City claims their hands are tied in closing lakes

City claims their hands are tied in closing

By: JORDAN GRUCZA

Enquirer Democrat Reporter

Carlinville lakes are once again closed to boating this year, restricting recreation to fishing on the banks only. Many members of the community are frustrated with being unable to access a lake that was previously known for summers full of swimming and boating, with occasional acts of rebellion to the policies in place.

Mayor Deanna Demuzio remains firm in her stance on the issue.

“We did this last year, where we did not allow any boating,” she said. “We’re okay with campers fishing on the banks, but both lakes are used as our water source. Lake 1 has not a great deal of depth. Even with all the rain coming through the area lately, most of the water goes over the dam.

“We were going to allow the trolling boats or boats that didn’t have a motor, and sure enough as soon as we did, someone decided to go out on the lake with a big motor and stir up everything. That’s why we put the ban on boats.

“If you’re looking at Lake 2, that is a back-up source for us and we have to keep that as clean as we can. In early March we were running $60,000 over budget just for chemicals. Lake 1 is recording a lot of chemicals, and we do not even want to consider using Lake 2 because you never know if there’s a drought or if something should happen to Lake 1. Lake 2 has probably about 13 or 14 months supply there.”

Last year Public Works Director Dan Held commented that if the city found itself in a 20 or 50- year drought, the lake would not be able to sustain itself.

Meanwhile campers and residents alike are left scratching their heads over how a lake maintained with taxpayer money has remained inaccessible year after year.

“I understand their frustration,” said Demuzio. “But even with a kayak or canoe, any time you stir up that water, the water is so shallow you stir up that manganese. We’ve been fortunate to have all this rain, but come July, August, September, you just can’t do that. We can’t take that risk.

“A year ago in January we had some divers from North Dakota go down and it was so thick and murky it was like oil. They couldn’t see even with the headlight. We have to regularly report to the EPA, we have to send samples, and boating out there causes a lot of extra work to keep it stable.”

Long-time campers Mike Bryant and Kevin Naugle are skeptical of these statements.

“I don’t know where she gets her information,” said Bryant. “And I’m no expert on it, either, but I would think the more motors, the more stirring up of this lake, the better off it would be.”

“You take a body of water that doesn’t move, what happens to it?” said Naugle. “It gets stagnant. You leave it still, it gets nasty. When you’re talking a fishing boat with a trolling motor only, I can assure you that you are not gonna get a wake unless that’s a 150-pound-thrust motor. They could even limit the thrust.”

Demuzio also stated there has also been some vandalism last year. “We have a ‘no trespassing’ sign posted. Someone cut some lines, did some damage out there. They tried to get a boat in. There was hardly any water in Lake 2 at the time.”

Naugle and Bryant knew of the vandalism Demuzio speaks about, but according to them, it’s the exception to the rule.

“There’s absolutely no problems out here,” Naugle stated, and stated he would know, being a former police officer. “The only problems are people coming through, you get kids speeding through here, but that’s it. My wife and I started out as weekenders here and loved it so much we purchased a lot. And that’s what happens with most people who come here. There’s just a lot of good people out here.”

Demuzio clarified that, lawsuits with the city aside, if all goes well with the water project with Illinois Alluvial and the city begins receiving its water from the Alluvial Aquifer, the lake would open back up to boating and swimming. “For Lake 1 it certainly will,” she said.

Until that time, Demuzio affirmed that the lakes would be closed to boating indefinitely. “If this wasn’t a drinking source for 6,000 people, it wouldn’t be so severe. I don’t like it myself. I would love to be able to have boats out there like we used to.”

Bryant and Naugle don’t like it, either. “Why in the world couldn’t you have a 25-pound thrust trolling motor?” Naugle said. “That’s not gonna erode the lake. There’s a lot of other things that’s gonna do that besides the boats and the canoes. It limits us. For the guys who like to fish you’re stuck to the banks.”

