It's not the Bellagio, but a test fountain in Lost Lake generated positive buzz Tuesday at a meeting about a plan to address the drainage basin's water quality problems.
A crowd of about 30 gathered at Lost Lake Tuesday evening to hear about a plan to improve conditions at the South drainage basin. Then they watched a test of hardware proposed to address the green scum on the water.
Neighbors and Rancho Murieta Community Services District officials stood in front of the fence around the pond as Mike McPherson of Lake Solutions explained the $10,000 plan he's proposing the CSD adopt to manage the ongoing algae problems. Then the crowd was allowed behind the pond's fence to see McPherson demonstrate how a water diffuser and fountain would perform in the pond.
Lake Solutions proposes operating four diffusers around the clock during warm months to add oxygen to the pond through underwater circulation. During Tuesday's demonstration, the equipment worked quietly, producing some surface bubbling.
The fountain made a bigger splash. "That's going to be pretty," a woman remarked as a plume of water cleared a widening circle on the surface of the pond.
"It's going to make some kind of a change, that's for sure," a man said. The change would be aesthetic as well as functional, he added.
The plan calls for daytime operation of one fountain at the end of the pond where the wind blows debris.
Mark Pecotich, who has led a neighborhood effort to improve the detention basin, brought the Lake Solutions plan to the CSD in August. After it was discussed at a committee meeting, CSD directors accepted a staff recommendation at the September board meeting to earmark up to $10,000 for water quality improvements at the drainage basin. Director Steve Mobley said any improvements would go out to bid.
Mike McPherson of Lake Solutions, right, explained the $10,000 plan to an audience of about 30.
At the September meeting, General Manager Ed Crouse noted, "The consensus of the Improvements Committee was that the district should be responsible for nuisance abatement of both odor and algae, but any aesthetic enhancement or benefit should be the responsibility of the residents or the RMA."
Crouse outlined the CSD's reservations about the plan the residents and their lake management consultant brought to the Improvements Committee. "We're concerned about setting the level of expectations appropriately," he said. "We're concerned about costs. Typically, the storm drainage budget is only about $170,000, so $10,000 is a big chunk of that budget, not to mention the ongoing costs for electrical and maintenance and replacement of the improvements."
The Rancho Murieta Association had its own concerns when Pecotich appeared at an RMA meeting in April to enlist the association's support to improve the basin. Residents in the area regard it as a water feature, he told the RMA board.
RMA staff and directors said the RMA wanted safety issues posed by the steep banks and deep water to be addressed before becoming involved in an effort to make the area more park-like. The fact that the area belongs to the Pension Trust Fund and not CSD or RMA also limited RMA involvement, Pecotich was told.
At the time, Pecotich said the CSD was "stepping up" by treating the water with chemicals, installing a solar-powered mixing unit in the basin for aeration and modifying the overflow structure so surface water can flow out to flush the basin. He said fencing and warning signs addressed the safety issues.
Safety came up at a CSD meeting Pecotich attended last year. "It is a safety issue over there at that basin," said Paul Siebensohn, CSD director of field operations. "There are steep embankments. The past two years a deer has died in the basin. ... They fall in and can't get out, the embankment's so steep."
Pecotich told the group he has seen kids fishing in the basin, despite its forbidding appearance, the fencing around it, and warning signs.
When asked Tuesday whether improving the basin's aesthetic appeal with a fountain might make it seem less dangerous, Pecotich said nothing could be done about wildlife, and the CSD had removed the carcass of the deer before the smell became a problem. He said he knows to alert Security if he sees kids climb the fence, and a woman in the crowd added that the area would be kept under a neighborhood watch.
As the meeting at the basin came to an end, CSD Director Betty Ferraro got a positive response when she asked the group how they wanted her and Director Jerry Pasek, who was also present, to vote on the project.