LPA Updates Offered at GM Coffee

By Susan Thompson

A “Coffee with the GM” session was held September 7 at the Lake Panorama National conference center. John Rutledge, Lake Panorama Association general manager, provided an update on LPA activities, plus responded to audience questions.

Rutledge said during 2017 the dredge removed 185,000 cubic yards of sediment from Lake Panorama’s upper basin and the Middle Raccoon River between the debris trap and the Fansler bridge. The dredge has moved to Burchfield Cove, where it will operate through October, and perhaps into November.

Since dredged material from Burchfield is pumped into the Scott Basin, this move allows the Lake Panorama Rural Improvement Zone (RIZ) to make some improvements to the County Sediment Basin. Currently the structure that holds back basin water is all removable concrete blocks. Now the water level in the County Basin will be lowered, and concrete will be poured for the bottom half of the outlet structure. The remaining half will continue to be concrete blocks.

Rutledge said the Helen’s Cove CREP (Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program) wetland is functioning as designed, and cattails are starting to show. Areas surrounding the wetland pool have been seeded, but these native grasses take a couple of years to establish. Public site tours will be offered once more vegetation is present.

The Hughes Cove CREP project is done, but with the dry summer, the wetland pool is still about one-foot from being filled. Rutledge said one good rain should bring that wetland into service protecting Lake Panorama.

“These wetlands are multi-purpose,” Rutledge said. “They help reduce nutrients and sediment from entering the lake. We can always dredge out sediment, but wetlands are a preventative, proactive step.”

To that end, a third wetland is in the design phase. RIZ purchased 33 acres of land from Mike Potthoff near the intersection of Highway 4 and 200th Street. This was traded to Marvin and Judi Smith for 42 acres of their land north of Burchfield Cove. Construction on an 11-acre wetland pool that will filter water from 2,000 acres above it is expected to begin in the spring.

Some funding for this project will come from a grant from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, in cooperation with the Agribusiness Association of Iowa and the Soil and Water Conservation Society. Rutledge said Lake Panorama RIZ is “on the short list of organizations in a position to work with these groups on experimental funding models.”

Rutledge reported RIZ also recently purchased a 71-acre farm within the Burchfield watershed. He said the land isn’t suitable for a wetland, but should be good “trading stock” for future wetland projects. The next meeting of the RIZ board is Tuesday, October 3, beginning at 7 a.m. at the LPA office. Meetings are open to the public.   

The LPA maintenance crew is busy wrapping up 2017 projects. Final landscaping work around the new LPA-owned boat storage building is being done. Work has begun to prepare the area at Boulder Beach for new sports courts to be built in late September. 

Rutledge said the 2018 LPA budget process is underway. The LPA board will consider possible capital expenditures at its September meeting, then turn its attention to operational expenditures at its October meeting. The budget should be finalized at the board’s November meeting, and LPA bills will be distributed in December.

This timeline has worked well for several years, Rutledge said. It gives those who travel elsewhere for the winter the opportunity to pay their bills before they leave, which in turn provides funds to the LPA during the low point in its annual cash flow.

Turning to the security department, Rutledge said water patrols will continue, but taper off as the weather cools. He encouraged members who see something on the water that concerns them to call security.

Winter house checks are being offered again this year. This involves the homeowner placing a thermometer in a window so a security officer can check it periodically. If the temperature drops to an unsafe level, the homeowner’s plumber is contacted.

The annual deer hunt will continue as it has the last three years. Rutledge acknowledged there are “pockets” where deer populations are higher because the proximity to homes makes it impossible to hunt. He said the LPA goal is to control, not eliminate, deer from the lake development, and he believes the current hunting program makes that possible.

Following the last GM coffee in July when complaints of speeding were aired, Rutledge said LPA borrowed a speed control trailer from the Guthrie County sheriff’s office. He said the sign was used as an educational tool, to show drivers how their current speed matched up with the speed limit.

“Our goal isn’t to issue a lot of speeding tickets,” Rutledge said. “If we do pull people over, it’s usually because we’ve been getting complaints from members about areas where people are driving too fast.”

Rutledge said the LPA water safety committee spent more than two hours at its July meeting discussing boat length limits. In the end, the committee voted to keep the current limits of 24-feet for ski boats and 27-feet for pontoons, including swim platforms. The LPA board concurred with the committee’s recommendation. There are plans for a membership survey later this fall, and Rutledge said the topic of boat length will be one focus of the survey. 

A physical inspection of the dam, done every five years, is complete. Rutledge said no serious concerns were uncovered. Some work on the berm between the dam and the emergency spillway may take place at a later date, but he said the dam is “in great condition.” 

Rutledge talked about possible upgrades to the Lake Panorama water plant. The current system relies on two 200-foot-deep wells in the Dakota Aquifer, and a 2,500-foot-deep well in the Jordan Aquifer. Water from the Dakota wells is softer, but is susceptible to drought, iron and manganese. Water from the Jordan well is harder, and blending water from these two types of wells is a constant challenge.

A reverse osmosis pilot plant operated for three months at the water plant, which was the first step towards possible plant improvements. Reverse osmosis is a widely used process to pull pollutants out of water.

Rutledge said the pilot plant was successful. “The study showed we could expect very good results from a reverse osmosis system. The black water experienced by some customers would go away completely, because the two Dakota wells would be closed,” he said. “The other good news was that the operational cost of the new system would be almost the same as the current system.”

The construction cost of the new system is estimated at $3.5 million. That includes about $1 million to drill a new Jordan well. It also includes the cost of running a waste discharge pipe from the water plant to below the Lake Panorama dam. Rutledge said options for paying for the new system will be explored and the membership survey will include questions related to those options. If a decision is made to proceed with the water plant upgrades, it would take 18-24 months to complete.

The meeting was opened to questions. One was about empty boat lifts sitting on land. Rutledge said one of the most challenging issues the LPA faces is general care and appearance of member-owned property. He made a note of this issue for staff to review.

Two other questions were related to algae blooms and the fish kill that occurred in late July. Rutledge explained this summer’s dry weather meant less sediment being carried into Lake Panorama. Less sediment resulted in clearer water, which allowed the sun’s rays to reach deeper into the water.

“That led to more algae growth,” Rutledge said. “Algae consumes oxygen, so oxygen levels got too low for some fish. We don’t believe there was any permanent damage to the number and quality of fish in the lake. While it was a good thing to have less sediment in the lake this summer, we did pay the price in algae blooms and some fish being lost.”

Rutledge thanked those in attendance and said he plans to schedule one more GM coffee before the end of 2017.