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Paynesville Press - June 4, 2003

Lake management plan finished

By Michael Jacobson

The Rice Lake Association and the Koronis Lake Association will soon have a road map that will help them and concerned citizens protect and improve the water quality of their lakes for the future enjoyment of residents and visitors alike.

That road map is in the form of a lakeshed management plan, which the Rice Lake Association and Koronis Lake Association will use, working with citizens and public agencies, to help them manage these lakes to sustain their health and viability into the future.

A meeting will be held on Friday, June 13, at 6:30 p.m. at Northern Lights Dining and Lounge in Paynesville to unveil the plan before a joint meeting of the two lake associations.

The project was funded by a $25,000 Local Water Management Challenge Grant from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, and funding from the Initiative Foundation through the Health Lakes Program and the Stearns County Soil and Water Conservation District. This project was one of 17 funded through Board of Water and Soil Resources' challenge grant program in 2001, which was the first time the board specifically set aside funding for lake management plans.

Experts in water resources note that with increasing recreational use and growing populations residing near or along waterways, lakes can suffer from small and large cumulative impacts. More and more lakes associations and citizen groups are turning toward lake management plans to help manage their lakes.

Proper lake management can help local citizens protect their economy, since outdoor activities are important to Minnesota's tourism. Almost $1.1 billion is spent in Minnesota on trips for fishing, hunting, or wildlife observation, according to a 2001 U.S. Fish and Wildlife survey.

"We undertook this opportunity to improve the quality of the lake for future generations," said Kay Hanson, president of the Rice Lake Association. "We hope that all the stakeholders - lakeshore owners, the agriculture community, city and township government, and businesses that benefit from having lakes in the community - will recognize and support the pursuit of restoring the water quality of our lakes."

Lake management plans generally include data gathered about a lake and watersheds; priority concerns about a lake; goals and objectives to address areas of concern; and implementation steps and timelines for completing actions.

The plan for the lakes in Stearns County, according to those involved with it, doesn't pit one group against another. Instead, it looks at solutions.

"The important thing that we're trying to stress is that this is a plan that is designed for lakeshore owners and farmers to work together on water quality issues," said Aaron Meyer, water resource specialist and project liaison with the Stearns Soil and Water Conservation District. "The plan brings the lake associations together, helps them prioritize issues, and comes up with a plan to achieve their goals."

"Our goal is to restore water quality during our five-year implementation plan so that we can go through an entire summer without any floating green algae on either Rice Lake or Lake Koronis," said Peter Jacobson, president of the Koronis Lake Association and publisher of the Paynesville Press. "This will be accomplished using the information gathered through our scientific studies and by using best management practices to control nutrient loading."

The following water quality issues were identified as being of high concern in the minor watersheds listed:

•Paynesville: existing wetlands, impervious surface area, and livestock density;

•Rice Lake: restorable wetlands and number of septic systems;

•Lake Koronis: soil erosion potential, existing wetlands, number of septic systems, and impervious surface areas;

•Kandiyohi: restorable wetlands, number of septic systems, and livestock density;

•Meeker: restorable wetlands, riparian buffers, and cultivated land.

Several management priorities were identified to address water quality concerns. Those include (by minor watershed) the following:

•Paynesville: stormwater management, feedlot management, and wetland protection.

•Rice Lake: wetland restoration, septic system management, and cultivated land management.

•Kandiyohi: restore riparian wetlands, feedlot management, and septic systems management.

•Lake Koronis: soil erosion prevention, septic system management, and wetland protection.

•Meeker: increase and enhance riparian buffers, restore riparian wetlands, promote cultivated land management.

Local supporters of the plan stress that it has measurable goals, but it will take the involvement of many to see a successful outcome.

"Through the education, concern, involvement, and participation of lakeshed residents as well as lakeshore residents, I believe that together, all of us can make a huge difference in the nutrient loading in our lakes, and consequently, water quality," said Jacobson.

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