues and management options.
We are developing a range of special benefits for FoDCL members–special deals with local businesses, invitation-only events, social gatherings and meals prepared by famous regional chefs (one nominated for a James Beard Award!). Our next Watershed Work and Wisdom Newsletter will provide more details. Avoid the rush, join now, visit our website http://friendsofdcl.org/donate/.
With your membership you can be confident your donation is supporting a volunteer organization actually out there in the lake and stream “weeds” doing watershed work.
Have you been planning to do something to protect the state-owned buffer strip? Now is the time to act! During our 2011 boat tour for the County Commissioners, they saw the need to support shoreline stabilization and erosion prevention. In January, they voted to provide funding of up to $1,600 for each approved shoreline retention project completed by the end of June, 2013.
Responding to a request from Barbara Beelar, Director, FoDCL, County Commissioners set aside $1000 for a project with Northern and Southern High Schools to grow and install shoreline grasses. We look forward to the opportunity to work with these students and DNR staff on this pilot project.
We are looking for sites now: Ideal locations are shorelines with a gentle slope, where grasses are already growing nearby, where grasses have declined due to erosive force of high water levels, and/or areas of Canada Geese infestation. Buffer strip areas with steep slopes, rocky shorelines or large waves need other buffering methods.
Many of us have not finished clean up from devastating Sandy. The County announced that a special collection site will be opened in the spring for this debris. Questions, email@example.com.Reminder: If you need to do clean up on the buffer strip or conservation easement lands, you must contact Lake Management and obtain approval. DNR reminds homeowners to make sure that anyone you hire for tree trimming or removal is a Maryland Licensed Tree Expert. Questions, call Lake Management Office at (301) 378-4111.
In December, the FoDCL Board voted to hire Gally Public Affairs firm to guide our Annapolis 2013 Campaign and efforts to educate General Assembly issues about the absence of fair state funding for Deep Creek Lake. Eric Gally is the “go to” person on the state budget. Gally has briefed our state delegation, top administrative staff and is reviewing strategy options. Of particular interest is the Waterway Improvement Fund, which provides fund for dredging elsewhere in Maryland but, according to DNR Secretary Griffin, is not available for our lake.
We now have over 1500 signatures to our petition asking the Governor to make a commitment to “Save the Lake” committing State resources and funds like he is doing in the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Coastal Bays Programs.
As part of our effort to inform all stakeholders about important public meetings, we submitted an article to the Republican Newspaper on this meeting and have posted it on our web sitehttp://friendsofdcl.org/2013/
The PRB is appointed by the Governor and is responsible for overseeing Lake Management programs and finances. It meets 4 times a year, on Monday nights. Most lake stakeholders do not know about this group, its importance nor have they attended a meeting to share their viewpoints about the health of the lake and watershed.
Topics of importance at the January meeting
Having worked on EWM and controls for the past 2 years, FoDCL Board members have questions. Is it necessary to use this herbicide? It is related to agent orange and of sufficient concern to human health that Natural Resources Defense Council has requested EPA to ban it. Further, in the current DCL Plan, only mechanical removal methods are approved for SAV controls. The FoDCL Board and staff are working with NRDC, Maryland Pesticide Network and Enviroscience, an environmental firm in Ohio, on the impact of this herbicide as well as preferred control options
As the organization working on watershed issues for the past 5 years, we are pleased to others have begun to broaden their perspective. Our work has always been based on recognition the lake is only a part of a much larger ecosystem and lake sustainability requires an effective, sufficiently funded plan implemented by a unified management district.
A watershed plan already exists. The DCL Recreation and Land Use Plan was developed by DNR in 2001 as part of the lake purchase by the State, http://www.dnr.state.md.us/
Plan implementation receives low grades. In 2012, FoDCL conducted an in-house analysis of implementation of the 2001 recommendations. Little has transpired in the past 11 years. We talked with representatives from the 3 lead entities and discovered none uses this Plan as a framework for oversight, nor as a roadmap or timetable for implementation. Last November, FoDCL Board members invited DNR Secretary Griffin to make his own review of the Plan and implementation.
