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September 21, 2021

4/6/2018 3:38:00 PM
Comfort Lake - FL Watershed District no longer budgeting for Eurasian Water Milfoil fight

Comfort Lake-Forest Lake Watershed District managers  were prioritizing use of undesignated monies,  for projects that weren’t at the very top of the list, after having established most of the district’s work plan for 2018.  

At the regular meeting March 22, managers had a couple directions they could go.
There was debate (with member Jackie McNamara absent) about venturing into new invasive species -related research,  or sticking with efforts that have been showing success both in attracting outside grant help and improving water quality and recreation.

Aquatic Invasive Species or AIS,  are strongly on taxpayers’ radar, and people  seated in the audience clearly came for the AIS plan presentation. (The plan is on the clflwd.org website. Find “meeting materials” under “about the district” on the blue drop down bar )  

Limnologist Steve McComas, Blue Water Science,  and CL-FLWD staffer Mike Sorensen,  explained why the District is not budgeting anything to address Eurasian Watermilfoil,  on any of the district’s lakes in 2018.  The staff’s per-acre cost estimate for 2018 for EWM treatment is $221 per acre.

Sorensen said research shows that CurlyLeaf Pondweed has more of a direct negative effect on water quality than does Eurasian Watermilfoil.    Staff recommends using the district’s limited undesignated funds to perform projects impacting water quality.  

AIS is budgeted for 2018 at $180,808 and in 2017  it was  $214,000.

“There’s a limitation in management techniques we have available,” said Sorensen.

Executive Director Mike Kinney added Eurasian Watermilfoil, left alone, grows to a “heavy infestation” but dies back  as nitrogen content is depleted in the lake.  More research is needed on what levels of nitrogen support growth, analysis of what’s in lakebed sediment and how/when nitrogen content drops off, etc.  Staff was hoping to fund some hours for McComas, a leading researcher in  learning more specifically about this.  Dubbed the nitrogen project, it was earmarked for $3,000.

Comfort Lake was also slated for a coordinated “handpulling” effort to eradicate CurlyLeaf Pondweed.

Hand pulling is highly successful in curtailing this invasive. Comfort Lake has only a few clusters-- and these are amongst protected lilypads so chemicals can’t be applied effectively.  

The handpull event would cost $440.

Board President Jackie Anderson also advocated for a Heims Lake drainage monitoring effort, to be funded as well.  But, only she and Manager Wayne Moe were yes votes for this.  Managers Steve Schmaltz and Jon Spence were of the opinion there are many other more urgent tasks.

Anderson and Moe wanted to get numbers on nutrient loads at various sites in the Heims Lake drainage terrain now, before freeway and interchange construction work starts this summer.  This “base” data is useful to track any degradation (possibly from heavy equipment work) and to identify contributing factors to a known rather heavy phosphorus load between Heims and Comfort lakes.

The final vote authorized doing the first two tasks-- but to not totally eliminate considering Heims drainage either.  Staff will report back on final financial impacts and if there are monies remaining the managers  can reconsider.  (Exact costs of these projects can vary from estimated,  depending on actual in-lake conditions, acres involved and hours needed.)

From the AIS Plan for 2018: watercraft inspections are declining at Comfort Lake and Forest Lake and increasing at the Bone Lake access.  Comfort Lake had 660 hours of inspection and this is set at 575 hours this summer.

Forest Lake got 2,752 hours and is budgeted for 2,250 in 2018.

Bone Lake will get 450 hours this summer and inspections totalled 315 hours last year.

Inspectors check for invasive species like zebra mussels and vegetation on boats and trailers at lake access points from May to October.

From a different area of the budget-- Meghan Funke PhD,  received authorization to pursue Little Comfort Lake tributary monitoring.  She works with the district engineering firm EOR.

The flowage corridor where Bone Lake drains to Little Comfort Lake, has been monitored at sampling sites on July Avenue and 245-246th Streets previously.  Funke proposed monitoring (flowage guage) near Heath Avenue and Hwy 8.  

This was approved for about $7,000.

This Little Comfort focus is a multi-year project, attempting to pinpoint and abate sources of phosphorus.  This is the goal of a vast effort underway, by many counties and agencies, to reduce nutrient loading into the St Croix River.

The Chisago County Soil and Water Conservation District will be invited to assist in building relationships with agricultural operators in the Bone Lake to Little Comfort Lake area,  who may be identified as contributing to phosphorus loading.

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