Lt. Governor Peter Kinder Hears Camden County Water Quality Concerns
OSAGE BEACH - Missouri Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder on Thursday heard concerns from Camden County residents, local officials and business leaders regarding the Department of Natural Resources' handling of water-quality issues at Lake of the Ozarks.
Lt. Governor Kinder was joined at the meeting by Reps. Diane Franklin, R-Camdenton, Daryl Pollack, R-Lebanon, and Wanda Brown, R-Lincoln, and by Sen. Chuck Purgason, R-Caulfield. More than 60 business leaders, elected officials and concerned residents attended the session, which was held at Osage Beach City Hall.
State Rep. Franklin, who helped organize the gathering, said area residents and officials are concerned about the economic impact DNR is having on Lake of the Ozarks. She cited DNR's mission statement, which says the department is "here to help businesses, tourism and agriculture.
"That's all that we're asking for," she said.
Jim Divincen, director of the Tri-County Lodging Association, said repeated closings at Grand Glaize Beach due to high levels of E. coli bacteria, has created the false perception that Lake of the Ozarks isn't clean. Glaize is a public beach on DNR-owned land on the lake.
"We don't have an E. coli problem at Lake of the Ozarks," Divincen said. "We have a (public relations) challenge. We can't continue to have the negative perception of a crime scene-type yellow tape that says, ‘beach closed.'"
Divincen said the E. coli problem at Glaize Beach primarily is caused by the large number of geese whose droppings affect the water during heavy rains. Although DNR is working to address the geese problem, officials Thursday said the department isn't doing enough to get the word out that Lake of the Ozarks is one the cleanest lakes in Missouri.
Other concerns discussed at the meeting included frustration over an ongoing effort to install sewers in Sunrise Beach and a wastewater treatment system in Camden County and the difficulties small developers and businesses have acquiring permits for wastewater treatment systems.
Although tests show Lake of the Ozarks is very clean, residents and businesses are forced to comply with excessively high septic tank standards, which Gov. Nixon imposed in 2009, following reports his administration failed to inform the public of high levels of E. coli in the Lake of the Ozarks. A Senate committee investigation later revealed that some members of Nixon's office knew of the poor water test results, despite previous claims to the contrary.
Since then, the Nixon Administration has enforced the highest threshold of septic tank standards in Sunrise Beach, officials say. Compliance is costly and those who fail to meet the standards face hefty fines, which discourages development in the area.
Joe Roeger, chairman of the Lake Area Chamber of Commerce Legislative Committee, indicated area residents and developers are being singled out for stricter enforcement because of political fallout from Gov. Nixon's 2009 E. coli scandal.
Following the meeting, Lt. Governor Kinder and Reps. Franklin and Pollock visited Glaize Beach at Lake of the Ozarks State Park.
Kinder said it's important for lawmakers, DNR and the Nixon Administration to continue to address the concerns raised at Thursday's meeting.
"You can't have a healthy tourism economy in Missouri without a healthy Lake of the Ozarks," he said.