Five years ago, the district, working closely with both the Rice Lake and Lake Koronis associations, applied for a grant to study both lakes. The study, or the first phase, covered the lakes and water coming in and out of both lakes.
Each lake has a certain amount of natural nutrients, but the study found that both lakes showed a nutrient overload, especially phosphorus. The study pinpointed causes of the nutrient overload and showed that much of the load came downstream in the North Fork Crow River.
The phosphorus overload cause more algae to grow, which prevents "good" plants from growing. When algae dies, it sinks to the lake bottom. The muddy bottoms, where swimmers sink in past their ankles, are from deteriorating algae. The deterioration process uses up oxygen that is needed by the fish. This can cause fish stress or fish kills, according to Roger Ramthun of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).
The phosphorus overload comes from nonpoint source pollution, which means that no one person or place is causing damage to the lakes.
Phase 1 identified where some of the problems are. Phase 2 will try and fix these problems. Phase 1 studies showed that the majority of the pollution came from feedlots. However, septic systems, a growing population, city storm sewers and erosion were also contributors.
The district now has more than $30,000 in grants and more than $500,000 in loans. With that money and the cooperation and time of local landowners, the district will begin alleviating the problems that are hurting Rice Lake and Lake Koronis.
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