Bryant noted that the lake is losing a lot of revenue over sales of stickers made for the campers’ boats for residents and campers from out of town, $25 and $45 respectively. The stickers made almost $8,000 the first year they were sold. Campground and lake manager Mark Boatman noted the year after, which was last year, they began refunding people after the first two months.

“There used to be boat races and a skiing club,” said Naugle. “There used to be fireworks. It was a place family could come and enjoy a night or weekend out.”

In spite of all these restrictions, under Boatman’s management the lake has brought in more campers right now than they have had in the past six years. “We were down to 28 four years ago and now we’re up to 68 plus,” Boatman said.

This atmosphere has created confusion and resentment among the campers. “I got the impression they were trying to make everything go wrong out here to close this lake down,” said Naugle.

“Word was, back two years ago, at one of our meetings, D & R Natural Resources was interested in buying our lake,” Cerar said. “And nothing has been said about it since, but a lot of people feel the mayor is bound and determined to get rid of that lake. I was co-chairman for the committee for the lake out there once, and we got it cleaned up and turned it around. We showed a profit that year. The mayor was upset because we showed a profit. She wanted to close the campground down completely and do away with it.

“The problem is, the lake has been neglected for years. It needs to be dredged and cleaned up, but the city would never go after grant money to get it done. They had an opportunity back in 2009 or 2010. They were eligible for a $10 million grant to do that. And the gal that was doing the grant work for the city didn’t get the paperwork in on time. So they lost out. And the mayor keeps saying there’s no grant money available. Well, the city of Gillespie just got $10 million for improving their lake and their water lines.

“We’ve got two lakes, the main lake where the campers are and the lake south. The mayor will not let Dan Held, the Public Works director, switch over to Lake 2, which would cut their chemical costs in half. She’s trying to prove a point that our water’s not safe and that we need to go elsewhere to get water. Dan Held says we’re $100,000 out of budget using Lake 1.”

According to a report supplied by Held, Lake 1, or Lake Carlinville, was noted in 1970 to have a decreased storage capacity because of lake siltation, where sediment was transported from the watershed. Sediment removal projects were completed at the time and the dam was raised three feet to restore the lake to its original capacity. Today, however, this erosion continues. In 2006, Lake 1 was included on the Illinois List of Impaired Waters. Due to phosphorous and manganese buildup, the lake’s water quality has decreased over time.

“Lake 1 has a higher turbidity, so we have to add more chemicals,” Held said. “Because of that it’s more expensive to treat Lake 1. As of March 29, we are spending $60,000 more this year than what we anticipated.”

Held was also able to provide his own explanation of why there are no motors allowed on the lake.

“When motors are on the lake, they stir up the water, it stirs up the dirt and the turbidity, it stirs up the manganese and it brings more of it to the plant,” Held said. “When this comes in at a higher level, and when you have a plant that age, whatever comes through ends up in the drinking water. Now, that’s not a health issue, but it’s going to ruin your laundry, and that makes residents mad.”

Held denied that the mayor’s use of Lake 1 is an effort to prove any point about the city’s water.

Boatman admits that a thick skin is necessary for his job when it comes to the amount of frustration sent his way.

“I get three or four phone calls a day with people asking me when we’re gonna open up the lake,” said Boatman. “I’ve got 10 or 15 campers who can’t use their boats. There’s a guy who bought a $5,000 fishing kayak he can’t even use now.”

Boatman commented that he’s looking forward to passing the water test so the lake can be open back up to swimming. Ultimately, he’d like to see Lake 1 open back up to fishing.

“It is what it is,” he said. “We can’t ignore the needs of the city but it’s left a lot of campers angry.” The site has lost one camper because of the restrictive policies and two people passed on setting up campers there for the same reason.

“I grew up water skiing out here,” he said. “It’s kinda sad that it’s come to this.”

Frustration mounts among campers who remember a time when the docks weren’t empty. Enquirer-Democrat photo by Jordan Grucza.