Watershed board won’t move up dredging of Albert Lea Lake

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 13, 2006

By Kari Lucin, staff writer

A motion to hasten the dredging process for Albert Lea Lake by investigating spoil sites was defeated 4-2 at Tuesday’s meeting of the Shell Rock River Watershed District Board.

Managers Don Sorensen and Ken Nelson dissented.

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The majority of managers wanted to wait for the contour map of the lake bottom to be finished in May or June so they could make estimates of how much materials would need to be dredged from the lake bottom. They believed passing the motion later would not unduly stall the process.

Obtaining a dredging permit may take five years, said Larry Gates of the DNR.

&8220;I suppose talking with a landowner out there asking if you’re interested doesn’t take very long, but we really don’t have a whole lot to tell him at this point,&8221; said manager Paul Overgaard. &8220;We could advance the idea as well if we made the decision to do this in June or July.&8221;

The watershed district cannot get a permit from the Department of Natural Resources until it shows it has shut off the flow of pollution coming from upstream of Albert Lea Lake.

&8220;You know, you spend $5 million dredging, and if it turns just as green as Fountain Lake, when

we’re done we can all leave town,&8221; said board chairman Harley Miller.

The DNR also needs to know the approximate amount of material that will be removed from the lake bottom, as well as where the sediment will end up.

&8220;We need to start this thing now,&8221; Sorensen said. &8220;If it needs to be in July, I don’t care. We’ve got a lot on our plates, this is the direction we need to be going for public perception.&8221;

The board seemed to agree on moving the dredging process forward as soon as the contour map and sediment estimates were finished.

Past management plans for Albert Lea Lake have included dredging its west basin, and local groups have urged that dredging proceed to advance the tourism possibilities of the Blazing Star Trail.

The watershed board plans to work on the upper watershed including Fountain Lake before dredging Albert Lea Lake. Otherwise Fountain Lake’s phosphorus-loaded sediment will simply re-pollute Albert Lea Lake.

In other news, the watershed board:

Will cooperate with the city of Albert Lea to test stormwater for phosphorus, suspended solids, nitrates and fecal coliform bacteria. Stormwater testing will allow technicians to pinpoint where urban pollution is coming from and compare its type and scope to rural pollution, said watershed administrator Brett Behnke. The project will likely be funded by the watershed district.

Heard from representatives of Ducks Unlimited and the Board of Water and Soil Resources about two projects designed to restore about 100 acres of wetlands to the watershed. Tom Mooney, Tim Lang and Lucile Kleven were the property owners involved in the project, which will improve flood control, water quality and wildlife habitat.

Appointed a subcommittee to explore options to fix the erosion problem on Wedge Creek near the I-90 exit. Sorensen noted that a huge chunk of dirt caved into the creek during last week’s flood event. Rerouting the creek may be an option.

Commissioned a feasibility study from local engineering firm Jones Haugh and Smith to see whether the proposed carp barrier for Pickerel Lake could be moved upstream to the south side of County Road 46.

Approved a position description for former administrator and current outreach director Cathy Rofshus.

(Contact Kari Lucin at kari.lucin@albertleatribune.com or 379-3444.)