Questions which need to be answered before going forward. Why were the recommendations not implemented? What were the barriers? What changes must be made to ensure a new or revised plan will be an effective framework for lake management.
Lessons we have learned from study of other lakes:
For the past 5 years Friends of Deep Creek Lake has been actively involved in collection of field data, promotion of watershed research, ensuring compliance with laws and regulations, offering a range of community education approaches as well as active involvement in policy advocacy.
We ask you to become a member, to make a donation to support our 2013 efforts. Send tax-deductible contribution to FoDCL, 779 Chadderton School Rd, Oakland MD 21550 or use PayPal access on our web site, http://friendsofdcl.org.
In the early stages of research on issues involving Deep Creek Lake, one thing is already becoming crystal clear – It is going to take a cohesive, cooperative effort by many parties in order to adequately address the problems at the lake, particularly those having to do with lake water levels, the slow-but-sure filling of coves with sediment, and the invasion of certain plant species. The players in this include, first and foremost, state and county government, along with the DCL Property Owners Association (POA), the Friends of Deep Creek Lake, the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce, and various business owners, both on the lake and affected by the lake (e.g., whitewater rafting companies in Friendsville). Because there are so many players and aspects to the situation, certainly more than one or two columns will be required to cover them, and time and effort will be needed to compile the information before certain opinions can take shape.
However, there is no question that the county commissioners are going to have to step up to the plate in many ways. After all, as noted last week, a huge portion – by far the largest portion – of the county budget is supported by the real estate taxes paid by lake property owners. Thus, inaction – or wrong action – by the commissioners in matters involving the lake is clearly akin to “biting the hand that feeds you.”
To date, there is little evidence that the current commissioners, and many before them, have stepped up concerning the lake, and in fact, just this week the commissioners took a step backward.
After making the shortsighted (okay, wrong) decision recently to amend the lake watershed zoning ordinance to allow a specific lake-front business owner to rent jet skis without offering any other services associated with a marina, the commissioners this week turned down a request by the POA to take six months to re-examine, and possibly delete or modify, the amendment; and to impose a moratorium on issuing any additional permits for uses based on the amendment until the six-month study is completed.
In response, commission chairman Jim Raley said that an evaluation of potential impacts of the amendment is already under way by the DNR’s lake management office, and that the POA would receive a copy of that report. Further, the suggestion for a six-month moratorium on issuing additional permits was summarily rejected.
This is not the kind of cooperation that is going to be needed as efforts go forward to address problems at the lake, and there are a number of other ways in which county elected officials must get involved that will be delineated later.
As a footnote, it was suggested by more than one that describing DCL as a “sick lake” in last week’s editorial was “inaccurate” or “too strong.” In a spirit of cooperation, the writer retracts that description and suggests that a better one might be that there are areas of the lake that are “unhealthy” and need treated ASAP.
—–Thank you very much for your interest in the status and future of Deep Creek Lake. It is hard to believe that the county and state governments have shown such little interest in maintaining such a vital resource.
I have one suggestion, which I am sure will never be adopted: Take all the money that Garrett County residents have had to put into the Save the Bay fund as part of their sewage bill, and put it into a Save the Lake fund. And then actually use it to address the problems. After all, nearly every Garrett County resident benefits in some way from the lake, and none of them benefit from the bay.
Bill Henry, Glenwood and Swanton
—-In response to last week’s editorial and Ms. Donna Hansen’s letter, please consider some history and view from the shore of a drought-stricken river’s edge.
Without your mention of lake water level, these conversations inevitably end up pitting one Deep Creek Lake stakeholder against another, each arguing who deserves the resource more than another. Also keep in mind that this year’s drought has cut scheduled dam releases back on the Youghiogheny River, causing business hardship in Friendsville equal to DCL hardship.
