THE PILOT EDITORIAL - City takes a dredging step, and deserves 'high 5'

Tuesday, December 18, 2001

As this is written, the Storm Lake City Council seems to stand ready to buy a piece of property on which nothing stands to be created except for an opportunity. No park or building or industrial plant is planned there, and in fact, it is possible that the land might never be of any use at all.

And still, they are doing the right thing to try.

Because buying that land is the first of several steps that will be needed if this community is going to stop talking and start putting its money where its mouths have been on the issue of lake dredging.

It may still be a long shot to get dredging expanded into a project of a scope to achieve a major change in our lake's water quality. But without additional spoil land to offer, it's not even a long shot - it's an absolute dead-in-the-water impossibility.

From the beginning, it wasn't really the money or the engineering or the politics that stood between Storm Lake and a larger dredging project - it was the immense challenge of where to put millions of cubic yards of spoil, close enough so that water content can flow back into the lake, and far enough so that it doesn't compromise public enjoyment of the waterfront.

Until we answer the spoil site question, all the rest of our arguments are meaningless.

In the past, we have been critical of the city's official silence on the lake issue. They should have been on board in a leadership role years ago.

If they follow through with this project - one that comes with its risk and expense - they will have taken on responsibility in a very real and unexpected way, and credit should be warranted.

The county does not seem opposed to playing a role, and even the chamber of commerce has come out on record as a wholehearted supporter of expanded dredging.

Suddenly, the Lake Preservation Association is no longer a lonely voice on the issue. A united local front is important as Storm Lake takes the issue to state, federal and perhaps private sources in the months to come.

Nor, suddenly, does it seem so impossible that a dredge could be obtained and operated for the long term on a local level. If no one else is ultimately prepared to listen, Storm Lake and Buena Vista County will still have the option of taking matters into their own hands to do as much as we possibly can do.

The council will take plenty of heat if it goes ahead to use taxpayer funds to buy vacant land just on the possibility that dredging could one day be expanded on Storm Lake to use the site.

We can hear the jaws of the critics thumping to the floor already. Spending money on empty land that could all go for nothing?

Around those riverboat blackjack tables, this probably wouldn't be considered the best of gambles. Then again, playing it safe is a good way to make sure nothing progressive ever happens in your by-the-book little world.

We happen to think the city council deserves an editorial "high five" for considering taking a risk on the side of environmental foresight.

Storm Lake doesn't own the lake, in technical terms, but in reality, the lake owns Storm Lake's heart.

If the community doesn't step up, it has no right to expect the state legislature, the DNR, our Congressmen, the EPA or Clean Lakes Act or anyone else to stand up beside it.

The unconventional has become a necessity, it we want to do this dredging right. This is the first of what will likely be many sacrifices, and it is a good,

creative and important one to begin with.