Dunes City discusses housing project, water testing, deer


Aug. 21, 2019 — The Little Woahink Lake project was again a topic of discussion during last Wednesday’s Dunes City Council meeting, along with issues of how water quality is tested in Woahink and Siltcoos Lakes, public works equipment and an unusual rise of deaths in the local deer population.

The public comments that opened the meeting were centered around a planned housing development on Little Woahink Lake. The project, which has gone through multiple legal issues for over a decade, has seen struggles between developers, Dunes City and local residents on the environmental impacts on the lake, which is used as a drinking water resource for some residents.

The city’s Planning Commission had done an initial review of the project in late July, ensuring that the project adhered to city code. Final approval on the project was postponed until the commission could make some specific recommendations, and concerned residents took the interim period to express further concerns with the project to the council.

“The first thing I was concerned about is that, in the event that sediment is directly deposited in a wetland, stream or lake, the developer shall contact the city engineer and coordinate actions with the city,” resident Margie Kelly said. “This concerns me largely because it seems we’re putting the fox in charge of the hen house. How would we know or expect them to actually come forward? It seems that perhaps we could use an independent inspector for oversight rather than relying on the developer to just ‘do the right thing.’”

The council asked if Dunes City could test Little Woahink for quality; however, it is a privately-owned reservoir.

“We would have to get permission from the owner, and that’s the person who is building the subdivision,” Dunes City Administrator/Recorder Jamie Mills said.

Mills did not rule out the possibility of working with the developer to test water quality, but also pointed out that the health of the lake should be the responsibility of all those concerned with the health of the lake.

“The fact of the matter is, if someone sees direct pollution, there’s a million different avenues to report that, including the Attorney General’s Office,” Mills told the Siuslaw News. “They’ve got to remember that the developer has to comply with state and federal law. If they’re concerned that the drainage storm system will dump into a spring, they need to realize the federal government requires that sort of thing to go into the water system. That’s a requirement they have to meet. Anybody who drives down Canary Road and sees silt coming into the lake can report it and bring it to somebody’s attention. Everybody’s eyes are on this.”

Dunes City resident Aaron Bowen, who has been vocal about the city’s need to regulate the water quality of the project, also brought up concerns about the development’s plat, stating that the stormwater management plan the planning commission worked off of looked “like it would work,” but had concerns that the submitted plat for the project did not reflect the environmental regulations.

“The plat map doesn’t have anything like that,” he said. “It actually has a stormwater gully that runs from the cul-de-sac straight down and connects up into the lake. There is no effort, at least in the plat map, to collect and seep that water.”

Mills later told the Siuslaw News that while the plat map may not include all needed changes, the court order that forces the developer to adhere to environmental regulations supersede the plat.

“It’s not on the plat because it’s on the court order, and we’re not going to sign off on the map until we’re satisfied that everything has been met. It doesn’t need to be on the plat map. The court order is referenced on the plat map, that they have to do it in compliance,” Mills said.

Finally, there were concerns about the traffic that additional homes could bring to the area.

“We had a traffic study that said there will be no significant impact other than what would normally occur with the growth of the community,” Mills told the Siuslaw News.

The Planning Commission will again take up the issue during a meeting tomorrow night (Aug. 22) at 5 p.m. at Dunes City Hall.

Water issues again took center stage later in the meeting when discussions on how water quality for Big Woahink and Siltcoos Lakes are tested.

Traditionally, water quality testing had been done by one group, but divisions in the group has led to a suggestion that two separate testing groups be created — one for Woahink and another for Siltcoos. The differences in testing the two lakes vary, including who actually does the testing.

“What we discovered is that the people who live around Siltcoos are young families with children who work and aren’t available to do testing in the middle of the week when it’s usually done, unlike Woahink residents, who are mostly retirees,” Mills said. “So, they’re finding that Siltcoos testing should take place on the weekend.”

Equipment is also an issue, as the reading instruments have to be thoroughly cleaned in between lake tests to ensure that data is not cross-contaminated. The process can be time consuming.

Finally, there are differences in how thoroughly the lakes are tested.

“Historically, we’ve tested Woahink in about six different places every month, and there’s only one place in Siltcoos that was tested,” Council President Sheldon Meyer said. “And I think that there’s probably been some inaccuracy, because where we’ve been testing on Siltcoos is right where the water from Woahink runs into Siltcoos. So, all we’re doing is retesting Woahink water. And Woahink being a much deeper lake with more input, maybe doesn’t need to be as thoroughly tested as Siltcoos, which is much shallower.”

Mills believes the city could acquire unused equipment from the Siuslaw Watershed Council, which would allow both Siltcoos and Woahink testers to create their own schedules.

“This might actually get more volunteers to come forth because they’re actually going to live on Siltcoos Lake and want to make sure that everything’s up to date and tested in multiple places,” Councilor Duke Wells said.

Water quality issues dovetailed into the city’s push to prevent residents from feeding local deer.

“I received a call about a dead deer in Woahink Lake at the end of Woodland Lane. I have no way to get a deer out of the water,” said Mills.

She had contacted state officials, who stated that animals dying in bodies of water was natural, and there was no need to remove the deer, even though Woahink is a drinking source. However, Woahink is not the only place that local deer have died recently.

“There have been several deer deaths in the area that cannot be attributed to motor vehicles or predators,” reported Mills. “It’s important for residents to hear that feeding deer carbohydrates such as corn or bread can cause acidosis, which is painful and deadly to deer. We suspect that’s why the one the deer in the water died — because someone fed it food that, quite frankly, deer are not supposed to eat.”

The city had recently been given a photo of a man feeding deer with a small group of children. Soon after that incident, one of the deer head-butted a vehicle that was driving slowly in an attempt to avoid hitting the dear.

Mills stressed that Dunes City did pass an ordinance declaring feeding deer and other wild animals to be a misdemeanor.

“I want to get the word out,” she said. “People may think they’re helping and being nice, but you’re likely to cause them death.”

In other news from the meeting, street maintenance equipment issues were at the heart of a possible intergovernmental agreement (IGA) that the city could enter into with Lane County.

“We all know we have a wonderful public works supervisor that does the best he can,” Mills said. “The equipment he has was down and he was waiting for parts. A lot of things all of a sudden came up at once. That’s how it works; when the machine isn’t working, you’re going to need it. I had to do something, so I called the City of Florence to come out and take care of a particular issue. For future issues, I talked to the county and they have a regular IGA with a lot of different cities in the county. It doesn’t mean that they will do it, or that it will be my first place to go. It just means that if there’s an emergency, it’s there.”

The IGA would be on a per-need basis and would not cost the city an annual fee. However, the rates for help were not listed in the IGA, and the council postponed a decision until actual fees could be determined.

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