The 1984 state of Maryland water appropriations permit mandates an equitable plan for water and resource management at DCL. The permit includes conditions to balance the following suite of resource and recreational concerns: 1) reservoir operations to make lake-based recreational opportunities more dependable and extend further into autumn, and to protect lake fisheries; 2) operation of the project to increase the number and dependability of whitewater boating opportunities; 3) mitigation of a long-standing DO problem in project discharges; 4) maintenance of a continuous minimum flow in the river to increase trout habitat; and 5) timing of generation during summer to maintain coldwater habitat for trout on a year-round basis.
At the inception of the `94 permit, lake interests enjoyed an additional 2 feet of lake water level annually, to the loss of whitewater release days. Since `94, the town of Friendsville has been building its infrastructure, existing businesses have become more dependent on whitewater visitors, and new businesses have been popping up. Our town is growing and becoming more dependent on the stability of the permit.
The permit provides a level playing field for businesses using lake water. Friendsville doesn’t want more dam releases than the few we have. Friendsville agreed to the wordage of the permit and plans to live by them, good or bad, as seen this year. I submit that Deep Creek Lake interests should live up to the same and be thankful for all of the extra lake water level they got back in `94.
While I empathize with Ms. Hansen and other lake interests over the value lost to water vegetation and geese droppings, I am not fond of the idea that Deep Creek Lake must continuously expand to the detriment of others. Perhaps investment in Maryland’s rugged outdoor sport capital Friendsville would benefit the county well over time, giving the county an attractive, diverse, outdoor recreation reputation.
Jess Whittemore, Friendsville
—-Congratulations on your August 30 editorial. Finally, a voice of reason in the prolonged babble of those whose interests tend to be to their own, be they lake dwellers, lake users, Youghiogheny River users, those involved with real estate, state employees, and those who just don’t care. This editorial should be a wake-up call to all Garrett County citizens, full and parttime.
The Deep Creek Watershed spans a wide and irregular area from the outlet of the Youghiogheny River at the West Virginia border, up to just south of Grantsville, east to the west side of New Germany State Park, and south to just north of the town of Deer Park. That’s a large area, where real estate taxes are collected, where many county businesses and residents live year-round, and where the lake and its users have a major impact on the county.
Too long those with interests in the future of the DCL watershed have heard only the fractured and fractious voices of organizations representing special interests. It is time to re-examine the 2001 plan. A cursory reading will show that minimal progress toward the plan’s goals has been made over the past decade. The lack of progress could have been predicted 11 years ago just on the basis of the absence of every single government agency responsible for the lake and watershed. Responsibility was carved up among Garrett County, the Maryland Department of the Environment, and several divisions of the Department of Natural Resources and its subsidiary, the DCL Policy Review Board.
In short, to quote Pogo, “We have met the enemy, and it is us.” The Lake Recreation and Land Use Plan is a good place to start, but it needs to be replaced by a watershed management plan that includes both an analysis of what the current major problems are and what measures are needed to address them. Garrett County citizens would best look to themselves and their elected local officials for leadership and guidance. Those with piecemeal responsibility have had a decade of opportunity that has been mostly lost, so let’s move on.
All citizens should look forward to future editorials in The Republican and trust that they will be enlightened and alarmed, for they have the most to lose should the DCL watershed in its entirety be irreparably damaged.
Kenneth D. Fisher, McHenry
—–We would like to invite any parents or grandparents down to our cove to let their children or grandchildren swim and play at our docks. Our cove is so full of sediment and vegetation, it is impossible for our children and grandchildren to swim or play in this area. Right now our boats have less than 1 foot of water under them! Our neighbors already had taken boats out and are pulling the docks in.
We all pay top taxes for our property, which is only used basically up to the middle of August for boats. We never swim off the dock. Because of all the sediment at the bottom, you sink up to your knees. The little rain we have had this summer has made things particularly bad, but it’s bad at our cove every year.
Please come visit our cove by boat.
