The Red Cedar River is caught between a rock and a hard place. Because Rice Lake is an urban area its storm water contributes a relatively high load, per acre, of sediments and phosphorous into the lake and the Red Cedar River. Phosphorous is a nutrient that leads to an extreme algae problem downstream, particularly in Tainter Lake and Lake Menomin in Menomonie. To curb the problem, the state Department of Natural Resources issued the city a municipal storm water permit in 2010. That permit mandates that the city reduce its sediment and phosphorous discharges. There are several approaches to that, including street sweeping to reduce sediments, and storm water collection ponds to allow sediments to settle before reaching the river. But reaching the required reductions under the permit isn't cheap. To reach the permit requirements, the city plans to collect $390,000 in 2014 from everyone in Rice Lake who gets a garbage bill. That includes individuals, business, nonprofits and churches. The problem is that there's no way of really knowing how much difference, if any, the changes make in the water quality. The city has compiled computer-modeled data about the amount of sediment and phosphorous going into the lake, but there are no real measurements immediately downstream to establish a baseline or the amount of change over time. According to the state Department of Natural Resources, urban runoff contributes only 3% of the load into the river, and Rice Lake only contributes a small percentage of that 3%. In effect, the city is being taxed $390,000 to reduce what may be an infinitesimal contribution to the water quality problems in Menomonie. In fact, many believe the declining shoreline property values on those lakes may be of their own creation when they built a dam on the Red Cedar, trapping the pollutants and creating a tepid stew. While Rice Lake is willing to take responsibility for its contribution to the river's problems, we'd feel a whole lot better about it if we had real data demonstrating what we're getting for our $390,000 and how much money others in the watershed are chipping in to remedy the problem. Pollution in the river needs to be addressed. It's the right thing to do. But the cost should be shared equally throughout the watershed.
[The editorials that appear weekly in this space are the views of the newspaper as determined by The Chronotype's editorial board. All editorials are written by one or more members of the board, which consists of Warren Dorrance, Sam Finazzo, Gene Prigge and Eileen Nimm.]