Several Lake Alvamar area property owners are banding together to save what they consider an aesthetic asset to southwestern Lawrence.
About 20 people met Wednesday night at the Alvamar Country Club to discuss how to get the lake refilled after it has intentionally been kept mostly dry for nearly two years.
“We used to have a very nice amenity as a fishing lake and aesthetics. Now we have mud flats and weeds growing in it,” said Dick Stuntz, president of Alvamar Inc., who lives in the lake area.
Stuntz also is a representative of a regional watershed board of directors that voted not to allow the 50-acre lake to refill with water after it was drained in 2007 for drainage plug repairs. The drainage plug was repaired but kept open. Stuntz was the only one of the 21-member board who disagreed with that decision.
The board oversees Wakarusa Watershed Joint District 35, which has watersheds in four counties, including Douglas County. The district is responsible for maintaining the lake’s dam and flood control.
The dam, built in 1973, is nearly two feet short of state requirements for serving an area considered to be under a “high hazard” flood control classification. The classification is based on the damage that could be caused to an increasingly developed area and the major streets and highways if the dam were to collapse or be breached. Clinton Parkway and the Kansas Highway 10 bypass are close to the lake. Sports facilities also are nearby.
The state determined that the dam could be “grandfathered” under the earlier high-hazard requirements, but the watershed board ultimately decided to dry up the lake to enhance flood control. The watershed district also doesn’t have the estimated $500,000 it would cost to bring the dam up to current standards.
Drying out the lake, however, not only hurts neighborhood aesthetics but also area property values, landowners and residents say. Values are already going down, landowner Mike Germann said.
Large, luxurious houses line the hilltops around much of the lake, and the lake’s scenic value was part of the attraction to owners. Now some properties are becoming harder to sell once potential buyers see what has happened to the lake, Stuntz said.
Germann urged owners to protest their property assessments with the county and to let city and county officials know how much they stand to lose in tax value. The loss in value to properties nearest the lake could have a ripple effect on neighboring properties, he said. He estimated about 200 properties could be affected.
“I think the city and county need to know how important this is,” Germann said.
Residents will meet with the watershed board at 7 p.m. Tuesday at its office in Overbrook. Germann and Stuntz said they were told city and county representatives also will be there, along with some state water officials.
Efforts will be made to see whether money from the federal stimulus and other funds are available for repairing the dam, Stuntz said.
“There ought to be some way we can all work together to get something worked out,” Germann said.
About a foot of water now stands in the lake because of heavy rains in recent weeks, but it will eventually drain, Stuntz said.