—–The drought has made 2012 a difficult year for water sportsmen of all kinds. The level at Deep Creek Lake has fallen earlier than usual, making life difficult for people on backwater lots. Downstream of the lake, many whitewater releases on the Upper Youghiogheny River have been canceled, disappointing kayakers and making life hard for area outfitters. In hot, dry summers like this, the trout in the river always depend on temperature enhancement releases, and the fishing suffers regardless. That’s no surprise in a dry year. The good news is that the lake’s management plan to conserve water is working. Everyone may share the pain, but no one suffers a catastrophic loss.
The upper Youghiogheny River is a unique resource that provides some of the best kayaking, rafting, and fishing in the region. It is a big part of the reason that Garrett County has become famous for providing access to a broad range of outdoor activities. This diversity keeps the area’s tourist economy strong. Many whitewater paddlers and fishermen own real estate in the area and some live in the county full time.
American Whitewater fully supports the current management plan which allocates water fairly between lake users, fishermen, and whitewater paddlers. Hard times are easier to bear when there is fairness in how scarce resources are distributed.
Sincerely, Charlie Walbridge, Board Member, American Whitewater, Bruceton Mills, W.Va.
—–As a property owner for 30 years, I have noticed the gradual deterioration of our beautiful lake. It seems that none of our elected officials have taken a real interest in preserving Deep Creek, to the detriment of business and property owners. We have watched our taxes increase with no real benefit to our lake or watershed.
I want to thank you for your recent editorial about our now very serious problem. I only hope that this will help serve as a wake-up call to our state and local officials who do have the authority to create some positive things to occur to improve the quality of Deep Creek Lake.
Greg Harbaugh, Swanton
Don Sincell, The Republican Newspaper
Permission to reprint provided The Republican Newspaper
Produced by Friends of Deep Creek Lake, September 2012
© Friends of Deep Creek Lake 2012, All Rights Reserved
Friends of Deep Creek Lake extended an invitation to Don Sincell, Editor of The Republican Newspaper, to go for a short boat tour of Deep Creek Lake in mid-August. Mr Sincell, like many others, was not aware of the myriad of problems facing the lake and the impacts of water quality decline. The tour started in one of the two most sediment impacted coves where he observed massive growth of submerged aquatic vegetation, Canada Geese feathers floating around and emergence of algal blooms. It was clear that boating use from the dock had become almost impossible thought there should be another 2 months of recreational use before the end of the season.
Pictured to the left is FoDCL Working Board member Ellen Williams talking about importance of lake restoration with Don Sincell, Editor, The Republican Newspaper.
Along the tour, Mr Sincell saw huge mats of the invasive Eurasian Watermilfoil, shoreline erosion, and sediment accumulation. Stopping in Beckman’s Cove he heard about the impacts of dropping water levels created by withdrawal by the hydro-electric dam, emergence of Eurasian Watermilfoil, failure of the DNR option to control SAVs– the bethnic mat.
On the way to Green Glade we stopped to observe sediment accumulation in the Deer Haven cove, which threatens the Yacht Club there. Up Green Glade, where we ran aground in what appeared to be the middle of the lake, We saw very long docks trying to eke out a few more boating days for the owners. The issue of old septic systems and failure of County to build a sewer system along the lake front was discussed. Mr Sincell was amazed to discover that the current operator of the hydro-electric dam is not paying for use of lake waters.
Upon return, Mr Sincell did promise he would take what he saw and craft an Editorial or two. Below is the first one of what is promised to be a series. If you would like to contact Mr Sincell with a Letter to the Editor, his email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Probably the single most significant “event” in the history of Garrett County – that which would have the greatest impact on the future of the county – occurred roughly 90 years ago, with the damming of Deep Creek and the filling of Deep Creek Lake. This body of water, created primarily for the production of electricity, would become the county’s proverbial cash cow, its golden goose, as it came to be the focal point of county “industry” and quickly made Garrett County a destination point for tourists and second-home owners.
There was, however, at least one huge oversight back when the lake was constructed: County officials should have started some kind of fund – supported by tax money, user fees, etc. – specifically earmarked for the long-term conservation of Deep Creek Lake.
