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Twp. places moratorium on irrigating with lake water

August 18, 2010 - A six-month moratorium was placed last week on part of an Oxford Township ordinance that is typically never enforced and routinely violated by many folks who live on lakes.

"My problem is if I enforce this ordinance, I'm going to have a lot of people that live on the lakes around here pretty mad," said Supervisor Bill Dunn, who suggested the moratorium so the township board can examine the ordinance and decide what to do with it.

At issue is the township's "Wetlands and Watercourses Ordinance," which has been in effect since July 1996.

Part of the ordinance basically prohibits using the water from a lake (or other forms of surface or subsurface water) to irrigate a lawn unless a permit is first obtained, which means paying a $75 fee, placing a $500 deposit to cover consultant fees if incurred, and going before the planning commission.

On June 29, a resident on Boulder Lake Drive in the Waterstone development was issued a "notice of violation" from the township for using a small pump to irrigate his lawn with water from Boulder Lake without the proper permit.

Apparently, the homeowners association reported the violation to the township.

After he received the violation notice, the homeowner applied for a permit and went before the planning commission in July. He informed them he's been watering his lawn this way since July 2000.

Unclear on the purpose of the ordinance, planning commissioners voted to send the issue to the township board to seek direction.

Dunn's dilemma is how can the township make this resident follow the ordinance when "hundreds of people" already have pumps and do the same thing without permits.

"If I cite him and go after him, now I've got selective enforcement," he said.

On the other hand, if he does nothing, Dunn's not upholding one of his duties as supervisor.

"If I don't follow through on this ordinance, I'm in trouble," he said.

Dunn went to the board to find out what his fellow officials wanted to do. He suggested either implementing a moratorium or removing the ordinance language that requires a permit.

Officials acknowledged that this portion of the ordinance is frequently not obeyed.

"I know since I've lived here for 40-plus years, everybody waters their grass out of the lake," said Trustee Sue Bellairs. "I have heard there was an ordinance . . . but apparently everybody still does what they want to do, just like they do (with) other ordinances."

Dunn noted that the Boulder Pointe Golf Club irrigates its greens using water from Lake Dewls, just south of Stony Lake.

"I believe every golf course in this community does it," said Ron Davis, director of the township Parks and Recreation Department. "Parks and rec. does it. We're pumping out of our retention pond."

Some officials weren't clear as to exactly why the ordinance was created.

The ordinance states that it was enacted to protect and preserve the township's wetlands and watercoures from the "pollution, impairment or destruction" that can be caused by "rapid growth, the spread of development and increasing demands on natural resources."

But Dunn pointed out that people using lake water to irrigate their lawns isn't going to hurt the township's overall water supply based on a report he commissioned from the Hydrogeologic Services Department of Peerless-Midwest, Inc.

Dated Jan. 21, the report stated, "The aquifer beneath Oxford is prolific . . . The thickness and lateral expanse of the aquifer system produces significant groundwater storage capacity . . . The aquifer beneath Oxford contains vast quantities of groundwater."

There was some opposition to charging people a fee for the irrigation permit, but support for having folks with lake pumps register with the township, so if a problem ever arises, the origin can be traced.

"Why don't you just have everybody that does that register, so you have an account if there is an issue," Davis said. "I don't think it's fair to charge them (for) a permit."

Township officials directed the planning commission's ordinance review subcommittee to look at the ordinance as it pertains to irrigation and explore what other communities do.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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