MLIRD approves 2019 budget, assessment

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Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald Several ducks placidly swim past a piece of junk that has emerged near the Alder Street Bridge with Moses Lake at its lowest level in some time.

MOSES LAKE — Directors overseeing the Moses Lake Irrigation and Rehabilitation District (MLIRD) approved a $3 million budget for 2019 — including $1.5 million in dredging for Moses Lake.

At a regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, the five-member commission also approved an assessment of $1 per $1,000 of assessed value on property owners within the district. The assessment is expected to raise a little more than $2 million.

The MLIRD begins the year with around $2.6 million in cash on hand, and expects to end the year with roughly $720,000 in the bank, according to the newly passed budget.

According to MLIRD Executive Director Chris Overland, there are 10,935 assessed parcels in the district.

The MLIRD is also anticipating spending around $250,000 on “aquatic treatments” for the algae problem in Moses Lake in 2019.

Overland told that the Grant County Conservation District (GCCD) is planning on organizing a public meeting — possibly for February — to solicit public input about the algae situation in Moses Lake before anyone in the community takes any action to deal with the problem.

“We need to find out what people are thinking about the lake as it is,” board member and vice president Bill Bailey said. “Simply listen and go from there.”

However, Bailey noted that “we may not be able to do anything” about the high levels of phosphorus in Moses Lake, especially if Rocky Ford Creek, which is naturally high in phosphorus, is the problem.

“Rocky Ford Creek is a major problem,” Bailey said. “And that is out of our control.”

Overland told board members the most current measurement of the lake’s level was 1,041.17 feet above sea level — the lowest lake level he said he’s seen in a long time and about two feet lower than in a typical January.

“I’ve never recalled seeing it that low before,” Overland said.

“I’m getting that comment a lot,” said board member and president Jeff Foster. “I thought I saw more stuff sticking out of the water in the dredging area.”

Board member Richard Teals wondered if the MLIRD could find a boat and the manpower to pull out some of the debris, such as car bodies and 55-gallon drums, that are embedded in the muck that is the bottom of Moses Lake and have emerged with the wintertime ebbing of the lake.

“Since the lake is down so low, the chunks of crud are obvious,” said Teals. “Are they worth pulling out?”

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at cfeatherstone@columbiabasinherald.com.

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