Because that did not happen, because the state of Maryland – the relatively new owner of the lake – is financially broke, because of virtually no management/conservation practices in much of the land around the lake (the lake watershed) over the years, and because of various natural aging processes going on in and around the lake, we have what is rapidly becoming a serious problem. We now have a sick lake, and it appears that no one – not the state of Maryland and not the county – is doing anything to treat it.
Probably the two most significant problems right now are the filling of lake coves with sediment and the rapidly growing invasion of at least two forms of plant life that are so prolific that swimming and boating are becoming almost impossible in many acres of water. One need only take a one-hour tour by boat to see the effects. The addition of the droppings of the now-year-round presence of Canada geese makes it downright disgusting.
Shoreline and dock clogged by Submerged Aquatic Vegetation, emerging algal blooms and ringed with invasive SAV Eurasian Watermilfoil. Recreational uses- swimming, kayaking, rowing, sailing and fishing have all been impossible from this spot on the lake since mid-August. Use of the motor boat requires churning the weeds and clearing the propeller once open water is reached. However, all entrance into this cove means cutting of the Eurasian Watermilfoil and furthering its distribution.
This is not information that the thousands of us local folks whose jobs and businesses are directly or indirectly dependent upon the tourism dollar (including this newspaper) want to hear. They definitely do not want potential out-of-area customers to hear about it either. But it is a reality, and one that must be addressed soon or everything is just going to get worse. We’re talking about falling property values at the lake. We’re talking about the possibility of people looking for a second home deciding to go somewhere other than Garrett County/Deep Creek Lake. We’re talking about the possibility of people already living at the lake leaving the area. We’re talking about people planning to rent a property at the lake for a week going somewhere else.
The seriousness of this cannot be overstated. Well over half of Garrett County’s tax money comes from Deep Creek Lake property owners. Most of the jobs in this county depend upon tourism, and a large percentage of tourists come here because of Deep Creek Lake.
The issues are complicated, multi-faceted, and well beyond the scope of one editorial for sufficient elaboration. Thus this is the first in a series that will go into more detail and, it is hoped, suggest some potential avenues for the restoration of what is without question Garrett County’s most valuable resource.
Don Sincell, The Republican Newspaper
Permission to reprint provided The Republican Newspaper
Announcing the release of the new, update Friends of Deep Creek Lake website: http://friendsofdcl.org. On this site we have posted the video of the recently held Forum on Marcellus Shale and Deep Creek Lake, the materials handed out at the forum, and updated information. The site covers a wide range of materials on the lake and the watershed. We encourage you to explore the site and to let us know what additional information and resources you would like us to see. Write to email@example.com to let us know how to make this resource more useful to you.
There are many issues surrounding the extraction of Marcellus Shale in Garrett County. The recent Forum on Marcellus Shale Forum provided answers to some questions which may be in the minds of lake property owners.
There are 18 leases, according to the DNR map, the most accurate map we have found. The mineral lease land records are neither complete nor 100% accurate. The Garrett County Board of Realtors has called for creation of a clearinghouse and greater accuracy in land recordation. The map shows the largest mineral lease parcels up Cherry Creek and along the Marsh Hill ridge from Lodestone to ASCI/ WISP. There are a scattering of other smaller leases and only one south of Glendale Bridge.
There are a number of factors which influence gas companies’ decision to go forward with drilling.
1. Dry gas. There are 3 kinds of Marcellus Shale gases—dry gas, wet gas and a gas-oil combination. The shale Garrett County shale is dry gas, which is deemed to be the least desirable by gas companies.
2. Size of parcels. To make extraction profitable, gas companies prefer larger sites than most of those in the Deep Creek Lake watershed. However, up Cherry Creek and atop Marsh Hill there are DCL watershed mineral leases which abut those outside the watershed and, if assembled, would provide parcels of sufficient size.
3. Currently there is a glut of natural gas on the market and prices have fallen sharply. Gas companies are even letting existing leases expire. Of course, other factors could quickly change this business calculation.
