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Ordinance: no water skiing within 2,000 feet of dam

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By Randy Patrick

Water skiing would be allowed on Sympson Lake under an ordinance that had its first reading Tuesday by the Bardstown City Council, but it would be limited to a smaller area than originally proposed.

Councilman Francis Lydian objected to the version presented for the first of two required readings. He had, at a recent meeting of the Water and Wastewater Committee, gotten other councilmen to agree to his proposal that buoys be moved 100 feet further out from the shallow areas of Rodgers Run and around the boat dock on Ben Irvin Road, and that skiing only be allowed in the deeper part of the lake. However, when a draft was presented for the council’s consideration, it had been changed to comply with statutory and regulatory laws that forbid skiing within 2,000 feet of a dam.

“I know you have a proposal, but our recommendations also have to be voted on, right?” Lydian asked Mayor Bill Sheckles.

“It’s the council’s call,” Sheckles said.

According to the mayor, the only difference between Lydian’s proposal and his own is that his includes the 2,000-foot limitation imposed by the state.

“State law trumps any ordinance that we might enact,” City Attorney Thomas Donan explained to Lydian.

When Lydian asked how some large lakes can allow skiing closer to dams, Councilman Tommy Reed said it’s because bodies of water such as Taylorsville Lake and Green River are controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers, whereas Sympson Lake is under the regulations of the state Division of Water.

“Looking at it from that standpoint, do we even allow skiing?” Councilman Bobby Simpson asked.

Reed said he could go along with the 2,000-foot limit for now. He noted that the rules the councilmen agreed on were to be in effect for only one year, and they would then be re-examined. During that interim, he said, city officials could go to the state legislature and point out that the rules are inconsistent and try to get them changed. “But I believe that if we sit here and take the boats off the lake, it’ll be hard to put them back on,” he added.

Sheckles said his concerns are the city’s liability and its responsibility to administer the rules — both its own and the state’s. He also said the next day he doesn’t want to spend too much time on the issue.

“I’m not issuing any more boat permits until we get this ordinance done,” he said.

Sympson Lake is the only water source for the municipal water utility.

The proposal to restrict water skiing and power boats came about because Wayne Kendall, chief operator of the city’s water treatment plant, was concerned that wakes from fast boats were causing soil erosion and phosphorous build-up in the lake. The phosphorous leads to an increase in algal blooms, which cause the city’s drinking water to taste and smell bad during part of the year.

Kendall cited studies that back up his argument, and city engineers agree that the wakes are a factor.

Councilman John Royalty, who chairs the Water and Wastewater Committee, doesn’t think they’re a factor at all, he said Tuesday. He believes the phosphorous increase is because of fertilizer washing into the lake from farms and lawns.

Kent Bischoff, who lives near the lake, said farming in the area has changed. Instead of pastures and livestock, farmers are now growing row crops — mostly soybeans and corn — that require fertilizer.

Councilman Joe Buckman, who, during the committee meeting, had said he could go along with the compromise for one year, said Tuesday he will vote for what will “prolong the life of the lake” and protect the city’s water supply.

The council ordinarily votes on both the first and second readings of ordinances, but did not vote on the Sympson Lake ordinance on first reading. The second reading and enactment are scheduled for April 8 at 7 p.m. at the City Hall Annex adjacent to the Parks and Recreation building.