2017 Year in Review: Story No. 4
Pond weeds, development plans draw crowds to county courthouse
This is part of a series looking back at 2017.
Boaters, swimmers and anglers were hopeful a major blow had been dealt to curlyleaf pondweed in East Lake Okoboji when an aquatic harvester cut paths through the thick, matted patches of the invasive plant in May. However, the weed still caused problems for swimmers and boaters in June. It has clogged motors and brought summer fun to a standstill for some.
A 14-foot-wide Kuhlman Lake Service and Welding weed-harvesting barge had problems with the aquatic plants — the barge motor would clog with curlyleaf every 50 feet or so. One of the company’s boats had become so clogged last year that the motor overheated and the engine block cracked.
"We now have people who have bought $10,000 to $15,000 lifts that we can’t install and they are very upset at us, even though they say they understand it is beyond our control," a letter to the Iowa Great Lakes Association said.
Dickinson County Supervisor Mardi Allen recalled the DNR’s willingness to apply aquatic herbicide in the past, as did Supervisor Pam Jordan. However, Jordan indicated the public was not in favor of chemical usage.
The DNR brought groups together for a public hearing on Sept. 28. DNR Fisheries Biologist Mike Hawkins provided the working group of county and city entities with several approaches to weed management, based on the science of the curly leaf.
"We're going to try and at least double the number of acres we mechanically harvested," Hawkins said.
The harvesting would largely be done on East Lake Okoboji. He said residents of the Carter Lake area have offered to loan another harvester to the group for use this spring, alongside the harvester purchased by Underwater Solutions in 2016. Hawkins said mechanical harvesting has the added benefit of removing the plant material — and the phosphorus it contains — from the water.
The other option being considered for 2018 is the application of an aquatic herbicide. The DNR's working group wants to emphasize prevention and mechanical removal over herbicides.
Overall, the proposed plan to alleviate weed growth near high-traffic areas would cost approximately $40,000 to execute. East Okoboji Lakes Improvement Corporation President Bill Maas said the project will be partially funded by a grant from the DNR, through the Marine Fuel Tax Fund.
EAST LOCH ESTATES PLANS
The trend of well-attended meetings continued in the fall of 2017.
Dickinson County Planning and Zoning Commission reviewed a request, during its Aug. 21 meeting, from contract purchasers Nicholas Poolman, Jeff Hultgren and Jeremy Jalas, as well as property deed holder Leo “Butch” Parks Jr., to rezone a nearly 66-acre property near Chalstrom Beach as an R-3 multifamily residential district.
A group of residents signed a petition, urging the Dickinson County Board of Supervisors and the board of adjustment not to allow the development.
Parks said planned unit developments and condominiums were a new way for people to come to the Okoboji area and will bring major economic benefits to the area. He said there have been several opportunities to sell the land over the years, but he held onto the property as part of his retirement strategy. He indicated the land would sell for $2.5 million and estimated the county would be giving up $100,000 in annual property taxes if the application were to be denied.
At the start of December, developers amended their plans for the proposed East Loch Estates. The month ended with approval from the Dickinson County Board of Adjustment (see related story on page 1A).