Lake Kittamaqundi is beginning to show its age -- under the surface.
More than 30 years after a Rouse Co. subsidiary built the almost 28-acre lake, the heart of Columbia's Town Center is slowly filling with sediment. Left alone, the lake that provides boating, fishing and a scenic backdrop for events such as the Festival of the Arts would eventually resemble a marsh.
In the coming weeks, the Columbia Association will take the first steps toward fixing the problem. How to remove the sediment -- temporarily draining water from the lake is an option -- and how much it would cost are among questions to be answered.
Accumulation of sediment in rivers and lakes occurs naturally. The build-up in Lake Kittamaqundi has been more rapid because it is in a flood plain next to Little Patuxent River.
Development has replaced grassy or wooded areas with water-resistant roofs, roads and parking lots -- and that has increased the amount of runoff during storms and and severity of erosion, said Chick Rhodehamel, vice president of open-space management for the Columbia Association.
County laws require erosion control and storm water management systems at all development sites, but some sites in Howard County predate the law. A county evaluation showed the streams near Lake Kittamaqundi are prone to erosion, which can increase the frequency of flooding.
"It's just our due diligence" to address the build-up now, said Rhodehamel.
The first step will be a meeting with members of the County Council and County Executive James N. Robey to discuss the possibility of a combined effort, said Columbia Association President Deborah McCarty.
County's help sought
The association wants the county to take steps to prevent the overflow of the Little Patuxent to limit Columbia's future sediment removal projects.
"We realize [the lake] is our responsibility, but the river carries water from all over the county," McCarty said.
"We have tremendous drainage needs throughout the county," said James Irvin, director of public works for Howard County. "Identifying a funding source is one of the key issues with taking on additional maintenance projects."
McCarty wants to see if the county can obtain state or federal grants to fund river improvements.
Panel's OK needed
Funding for the association's part of the project would have to be approved by the Columbia Council.
The association needs to find ways to remove the sediment and decide on a disposal plan, said Rhodehamel. It must also obtain permits from the state and address environmental and water-quality issues. It's too soon to predict when work would begin, he said.
The association paid for sediment removal at the boat dock at Lake Elkhorn in the early 1980s and worked on Wilde Lake in 1993 and 1994.
The lake, named after an Indian word meaning "meeting place," was built in 1966 and 1967.
"James Rouse felt very strongly that people are affected by their environment," said Barbara Kellner, coordinator of the Columbia Welcome Center and archives. "He wanted to bring nature into Columbians' everyday living."
Sun staff writer Erika Niedowski contributed to this article.