4. Some report that gas companies are backing away from Maryland because the Governor’s moratorium and study and review process may well create a too highly regulated environment. This calculation can easily change.
Garrett County has the Deep Creek Lake Watershed Zoning Ordinance. Within this ordinance the section covering “drilling for, removal or underground storage, of natural gas, shall comply with the following minimum setbacks:
“2,000 feet from the highwater – the 2,462 foot elevation line of Deep Creek Lake”. This buffer zone covers all lake front and almost all the lake access properties. There are some lake access/lake view parcels along the Marsh Hill which lie outside the buffer zone. “1,000 feet from property line of any lot not owned or leased to the entity responsible for the gas drilling, removal or storage.”
Though the set back would provide some protection to properties along the Marsh Hill Ridge, it may be insufficient to mitigate industrial impacts such as noise, light pollution, and air quality.
A question at the forum raised the issue whether these zoning protections covered just the vertical bore hole of the drilling or the horizontal drilling as well. John Nelson, Director of Planning and Land Development, responded helpfully:
“The setback does not apply to the horizontal bore hole. However, Maryland Department of Environment interprets the set-back that they impose (1,000 feet from any non-leased property) to include the distance from the horizontal bore hole. I have copied Ed Larimore with MDE on this email to confirm this interpretation.” (Email from John Nelson, August 14, 2012).
While this sounds promising, it is one of many hundreds of small items which need final determination.
Along Marsh Hill ridge there are lake-oriented properties which are outside the 2,000 buffer strip but in the watershed. Up Cherry Creek Run tributary there are 9 mineral leases in the watershed and at least another 9 abutting these outside the watershed.
The State of Maryland, owns the lake—exactly the bottom of the lake and the lake buffer strip, the State Park lands and is responsible for management of other parcels of land in the watershed. Principles for lake management are detailed in Maryland Code—protect the natural resource, the ecological balance and highest use as recreational resources. It could be inferred that an active industrial use such a Marcellus Shale drilling anywhere in the watershed would not comply with these principles.
At this point, there has no public statement from the State as to whether they would consider exempting the whole Deep Creek Lake watershed from drilling.
What might be the impacts on the lake watershed if there were drilling?
The parcels which might be drilled in the lake watershed are abutting tributary streams. There are multiple leases along Cherry Creek and on Shingle Camp Run and Marsh Run which flow from Marsh Hill. Positing the worst case scenario, if there were drilling and if there were an accident on these sites, run off could flow into these streams and into the lake.
There are other impacts which would be experienced in the watershed and on quality of life. These were not explored in depth in the Forum but may be explored in upcoming programs.
What is being done to protect the water quality in the lake?
DNR has developed a Marcellus Shale Water Quality Sampling program, for volunteers to monitor sites downstream from mineral leases. Friends of Deep Creek Lake has taken responsibility for monitoring sites in the lake watershed. Three volunteers (Charlie Lefebure, Jeff Nelson, and Bob Marko) are sampling 5 sites on a regular basis. Data collected will provide base-line data of existing conditions and could be used if there were an accident to determine impacts.
More effective and comprehensive sampling in the DCL watershed would be achieved by installation of fixed monitoring gauges on all tributary streams with mineral leases.
Prior to any drilling taking place, property owners with wells need to have their water sampled to establish base line data. There are two serious issues which need to be resolved: 1) it is unclear all the chemical compounds which need to be sampled; and 2) the cost of a comprehensive analysis could be well over $1,000.
Paul Durham, legislative consultant to the Garrett County Board of Realtors, reported we really do not know what the impact will be. He has not found a comparable place—a County heavily supported by a resort economy- which has had drilling. Without a model, Durham said that research is needed to project the costs, benefits and impacts on the DCL watershed properties. He does anticipate some reduction in lake property values if drilling were allowed in the County.
