My Point of View: Lakes should be restored to their original qualities

Published 10:00 pm Monday, November 27, 2017

My Point of View, By Ebenezer Howe III

This column was written during the summer but some other issue arose that required addressing at that time, and this column is just as timely now as back in the summer.

Ebenezer Howe

I think of one statement Ronald Reagan made quite frequently. It goes something like this: The closest thing to eternal life is a government program. It does not have to be a named program; it can be something like the Shell Rock River Watershed District.

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When I returned to the area in 2002 after 40 years of being away from Freeborn County, as I recall, the paper was ablaze with articles and letters to the editor regarding the sorry state of the area lakes. Seemed like Freeborn County and Albert Lea were at each other’s necks about who, when, where, why and how was this going to be fixed. The city of Albert Lea only had a small area of the watershed and the watershed was roughly one third of the county area. Why should the city be responsible for it all, and why should that part of the county not in the watershed be responsible for any of it? So the establishment of the Shell Rock River Watershed District in June 2003 was the solution.

My employment in early 2003 allowed me to attend meetings of the group that had been appointed or had volunteered to address the need to do something. I did not know at that time that all but a tiny bit of Alden Township is in a different watershed. So I really did not have much of a dog in the fight. My water flows west. At the last meeting of that group I attended, and I can’t remember for sure whether it was rule adoption or just a statement in the minutes, was that they were only going to restore the lakes to the original configuration as defined in the records of the early explorers and settlers, which were available at the historical center. Being satisfied with that goal, I stopped attending meetings on the water quality issue.

Now let us fast forward to today. In the Fountain Lake Edgewater Bay dredging project there is reference to removing 550,000 to 690,000 cubic yards of sediment. How many feet down would that be? Would it not be better to say dredge till the bottom is X-feet deep like it was before we started polluting it? According to what I remember from 2003, the answer lies right over at the historical center, not all that far from Edgewater Bay.

Now, back to eternal life of government programs. The Shell Rock River Watershed District is not a government program, but it is the creation of government, impossible for some of us to distinguish the difference.

Since the establishment of the Watershed District, I do not remember seeing or hearing one reference to what the lakes were like in 1850 — the earliest we would have started our pollution of them.

Likewise, I have never heard or seen reference to what the final restored state of the lakes will be.

From the welcome screen of the Watershed District website: “The Shell Rock River Watershed District (SRRWD) was established in June 2003 at the request of local citizen’s petition for the purpose of improving water quality.” Also reviewing the plans (five documents) from the Reports and Plans tab of the website and the Rules tab I find no words such as “completed,” “finished,” “end” or any words that could indicate the job is done. There will never be an end to the Watershed District. Folks should only be taxed to put it back to the way we found it in 1850. In 2030 or 2031, Albert Lea will be having a vote on re-upping the 0.5 percent sales tax (because we just have all these urgent issues to address).

I am not opposed to restoring lakes and streams to original quality. Enhancements and changes beyond that should be sold on the merit of the changes and enhancements and paid for by the beneficiaries.

I fear the Shell Rock River Watershed District is immortal.

Alden resident Ebenezer Howe is chairman of the Freeborn County Republican Party. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of the local party members.