County to close lake for weed treatment

Cell tower discussion riles commission

Lone Star Lake will be closed sometime next week so a section of it can be treated with a herbicide to kill a fast-growing weed.

Douglas County commissioners Wednesday night directed that the herbicide, Aquathol K, be used on the curly leaf pondweed despite the objections of at least one fisherman.

About a dozen people who have cabins on their property in the southwestern corner of the lake say the weed is getting thicker and causing a serious problem for boaters and anglers.

“The weed problem is so bad I feel that if I fell in I wouldn’t reach the water,” property owner Hal Crady said.

Pat Kehde, the wife of professional fisherman Ned Kehde, disagreed, saying the weed didn’t appear that bad when she and her husband examined the lake recently on their own boat. She also argued that the pondweed would die when hotter weather arrived by the end of next month.

Kehde also said yearly use of Aquathol K could cause problems for the lake in the future.

“They don’t know what the long-term effects are with repeated use,” she said.

Kehde said she was speaking for her husband because he was out of town covering a fishing tournament for a publication he writes for.

Commissioners Bob Johnson, Jere McElhaney and Charles Jones said they didn’t think short-term use of the herbicide would cause serious problems. But McElhaney suggested that the property owners should help with the cost of the chemicals, which is $2,025.

Property owners will not be charged for the chemical treatment this year. Commissioners, however, directed County Administrator Craig Weinaug to work out a fee agreement for future treatments.

Jones also suggested a thorough look at the weed problem to see whether it is connected to other issues, such as silting from past dredging at the lake.

Mike Perkins, operations manager for Douglas County Department of Public Works, said he hoped the lake could be treated by the middle of next week. Although only the southwestern corner of the lake will be treated, the entire lake will be closed as a precaution. An announcement about the days it will be closed will be made soon, he said.

On another matter, frustrations boiled over among commissioners during a discussion about a cell tower permit request.

Johnson and McElhaney voted in favor of granting a conditional use permit for Verizon Wireless to build a cell phone tower at 261 E. 1250 Road, which is just south of the intersection of U.S. Highways 56 and 59. Jones voted against it.

A petition protesting the placement of the tower bearing the names of about 20 nearby residents had been turned in, requiring a unanimous commission vote for approval.

This was the second time in the past six months that Verizon had been turned down. The first time McElhaney and Jones voted against it.

But this time both Johnson and McElhaney said Verizon had met the county’s requirements for a tower permit. In addition, McElhaney also noted that Verizon now had a study from a second, independent company that backed Verizon’s need for a cell tower in that area of the county.

Jones, however, disagreed, saying the second study was not convincing enough that the 150-foot tower was needed. Cell phone companies should do more to cooperate and share the same towers, he said.

Curtis Holland, an attorney representing Verizon, said Jones showed a lack of understanding of the cellular industry and its technical issues.

“I understand the dilemma you are in and I think the position I take is not unreasonable,” Jones said.