Real estate transactions are changing as awareness of possible Marcellus Shale extraction is spreading. Lake sellers need to declare whether they own the mineral rights to their land. Buyers are asking about impacts and risks to potential investment in the area. Further, mortgage lenders and insurers are reviewing and changing their policies and underwriting. This is changing, evolving real estate market, anyone thinking of selling or buying needs to be well informed of the latest changes.
The Governor enacted a moratorium and a timeline for study and reporting by the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Advisory Committee.
This Committee was charged with producing a report on best management practices by August, 2012. The due date for this report is now August, 2013. They are to have a final report on remaining issues by August, 2014. If the timeline is met, and decisions were made to go forward, it could start sometime after that date.
Friends of Deep Creek Lake met with DCL local community leaders on August 18. Attending leaders were honored for their volunteer efforts to run local homeowners associations and other neighborhood groups, receiving a Certificate of Appreciation from Friends of Deep Creek Lake.
Front row, left to right: Ken Fisher, Sandy Hill, Ellen Williams, Perry Levin, Pat Weiler. Back row: left to right: Roger Harrison, Richard Matlick, Brian Greenberg, Ralph Schmidt, Barbara Shap, Paul Weiler.
Early in the year, Lakeside Creamery owner Bill Meagher submitted a request for a special exception to the County’s Zoning and Land Development Department to operate a jet ski rental and a tour boat operation. Meagher needed the exception because he does not have the required 2 acres for a full marina; he has 10,000 square feet. The County Planning Commission reviewed and approved Meagher’s request, creating a new land use in the DCL watershed—the Boat Rental as a Separate Service Business or the “mini-marina” (http://bit.ly/gczoning).
It would seem logical zoning decisions impacting lake and buffer strip use should involve both DNR Lake Manager and the Policy and Review Board, appointed by the Governor to oversee Lake Management. The County did not include the PRB in the decision process nor did the County inform or solicit comments from the lake stakeholders. The Lake Manager determined there was no need to involve the Policy and Review Board, stating “The request falls within the parameters of the lake regulations and the lake use data available” (http://bit.ly/prb04mins).
With substantial political push-back, the Board of County Commissioners reviewed the Planning Commission’s decision and supported it with a 2-1 vote, with Commissioner Railey voting against the decision. Marina owners are now appealing the decision, filing for a judicial review of the PlanningCommission’s decision to amend the DCL Zoning Ordinance.
The judicial review should include a Finding of Facts, which should cover questions of both land use and lake use. DNR Secretary, the state’s Attorney General’s Office and the Policy and Review Board are now involved but unclear how they will affect the outcome. We can hope these governmental units will learn from this process and make needed changes.
The County Planning decision and appeal were topics at the Policy and Review Board meeting on July 23. This oversight group appointed by the Governor chose to take no action, leaving open the possibility of additional mini-marinas at Deep Creek Lake.
On June 29, Lake Management observed the Munchie Monkey (a pontoon boat decorated like a tiki hut topped by a huge monkey holding a banana), selling food and refreshments from the floating boat. Lake Management had received the Munchie Monkey’s application for a special permit on June 25, so the boat was operating without a permit from the County Health Department, as the approval process had not yet been completed. Additionally, the Munchie Monkey’s application failed to indicate the boat would be highly decorated, so the initial sighting by DNR on June 29 was a shocker to staff.
Eight years ago, there was a big to-do about a proposal for a large tour boat. Lake Management worked with the Policy and Review Board on this matter and draft guidelines for tour boats were developed in 2005 — but never enacted. These guidelines incorporate restrictions on the appearance of tour boats:
· “DNR reserves the right to approve the colors of the vessel, and will require that they be consistent with a nautical theme or subdued in colors, at the sole discretion and approval of the lake manager…
· Advertising of the vessel shall be limited to the vessel’s name, home port, phone number, and owner’s name in letters not larger than 12” in height.” (Posted by FoDCL athttp://bit.ly/tourdraft).
Why does Lake Manager, Carolyn Mathews, have to use “draft guidelines” instead of enforceable regulations. It turns out the process of enacting regulations is onerous, taking years to complete, even for the simplest changes.
