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October 17, 2019

10/3/2019 4:03:00 PM
Local officials see long arm of the Lake Improvement Dist. at work during projects tour
 In photo Jerry Spetzman and Gary Garske, EOR engineering, used maps to explain some of the LID workings.  See story.
 In photo Jerry Spetzman and Gary Garske, EOR engineering, used maps to explain some of the LID workings.  See story.

The main takeaway from a field trip enjoyed by local officials last week and organized by the Lake Improvement District;  is that the LID doesn’t operate in a vacuum.  There’s a citizen Board of Directors with seven members who decide a budget and choose priority projects meant to carry out the mission of the LID.  The county staff of Jerry Spetzman and Susanna Wilson Witkowski work with a contracted consultant from EOR engineering.  They rely on a network of volunteers collecting water quality measurements (there are 20 lakes within the LID)  while the Chisago County Soil & Water Conservation District partners on best designing and coordinating water quality projects,  and local agricultural agencies are improving water quality monitoring  and addressing practices in the fields and where livestock live.  

Public boat landings are where you’ll come across inspection teams, overseen by LID staff, whose job is to find and halt aquatic invasive species.  And, yes, the weirs and channels that keep the Chisago Chain of Lakes under flood stage, are being maintained and managed at the same time.  Spetzman said the Board is taking a look at the lake lowering plan over late fall and winter and if the public has an interest, watch for meeting notices or check on the county website for details. The LID generally meets the first Monday of each month at the county Government center at 6 :30 p.m.

Spetzman said the higher water levels that arrived this year were handled well by the system even though it’s been several years since levels dictated opening them.  Weirs are no longer open and draining.  He explained the opening is authorized by the state DNR based on the Ordinary High Water Levels calculated.  The OHWL is based on vegetation, historic data and a host of factors and most lakes have an OHWL around 900 feet above sea level.  There are measuring apparatus in the lakes with depths marked vertically.  Spetzman said the weirs are closed off and flow through the connected lakes is halted anywhere in a range of six inches below OHWL, so drawdown doesn’t continue unchecked.

The Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area is a major marshlands basin holding much of lake drawdown from a Green Lake outlet, under Hwy. 8.  The Sunrise and eventually, the St Croix River carry the water.

The LID field trip last week summed up all this and more, for State Senator Mark Koran, township officials, city officeholders and county policymakers.  
The Lake Improvement District is supported by a special tax levy of approximately $200,000 paid by property owners within the general watershed that feeds into the Chisago Chain of Lakes.   

While most people think of the LID tied to a need to regulate depth of lakes so flooding doesn’t happen, the LID reach extends in many more directions.
The LID boundary was recently expanded to the northwest,  and Lent Township Supervisor Carolyn Cagle said she wanted to attend the field trip to better understand what her township pays LID taxes for.  The field trip stop at  Lee Nelson’s grassed waterway and run-off control project, south of Lindstrom, presented a scene more likely to need addressing on a Lent Township parcel.  

Still, the LID partnering in installing rain gardens could also be beneficial in Lent.  Rain gardens are usually sited at natural exits in urban water flow,  where the rain garden depression itself and the long-rooted native plants slow and filter stormwater.  Water action damages terrain and carries pollutants directly into lakes and streams that feed into lakes.  The LID recently hit number 100 in rain gardens  installed, according to Soil & Water Conservation District Director Craig Mell.

 Each garden is reviewed for its potential for how many pounds annually of nutrient removal it could provide.  Removing the origins of nutrients and sediment reduces the costs to tackle their impacts in the lakes.

The LID also coordinates and does water quality monitoring that looks at phosphorous, clarity and chlorophyll content.  

Zebra mussels thrive where there’s calcium available so Spetzman said calcium content is now being measured, and next year they’ll be testing for chloride to see if salt use on roadways is accumulating in waters.  

With greater snowfall and rainfall lately resulting in higher water levels the channel between North Center and North Lindstrom has been somewhat navigable-- and the LID is also watching this channel for water quality impacts.  North Center historically has had a lesser quality than North and South Lindstrom (downstream) and the plan is for the channel to not negatively impact those lakes.

Staff was also directed to do a report on bog response in this channel.  Regulatory hurdles impede even considering dredging, but bog cutting as an option is under review “as we speak,” said Spetzman.

Then there’s phragmites.

The University of Minnesota has been helping in mapping locations of this highly invasive plant and Spetzman said LID grants, that have been about $30,000 annually and used by lake associations for curlyleaf and Eurasian milfoil treatments, are being desired now for phragmites abatement.  

Chemical treatment of stands of phragmites on the shoreline were wrapping-up in September.  There will be dates chosen for volunteers to help the LID with cutting and removal of the invasive reed this winter when the lakes have frozen.


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