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Lake Herman Campground Project Violating DENR Erosion Rules

The Lake County Commission delayed action this week on a conditional use permit for a private campground on the southeast side of my beloved Lake Herman. Terry and Bev Timmer acquired Larry Dirks's land and proposed building a campground up the hill from the lake in 2012. Timmers have done the first phase, doing dirt work for 16 campsites and installing septic systems. They now seek a permit to move more dirt and add 20 campaign pads. But the county said hold your horses when the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said Timmers are in violation of their existing state General Permit for Storm Water Discharges Associated with Construction Activity.

Uff da—what's it take to get DENR to jump on a developer? Oh, maybe the developer getting cited for violations in July, ignoring the DENR's request for a report on fixing those violations, and leaving violations for the DENR to find still occurring in November?

That's the story that comes from the inspections conducted and letters sent to Terry Timmer by DENR water quality engineer Jill Riedel. During an inspection in early June, Riedel found dirt washing off the campground construction site onto adjoining land due to inadequate sediment controls. Timmers also appear not to have filed the Storm Water Pollution prevention Plan required by their construction permit. Riedel's July 24, 2014, letter documented those violations and asked for a response by August 4.

Riedel's November 14, 2014, letter indicates that Timmers never wrote back. The latter letter, with more bold type and "WARNING LETTER" printed at the top, includes a report from Riedel's November 7 inspection finding several violations unaddressed.

Photos 7 & 8, taken by Jill Riedel, DENR engineer, inspection of Timmer campground site, Lake Herman, South Dakota, 2014.11.07, included in warning letter from DENR to Terry Timmer, 2014.11.14
Photos 7 & 8, taken by Jill Riedel, DENR engineer, inspection of Timmer campground site, Lake Herman, South Dakota, 2014.11.07, included in warning letter from DENR to Terry Timmer, 2014.11.14 (click to embiggen!)

DENR expects a reply by November 26. To perhaps focus Timmers' attention, Riedel reminds them, in bold type, that "violations of the general permit can subject you to enforcement action, including penalties of up to $10,000 per day per violation."

$10,000 a day? If the construction site has been in violation for 108 days (let's be generous and just count from the day they were supposed to reply in August), that's over a million bucks DENR could ask for. (Yo! Governor Daugaard! Does the state have any lawyer bills it needs paid?) I don't know what Timmers plan to charge for a night of camping, but if they're going to compete with Lake Herman State Park just up the shore at $19 a night (and really, Timmers will need to charge less, since they offer no trails, less shade, less room for the kids to play, much less shoreline, and a harder to find gravel road for access), but it would take 36 campsites 1,579 days (15 summers!) to generate the revenue necessary to cover that bill.

Since Timmers won't have 36 campsites until the county approves their second conditional use permit, and since that approval won't happen until DENR is happy, maybe the Timmers need to stop disregarding environmental rules and pay more attention to their erosion controls and their paperwork.


  1. Grandma 2014.11.20

    I feel sorry for the homes below this area of the campsite. This will have a direct affect on their property and they will lose a lot with the "campsite" behind them. It's awfully close to the homes and runoff from the area will be less than any good. Much too close to this lakeside in every way. Hopefully it will be watched with a very critical eye for everyones good. If I am right the campsite is above these homes so everything runs downhill. Correct me if I am wrong.

  2. Loren 2014.11.20

    Very simple. Elect more anti-environment politicians (there may be more in one party than the other so that shouldn't be difficult in SD), reduce restrictions on businesses like these, and tout how many jobs this "campground" will create. Close your eyes, plug your ears, and ask, "What problem?" Ahhh, that's "business" in SD!

  3. Grandma 2014.11.20

    I have a question. Is there a good lake access area there for these camping sites or would they use the area between the homes to get onto the lake (private property)?
    It doesn't matter who is putting or wants to put the area in but it does matter what the bigger plans are for the area.

  4. Roger 2014.11.20

    it is a shame that this happens all over the state, the only reason these people have gotten caught is because someone complained loud enough. otherwise no one will ever go looking...

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.20

    You're right, Grandma: the campground sits uphill from the housing at Dirks Resort. The campground is supposed to have some shoreline access, but it's a small strip, and I'm not sure where it is. But wherever it is, to get there, they have to cross the gravel road.

    Loren's right: to keep the DENR and the county commission off their backs, Timmers should be presenting job creation numbers and economic impact studies. If they added a few dairy cows, they could get the Governor to intervene on their behalf.

  6. Grandma 2014.11.20

    Job creation is a very short impact compared to the direct impact on the lake pressure over there and the long term impact on the home owners and will last much longer than short term jobs. The income from the campsites will take a much larger amount of time and how do you control the impact after the project is done and no one is watching what's happening.

  7. Loren 2014.11.20

    Grandma, I for got to disengage the "sarcasm mode"! Sorry!

  8. Les 2014.11.20

    It looks like someone had too much time on their hands. Fuel tank? No kidding. Stabilized slopes during construction? I can see stabilization violations if the construction is completed. The other part is like my neighbor unhappy when he didn't purchase the land in front of his yard and a home now sits in the way of his wonderful view.

  9. mike from iowa 2014.11.21

    Lake Herman brochure says in its list of attractions "Something for Everyone." Maybe this new campground is set up for earth haters who hate the EPA and environmental regs. Come all ye faithful and watch the dirt wash down the unprotected hillside to the water you swim in and catch fish in. No available potties,use the water like in the old days.

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.21

    Mike, the pitch you imagine would appeal to a fair number of my Lake Herman neighbors, though definitely not Grandma.

    Les, landscape-wise, the new campground isn't blocking anyone's view of the lake. But if slopes aren't stabilized and dirt is washing down onto an access road, aren't neighbors entitled to complain, especially, when these violations (and we can argue about the severity of violating rules that lead to excess erosion and the level of risk posed by that fuel tank) seem to fit a developing pattern of the owners ignoring rules and regulatory authorities?

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