What we have learned:
Lake Management just released a new policy –permitting installation of barrier sheets on the lake bottom around docks to suppress growth of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV). Buffer strip permit holders must obtain a permit from Lake Management Office (LMO) and follow a set of guidelines.
Access to information on this option is limited. There is no mention of mats on the DNR DCL web site: http://www.dnr.state.md.
The installation guidelines make one’s head spin. For example:
Is it worth the cost– to you?
Our estimate runs somewhere north of $500– annual $70 permit, $300-600 for the mat, weighted frame materials, and labor for installation and removal. The costs fall on the private property owner, not the State which owns the lake bottom where SAVs grow or manages the lake. This is a repeated theme of DCL management.
Should we kill SAVs?
DNR has stated repeatedly SAVs are a valuable part of a healthy lake ecosystem and indicators of good water quality. Submerged vegetation absorbs and filters out nutrients and helps oxygenate water. In fact, DNR says that the absence of submerged vegetation is cause for concern (NRMA, Resource Guide, “Submerged Aquatic Vegetation”, http://www.dnr.
Why is there a new policy now?
To benthic mat or not...
DNR is conducting two relevant studies this season: 1) The 3rd year of the DNR SAV study of 6 small sample sites; and, 2) Survey of distribution and density of Eurasian Watermilfoil in DCL. Study reports are expected by early 2013. and will be posted on our web site as soon as they are released. Contact: Bruce Michael (firstname.lastname@example.org).
In the 2012 season at DCL there will be a reduction of Natural Resource Police (NRP) “manpower” of 30% under 2010 funding levels—see chart below:
|Total – Watercraft Accidents(reportable)||37||37|
|Collision with Boats||6||2|
|Collision with Objects||2||4|
|Boating Related Deaths (Maryland)||12||24|
|Boating Related Deaths (Deep CreekLake)||0||0|
|Officers Assigned to Garrett County (not including supervisors)||12||10||7 (+2 temp. re-assigned from Al. Co.)|
More folks are raising concerns about boating safety. Some report they do not go out on the lake on busy summer week-ends; others focus on the dangerous boat exodus after the 4th of July Fireworks. Recently citizens have requested action on boating safety issues at the Policy and Review Board and the POA. We do not know what the response has been to these requests.
The last capacity assessment was done in 2003 and concluded: “there are times when the lake’s recreational carrying capacity is exceeded and additional law enforcement may be required. . . There are a few areas of the lake that are routinely crowded and may pose safety concerns. . .Greater law enforcement may be required in these areas. There are also certain events (e.g., 4th of July fireworks display) where large numbers of boats assemble that may also require additional law enforcement to maintain safe boating conditions.” (http://www.dnr.state.md.us/
Casual lake observers know there are 1) more boats on the lake; 2) more boats are allowed at each dock; 3) there are more boats which create very large wakes; 4) changes in recreational activities have led to increased wakes– tubing, wake boarding and wake surfing; and 5) there are more rental boats operated by users with insufficient boat handling experience.
Does the number of boats on the lake create an unacceptable risk? Does the risk fall on the State as owner of the lake which made the NRP cutbacks, knowing risks would increase? What will happen to boat insurance premiums? A local agent assured FoDCL premiums will not go up but did warn that we will see “increase speeding on the lake as well as the increased risk”. Should new boat slips and additional rental boats, both currently allowed by Lake Management, be suspended during cutbacks in NRP staffing? Should boating levels be tied to NRP funding levels?
Who do we call? Will it matter? We know many incidents go unreported. Are other financial resources available? Have creative alternatives been explored, such as training volunteers for a Courtesy Patrol, like the sailing association uses during races.
Acting Lieutenant David Marple will be making a presentation about the NRP cutbacks at the upcoming POA meeting at 8:30 at Garrett Eight Cinemas.
The Policy and Review Board meets at 6:00 pm at the Discovery Center.
For more information, contact Friends of DCL at email@example.com