Water quality on our lakes here in Lake County hasn't been too bad this year. Lake Herman has had some stinky days, but the rain and cool temps have kept the green scum at bay compared to other years.
Nonetheless, our lakes do have problems with silt, nutrients, carp, and algae. Unfortunately, efforts to to improve water quality in Lake County this summer have gone nowhere. Folks seeking to form a water project district on Lakes Madison and Brant suffered a ballot box defeat so stinging they folded up their tent and went home. Inquiries from Lake Herman residents as to whether we could use our sanitary district funds to maintain filtration dams and grassy waterways have met with stiff opposition from half of our board—i.e. Lawrence Dirks, who is singularly focused on stockpiling tax dollars to someday build a central sewer system—as well as the apparently very narrow statutory authority of the sanitary district.
On Madison and Brant, a big problem was that folks didn't want to create a new taxing authority on top of their sanitary and road districts to work on water quality. On Herman, a big problem is that statute doesn't appear to let us spend money on anything other than a multi-million-dollar sewer system that isn't going to get built.
I think I just found a solution. We don't need to create new water project districts. We simply need to amend state law to permit sanitary districts to assume the powers of water project districts.
There is precedent for this proposal: I learned from Jerome Lammers that state law allows sanitary districts to assume the powers of road districts (see SDCL 31-12A-20.1). All we need is for District 8 legislators Representative Gerry Lange and Senator Russell Olson, both of whom live at our lakes, to co-sponsor a bill to add the following provision to Chapter 46A-18:
46A-18-20.2. Sanitary district assuming water project district powers. The board of trustees of any sanitary district incorporated under chapter 34A-5 may submit to the voters of the district at an annual election or a special election called and held in accordance with chapter 9-13 the question of whether the district shall be authorized to exercise the powers of water project districts incorporated under this chapter, or the petitioners' application for incorporation filed in accordance with § 34A-5-6 may request such authority. Upon approval of the grant of such authority by a majority of the voters voting on the question, or upon entry of the order incorporating the district if the application has requested such authority, the board of trustees shall be authorized to exercise all powers which a water project district organized under this chapter may exercise, including the powers granted by §§ 46A-18-31 to 46A-18-73, inclusive.
Check those numbers before passage, but otherwise, there you go, Gerry and Russ! House Bill 1001 for the 2010 session, all written up and ready to go, good practical legislation that will benefit your neighbors!
p.s.: I'm working on a new website for the Lake Herman Sanitary District. The site is built on Drupal, so I can publish district info much faster and more conveniently than on the original sanitary district website, which requires offline FrontPage/Notepad editing and FTP transfer. And we all know FrontPage is dead. I'll keep working—let me know what you think!