Black Lake residents fed up with invaders

Residents seek special district to raise annual funds to remove lake’s invasive species

ckrotzer@theolympian.comJuly 28, 2013 

People living along the shoreline of Black Lake have grown tired of invasive species plaguing their waters and have taken it upon themselves to eradicate the problem.

A nonprofit group dubbed the Save Black Lake Coalition is hoping to create a special district, giving members the authority to collect funds and clean up the lake.

With the help of Thurston County, the group has received two large grants from the Department of Ecology. The first $40,000 grant was toward a study and creation of a plan to rid the lake of invasive species.

Residents also raised a required 25 percent match for the $40,000 grant.

The second — for $50,000 — helped put part of the plan in place. The group needs another $50,000 for the entire plan and is applying for a second $50,000 grant.

The money helped pay for a chemical used on non-native lily pads that, if gone unchecked, could lead to difficulties navigating the lake, disruption of water flow, and negative impacts to water quality and habitat, said Vernon Bonfield of the coalition.

A special district means the coalition could acquire more funding by annually collecting money from residents to go toward the cleanup of Black Lake.

“We aren’t happy with the quality of the lake,” Bonfield said. “We don’t want it to get worse — we want it to get better and are willing to pay to make sure the lake is properly managed.”

Other lakes around Thurston County have lake management districts, including Lake Lawrence and Long Lake.

Under lake management districts, the county is responsible for implementing programs and raising revenue, according to Rich Doenges, water resources planning coordinator with Thurston County.

“A special district, once it’s fully enforced, becomes an independent form of local government,” Doenges said. “It is not connected to the county other than the treasurer’s office will support collecting revenue for them and some entities will use some county services, but it’s through an inter-local agreement process.”

The next step toward that goal is a hearing Monday where the public will be able to express thoughts on the potential district.

Jim Bachmeier, county resource stewardship manager, said the county commissioners will use public testimony to help determine whether a special district would be beneficial to a majority of the community and if the benefits of the proposed district projects outweigh the cost of improvements.

The commissioners would then determine whether to hold an election among the residents for the special district. The community gathered more than 50 signatures on a petition to get the issue to its current point.

Bonfield said they were hoping to have a budget of about $150,000 annually and would be collected from those living in the Black Lake Special District boundary.

The proposed boundary includes 160 lakefront homes, 400 upland homes with lake access, and five lakefront public access areas, including the Department of Fish and Wildlife boat launch, Kenneydell Park and Columbus Park.

Bonfield said they mirrored the special district plan off Long Lake’s lake management plan.

The community hopes cutting off the invasive plant problems early will save it the almost $500,000 it cost Long Lake residents to fix their weed problem.

“You couldn’t access certain parts of the lake with a boat,” Bonfield said.

The main species causing issues at Black Lake are milfoil, yellow flag iris and fragrant water lilies.

Residents have already put some plans in place, such as having volunteer divers lay biodegradable burlap bags filled with pea gravel on the lake bed around docks and swimming areas to cut down on species such as the slender water-nymph.

“They grow around docks and shallow areas, then get uprooted and snowball with one another and end up floating around the lake,” Bonfield said. “One strand of it can be 4 feet to 6 feet long and snarls around everything.”

Chelsea Krotzer: 360-754-5476 @chelseakrotzer

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