A vote will decide whether the residents living around Black Lake can form a special district, giving them the authority to tackle an invasive plant problem that has plagued the waters for years.
The Thurston County commissioners listened to predominately positive testimony from those who live in the proposed Black Lake Special District on Monday, and decided to leave it up to a citizen vote in November’s general election.
The proposed district 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 and Kenneydell and Columbus parks.
“Special districts are a form of democracy. … They have a wide variety of powers, and the community takes it really seriously,” County Commissioner Sandra Romero said Wednesday. “They really want to save Black Lake.”
The lake has had issues with invasive plant species, including lily pads, milfoil and yellow flag iris.
The Save Black Lake Coalition has focused the past three years toward the goal of becoming a special district, putting in more than 1,000 hours of volunteer work to clean up the lake.
The community also has donated more than $30,000 and secured two grants equaling $90,000 from the state Department of Ecology, which paid for the development of a plan to curb the invasive species, as well as partially paid to put the plan in place.
The coalition needs another $50,000 to complete the plan.
A special district would allow the community to collect annual funding from residents to go toward future cleanup of Black Lake.
“The majority, probably 95 percent, were in support of the commissioners allowing the vote, which is encouraging,” said Vernon Bonfield of the Save Black Lake Coalition. “Even that 5 percent, they all said they were for cleaning up the lake, they just had concerns about how the statute is written and how the voting works.
“Nobody was adamantly against us cleaning up the lake.”
Between now and November, Bonfield said they will focus on keeping the public informed about the special district.
The only downside to the process is when they could actually begin collecting money, Bonfield said. The coalition was under the impression that they could collect funds as early as 2014.
“More likely it will come out in 2015,” Bonfield said.
“The challenge there is we won’t have any funding for more treatment next year.”Chelsea Krotzer: 360-754-5476 firstname.lastname@example.org @chelseakrotzer