Tuesday, May 27, 2008


We are now heading into my very best time of year, which I call "there's enough water in the lake to get a boat out season." You may recall me complaining about how the lake was so dried up by the end of July last year that the dock was sitting on mud and the edge of the water was distant and unreachable. So the season is short and must be taken advantage of.

Jeffrey and I hopped into our canoe the other day and tried a little fishing. Not much fish action so we decided to practice our rowing and go for a tour of the perimeter of the lake. There are only a few houses that have property adjacent to this lake, and the three of them that are directly across from us are part of a neighboring subdivision called "Crestmoor," where they have a different approach to lake living. They have cleared out all of the trees and wetland vegetation and created their own personal beaches. They fertilize and insecticide their lush lawns and have docks with pontoons reaching out over the water that is there because they had the bottom of the lake dredged out deep beneath it. I had called the DEQ when all of this was going on and was told that they were issued permits based on the logic of "well once the first guy got away with it we had to let the others do it too."

So Jeffrey and I were bobbing on the glassy lake looking up at this spectacle, when my gaze zeroed in on something I hadn't noticed before. I rowed a little closer to look, because I couldn't believe my eyes. It was a pump. An electric pump, with a big white pipe leading down into the middle of the lake. This guy is pumping out our precious lake water so that he can save a few bucks when watering his lawn. Unbelievable. Jeffrey was aghast. "Call the police Mommy!" I told him that I didn't have a phone in the canoe. He looked closely and pointed out that the next house has one too.

This is upsetting to me. The water is already low due to a summer of drought and a broken dam in the system, this can only hurt the situation. I know that in theory it should make it's way back into the water table and therefore the lake, but there’s sure to be a loss along the way.

Meanwhile Jeffrey is demanding justice. I had to explain to him that they might not be doing anything that is against the law, I would have to look it up. So I went online and looked up the ordinances for both our local township and the State DEQ. Although they go on about protecting wetlands, could not find any wording specific to this. As soon as I got a chance, I made some calls. First to the township, where it was explained to me that ARTICLE IV. WETLAND AND WATERCOURSE PROTECTION is essentially unenforceable and was adopted just to show they care. Sort of care. But don't care about this. They referred me to the State DEQ.

The bored and bothered sounding man at the DEQ explained to me that there is no ordinance prohibiting this kind of pumping and therefore nothing that could be done to stop it. I persisted: “Even if the lake is IN CRISIS? Even if it is DYING? Even if the wetland habitats are being DESTROYED?” Even then.

So now I have to figure out what, if anything, I do next. Jeffrey, earnest and sure, is having difficulty accepting that someone would do something that puts others at a disadvantage unless he is a “bad guy.” I hate to have him learn already that so many people are just out to get everything that they can for themselves, and screw everyone else along the way. I have always taught my boys that if they come across a rare flower, you don’t yank it out of the ground to die in a vase on the kitchen table, you leave it there for the next person to come along and enjoy. Just because someone didn’t grow up with that lesson doesn’t necessarily make them “bad,” but I don’t want him to come out that way either.

Here’s what I have come up with so far:

1. Do nothing and stew about it.

2. Approach the owners personally and politely request that they discontinue using that new expensive pump.

3. Anonymously place a letter in their mailboxes a little less politely requesting that they discontinue the pumping.

4. Try to get my sub’s homeowner’s association to put together a letter requesting they discontinue this practice. It has no authority over them, however.

5. Petition to get pumping on small lakes for personal gain outlawed in my township. I doubt if very many people besides me would agree to this.

6. Form a lake association, and then get them to approve some bylaws that prohibit pumping. But the Crestmoor people would be voting members of it...

7. Rent out some heavy equipment and dredge out my side of the lake even deeper than his. The Herons and Cranes can go somewhere else for their fishing.

8. Build a super-long dock that stretches all the way across the lake to his side, and launch boats from there. Just a few cost and engineering issues to overcome.

9. Put up my own pump, with a pipe that stretches all the way to his side, that puts the water back by me.

10. Vandalize.

Unfortunately, there are flaws in all of the above. Suggestions?


MomForThree said...

My initial reaction is why did the township make a law that is unenforceable. I know it happens a lot, but isn't there something that can be done about that portion of it. Why is it unenforceable, what was the process that put the law on the books, there must have been some good idea back there somewhere.

Other than that, I give.

Laura said...

Mindy-- this is where local media is so important. I wish this was in the Tribune's cover area, because I WOULD take this on as issue-based reporting. But, I can't. I suspect CJ would be less than useless in this sort of thing, but see if you can't find a someone at the Oakland Press. No kidding. And heck, if not a story idea for them, a letter to the editor for you.
Good grief. I can't believe they allow pumping considering the condition of lakes statewide in recent years. That is just beyond belief.

Laura said...

Oh yeah. And in a word (actually four) State Attorney General's Office. Unenforceable my Aunt Betty.

Anonymous said...

HI- If the law is not enforceable at the local level, it might be at a higher level- County or State--- I'm horrified that people could do this with all of the lakes at record lows. But with only 3 pumps for grass watering, perhaps there
MIGHT not be a problem?? Supposedly the lakes and waterways became a bit higher this year because of our past winter. I vote for you not doing anything unless it is obvious that it is a problem. Aunt Chris ps- Aunt Kathy won't leave a comment- in Florida, they water their lawn with a pump out in the canal.

Anonymous said...

Our canal is manmade with the city opening the vents as needed. We follow the rules about which day of the week to water. Aunt Kathy

zenon said...

Kathy is right, the water level of our canal and lake are regulated by the city. Losses are replaced, and several feet are removed prior to hurricanes. Mindy's lake is different. Anyone with a well is also draining it. Start by composing a letter to authorities.

Mindy said...

Thanks for all of the comments and suggestions! Let me be clear that I am not opposed to the idea of pumping lake water in general(including lawn watering.) I'm more upset about this particular case of the man consuming a disproportionate amount of resources ultimately resulting in a negative effect on...ME!

I am starting to think that my first course of action might be to try to get the guy to voluntarily cut back on his watering by writing letters to him and maybe the journalism idea from Laura. Maybe I could have the reporter go and interview HIM for an article about lake levels...

By the way, does anyone out there do SCUBA? Just asking.

Heather Leigh said...

Our sub association prevents us from pumping water from our lake for lawn watering. And, the water level this year is MUCH MUCH higher than at the end of last summer. I'd say the shoreline is at least 8-10 feet higher than last summer. Granted, it will recede as the spring and summer heat up, but still! It's quite a difference.

Aunt Kathy said...

If you hand-carry a letter to the homeowner, be prepared for rudeness and foul language. Leave Jeff at home.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mindy,

I believe this is a serious issue and I'm glad that someone else has taken notice. It's been driving me crazy for months now. I've started drinking as a result of it. It's affected my sex life too. The thought of having a dry, cracked desert floor of a "lake" is causing me to go grey prematurely. What the heck are we going to do?!? Please advise!

P.S. my cousin knows how to SCUBA dive. What do you have in mind?