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Paynesville Press - June 18, 2003

Lakeshed plan completed for Rice-Koronis

By Michael Jacobson

Being that their lakes are joined by the Crow River, the Rice Lake Association and the Koronis Lake Association have always had a good reason to work together. Improving the water quality on one lake naturally meant improving the water in the other, since Rice Lake is just a couple miles upstream of Koronis.

In the last couple years, though, the two lake associations have taken another step together and started to develop a joint lake management plan. This plan, now finished, was unveiled last week.

"I want all of you to know that we have the best lake management plan in the state of Minnesota," said Kay Hanson, president of the Rice Lake Association, to the 40 lake association members and government officials at the unveiling on Friday night. "Truly. And I've heard that from a number of people."

"This management plan is very well done," agreed Dale Lorenz, vice president of the Koronis Lake Association. "However, it doesn't mean a thing until it is implemented."

By 2008, according to the plan, neither Rice nor Koronis will have slimy green water, said Lorenz, who admitted that this was an aggressive goal but thought it could be accomplished with enough volunteer help. In an effort to improve the water quality on both lakes, the Rice-Koronis Lakeshed Management Plan examines the watersheds that contribute water, and pollutants, to these lakes. The North Fork of the Crow River flows through both lakes, and the watershed for the North Fork of the Crow is approximately 1,400 square miles.

But the lakeshed for both lakes - the area where surface water flows directly to both lakes - is 311 square miles. This management plan focuses on this lakeshed, which was divided into five regions of approximately 60 square miles: called Rice, Koronis, Paynesville, Stearns, and Meeker.

The lake associations need to put extra importance on this lakeshed because water here drains directly to the lakes, said Lindberg Ekola, a consultant from Melrose who wrote much of the lake management plan. In 2001, the Rice Lake Association and the Koronis Lake Association received a $25,000 grant from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources and funding from the Health Lakes Program through the Initiative Foundation to complete a joint lake management plan.

In July 2002, the two groups held a joint visioning session with their members and community leaders. At that meeting, water quality was identified as the top concern for the lakes, with aquatic vegetation and exotic species next.

The lake management plan not only includes specific goals, objectives, and action plans, but also has identified indicators of success like secchi disk readings for water clarity. Other things that can be measured are the percentage of streams buffered, the acres of wetland in the lakeshed and watershed, and the numbers of noncompliant septic systems and feedlots.

For instance, the lake management plan identified 108 feedlots in the lakeshed of Rice and Koronis, said Aaron Meyer of the Stearns County Soil and Water Conservation District, who also helped with the plan. The Stearns County Soil and Water Conservation District can now target their money and efforts in helping ensure that these feedlots are running properly. Already, said Meyer, his office has visited 78 of these feedlots and performed evaluations at 39.

The Soil and Water Conservation District also will be able to target its funds on these feedlots, Meyer said. Seven of these feedlots are within 1,000 feet of a lake or within 300 feet of a stream, and the Soil and Water Conservation District has already secured funds for projects at three of these farms, according to Meyer.

Copies of the lengthy plan - with 60 maps - are still being produced. The memberships of both lake associations will get a chance to hear about the lake management plan at their respective annual meetings.

The annual meeting for the Koronis Lake Association will be held on Saturday, June 28, at 9 a.m. at the Paynesville Area Center. The annual meeting for the Rice Lake Association will be held on Saturday, July 19, at 11 a.m. at Fisher's Resort on Rice Lake.

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