May 20, 2010 at 8:47 a.m.

Local officials hear about tax boost from lake shore; also practice improving water quality by participating in 'The Watershed Game'

Local officials hear about tax boost from lake shore; also practice improving water quality by participating in 'The Watershed Game'
Local officials hear about tax boost from lake shore; also practice improving water quality by participating in 'The Watershed Game'

Four lakes in the general Chisago Lakes Chain watershed region are on the impaired waters list for Minnesota and three lakes will be added when the newest version of the list gets released.

The Chisago Lakes Lake Improvement District (LID), Soil and Water Conservation District and DNR Regional Hydrologist brought together a host of people active in communities in the LID watershed, for a workshop May 12.

The meeting called the "Spring Checkup" focused on what can be done to halt the deterioration of lakes, and hopefully even reverse what's been happening.

John Bilotta, with the U of MN Extension Service, explained to a crowd of about 40 people that improving water quality is obviously going to take an effort by the cities surrounding each lake, but also needs the involvement of landowners elsewhere in the watershed where the lakes' water comes from. (See map.)

Bilotta's task was to inform the audience on the status of the lakes' health along with Casey Thiel of the Soil and Water Conservation District.

The listing as "impaired" is based on how desireable a lake is for swimming and its "fish-ability." These two indicators are physically measured by clarity and nutrient content (phosphorus parts per million for example) of any lake.

North and South Center, Wallmark Lake, Kroon Lake and the intermittent creek feeding into the center lakes are considered impaired. Also in the LID watershed: Linn, Pioneer, and School lakes are being added to the impaired list.

Chris Eng, county HRA/EDA Executive Director, spoke briefly reminding attendees of the economic significance of protecting water quality. Eng says $1 billion of the county's total market valuation lies in lakeshore, or 20 percent of all tax revenue parcels. The lakes provide for recreation, draw visitors and business investment to the Chisago Lakes area. The water is an intrinsic part of the quality of life here. he added.

DNR Hydrologist Mike Mueller said agencies are working on an analysis of everything entering the LID lakes. Urban stormwater pipes, other contributors of nutrients and sediment, and erosion prone areas are being identified and from this inventory, Mueller wants officials to prioritize which things to fix first. This is required under the U.S. Clean water Act that established "impaired waters" standards and mandates cleanup plans.

Public policy should also include pro-active efforts. There are ways to avoid activities known to have a negative impact on water quality.

Mueller stressed:

~ The most effective low cost approach is to NOT remove lakeshore vegetation in the first place. Research has proven that altering the shoreline has a major impact on water quality and habitat. Simply educating people on not removing what's growing on their lakeshore or re-planting natives along a lakeshore is an easy thing.

~ Street sweeping is recommended.

~ Being aware as a city of what's getting into drains and washing into lakes from the streets is important.

~ Further away in the ag areas-- keeping horses, cows, etc. out of low lying terrain helps protect the watershed from excess nutrients.

Bilotta explained local officials will be hearing alot about the three Ps of "best management practices" that go into improving water quality: plans, practices, policies.

Workshop-goers broke into three groups of about 12 each, and played "The Watershed Game" and reviewed what they learned.

More workshops are planned for this summer to address various requests made by workshop attendees for specific information.

Water quantity

Mueller post in the DNR also gets him involved in quantity of water, as well as quality.

He told the audience that the Chisago Chain of Lakes has a smaller than normal watershed region. A ratio of land mass to water of 15:1 is preferred. The LID watershed has a ratio of about 5:1.

Where a lake is physically situated within the hydrologic chain also affects its level. Interestingly-- Mueller said the "long term average depth" for South Lindstrom Lake is 892.4 feet above sea level. The lake is currently at 893.

The long term average depth for North and South Center (typically deeper of the chain) is 898 feet above sea level.

The LID plans to run its lake level chart again this summer in this paper. We have had many requests for the information. The delay has been due to measurement gauges under repair and/or replacement, but this work should be completed soon.


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