The Columbia Association is moving toward approving half the additional money needed to dredge Lake Kittamaqundi to the depth originally planned after heavy storms in the past four years dumped unexpectedly high levels of silt into it.
Thursday night, a CA committee of two board members — Suzanne Waller of Town Center and Kathleen Dragovich of Dorsey's Search — accepted a staff proposal to recommend that the full board add $1.3 million to the Kittamaqundi project, which is scheduled to get under way this month. If adopted, that would leave about 15 million more cubic yards of silt in the lake than originally planned, according to construction manager Dennis Mattey. He said that adding the entire $2.5 million needed to reach the full dredging goal would be too much of a financial burden. The full board will vote on the request this month.
"The deeper we can dredge the lake, the longer it will be until the next time," Mattey told the eight board members present. Officials said that since construction to Symphony Woods is likely to be delayed, the extra dredging money could be temporarily diverted for the lakes.
Board member Alex Hekimian of Oakland Mills suggested not dredging Kittamaqundi's narrow north end, allowing it to slowly fill with sediment and become a marsh as a cost-cutting move, but no one else spoke in favor of the idea. Hekimian also suggested asking the cash-strapped county government for more money to help with the costs, and CA President Phil Nelson said he would make that request.
"What's happening to Lake Kittamaqundi isn't just a Columbia problem," Hekimian said. "It's a county problem."
Board Chairwoman Cynthia Coyle of Harper's Choice agreed but said she favors accepting the staff recommendation.
"I think we have to do this," Coyle told the group, though she objected to using Symphony Woods money. Nelson said he needed more time to figure out where to get the extra money.
If the $1.3 million boost is adopted, it would bring the cost of dredging Kittamaqundi to $7.4 million, though algae and unwanted vines and plants will quickly return because of the nutrients that wash into all the lakes with the silt.
To help cut down on those nutrients, CA officials told board members they are negotiating a $43,000 contract with a dog-handling firm to chase geese, which leave nutrient-rich waste droppings, away from all three of Columbia's lakes.
The board's decision boosts the total cost of dredging all three lakes to $14.9 million. Preparatory work on a staging area for dredging Lake Kittamaqundi is under way now near South Entrance Road and Route 29.
Consultant studies of the two largest lakes, Elkhorn and Kittamaqundi, have shown much more sediment washing in from heavy storms since 2006 than had been predicted. Since the dredge jobs are based on the amount of sediment to be removed, the increase means either paying more to reach the same water depths, or removing less mud. The board approved spending $1.2 million more on the Elkhorn project, which began removing mud in March, and is due to wrap up in December.
To get the extra cash for Elkhorn, the board diverted $700,000 from the overfunded Wilde Lake project, and voted to add $488,000 from other capital projects moving more slowly than expected. Wilde Lake is in better shape, the board was told at previous meetings, because it has been dredged more frequently.
Neither Elkhorn nor Kittamaqundi were ever totally dredged since they were built in the mid-1970s. The homeowners association recently hired a watershed manager for the first time to help find ways to keep sediment from filling the man-made lakes as quickly.
One problem at Elkhorn, the board heard, was that a small pond at the lake's source that once kept significant sediment out of the main body of water has never been maintained, rendering it ineffective.