City ordinance would help resolve Twin Lakes algae issue

The city of Federal Way’s Lake Jeane report has been rendered by the mayor’s staff, a written critique has been submitted and a six-page rebuttal reply has been issued. This reply will serve as a record going forward without further written exchanges currently expected. Therefore, the continuing argument for adoption of a public nuisance ordinance will be deferred, until a later date. In that light, the following perspectives are presented for serious consideration.

The report and reply reiterate the opposition that has been expressed by the current Twin Lakes Golf and Country Club leadership that “it is a private matter that does not require action by the city.” A logically acceptable explanation of the city’s claim of unintended consequences concerning a toxic algae nuisance ordinance has not been made. What has been offered is a collection of reasons that suggest that a nuisance ordinance is not necessary. Substantive discussions were not conducted with the interested stakeholders but should have occurred. What did occur is investigative fact-finding and reporting of senior staff opinions concerning the merits of a nuisance ordinance and its influences on only Lake Jeane.

The basic rationale for adoption of a nuisance ordinance is to require action for a known health hazard causing loss of activity, loss of property value and loss of tax revenue, etc. The processes contained in Federal Way Revised Code 703 are a viable means of having a set of enforceable criteria, which currently does exists for toxic algae.

The current 20-plus listed public nuisances address appropriate publicly oriented concerns, and they all have legal standing. Actual enforcement of an added ordinance would present little additional cost to the city, because the system already exists.

It is also important to note, that the proposed algae nuisance ordinance would be applicable to private or public lakes, but only those that have lakeside residents and existing toxic conditions.

Nuisance ordinances are both preventative and corrective in nature, in that, enforceable ramifications only apply if voluntary corrective action is not forthcoming by the designated responsible party. The Department of Ecology has declared that the deeded owner of affected water properties is the responsible party, unless that responsibility is legally assumed by another entity.

Certainly, if toxic conditions are allowed to exist on residential lakes, then action can and should be taken by the city or county that has jurisdiction. Another consideration for the current Lake Jeane situation is that it serves as a catch basin for the city’s stormwater from seven outlets (and six into Lake Lorene).

Therefore, the city, as an involved player, merits active participation within a current solution.

The city has the necessary authority to address the circumstances confronting Lake Jeane and its residents, or any other residential lake, when there is a toxic health hazard condition that is being ignored.

The report and reply reflect that there is no explicit requirement for the city to take ordinance action, but such action is provided as an option within the Revised Code of Washington.

There is significant rationale to address the existence of five years of toxic conditions confronting Lake Jeane that has been voluntary ignored by the Twin Lakes Golf and Country Club. The city, as the local governmental entity, has also resisted initiating corrective action.

The report also recommended the creation of a Lake Management District. However, that resolution overlooks several significant points. Management and financial responsibility would be shifted to lakeside residents, but the residents are not the cause of the existing toxic conditions. They are the victims of intentional lack of action by applicable parties.

Also, assumption of treatment responsibilities by the residents would be subject to only voluntary action. Without a nuisance ordinance in place, a voluntary situation would still exist for any of the city’s residential lakes. That is the cause of the current circumstances, because there is no enforcement means to cause corrective action to be taken.

Finally, a clear articulation of resulting unintended consequences if a toxic nuisance ordinance is adopted has simply not been delivered. If there is city staff concern that such ordinance action might result in a possible litigation challenge, then could there be litigation? A lawsuit, with negligence overtures, can be initiated with the club, city and Department of Ecology as co-defendants.

This form of outside public activity can be prevented. The pros and cons of all options deserve to be presented to the city, rather than being avoided as has been the case.

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