Water conservation

Serpent Lake in Crosby is twice as clear as it was a decade ago – Brainerd Dispatch

DEERWOOD – Targeted conservation projects in Deerwood, Crosby and nearby Cranberry Lake that keep 4.7 tonnes of pollutant-carrying, algae-feeding sediment out

Serpent Lake

contributed each year to reversing the downward trend in the quality of its water.

Water clarity exceeded 30 feet in July. The season average was 27.2 feet. At its murkiest in 2012, water clarity measured 12.1 feet, according to a press release from the

Minnesota Soil and Water Resources Council

.

Over $1.5 million in projects – supported by $1.2 million targeted watershed pilot program, Clean Water Fund grant awarded to council

Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District

in 2014 – keeping approximately 80 pounds of phosphorus out of Serpent Lake each year.

“We had no budget to undertake…a project like this ourselves,” Deerwood Mayor Michael Aulie said in the news release. “The grant opportunity was extremely helpful. We could never have done it, nor do we have the expertise of our staff to undertake a project like this.

Mike Aulie, Mayor of Deerwood

One pound of phosphorus can produce up to 500 pounds of algae. Phosphorus levels averaged 0.01 micrograms per liter (ug/L) in 2021 and 2020. The state threshold for the region is 0.03 ug/L. From 2013 to 2019, the averages ranged from 0.013 to 0.015 ug/L.

“I think this is a great achievement. If you look at the long-term trends, the water clarity of this lake was clearly decreasing,” District Manager Melissa Barrick said in the press release. short time after diagnosing a root cause, we were able to resolve these issues.”

Equally significant was the SWCD’s shift in focus from projects to the people who deliver them, officials said.

Headshot photo of Melissa Barrick
Melissa Barrick

Contributed / Ann Wessel, Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources

“I used to think that people didn’t care about conservation because they weren’t doing the actions I perceived I wanted them to do. … It’s really more folk art than hard science itself,” Barrick said.

The district secured buy-in from the partners needed to complete the work, built community support, and spawned water quality work elsewhere in the county, including stormwater work in the city neighbor of Crosslake.

“A lot of water quality or conservation projects aren’t necessarily about the project itself. It’s more about trying to figure out how to work with the different people so that we can all win,” Barrick said. “I really try to see things as opportunities for what people already want.”


For example, after spending nearly a year trying to convince Crosby City Council to allow a rain garden in a city park, the SWCD instead focused on solving a flood problem. for a long time. The result replaced a failing storm drain from the 1920s.

The pipe filters runoff from 18 acres through a system of underground sediment traps and rain gardens. The Targeted Watershed Grant contributed $200,000.

“You have to look at it as what’s in it for the other person, not just for us on the conservation side,” Barrick said. “Once we shifted gears and tried to solve a problem they wanted to solve, it was like night and day.”

Melissa Barrick, Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District Manager, Jay Michels, Senior Project Manager, Terry Tichenor, Serpent Lake Association Vice President, and Jim Chamberlin, Board Supervisor of administration of Crow Wing SWCD, discuss the Targeted Watershed Project that has reduced phosphorus loading to Serpent Lake in Deerwood.
Left to right: Melissa Barrick, Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District Manager, Jay Michels, Senior Project Manager, Terry Tichenor, Serpent Lake Association Vice President, and Jim Chamberlin , Crow Wing SWCD Board Supervisor, discuss the Targeted Watershed Project that has reduced phosphorus loading to Serpent Lake in Deerwood. and eliminated a flooding issue in some of the Summer Place cabins.

Contributed / Ann Wessel, Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources

Aulie said the council was cautious about a financial commitment when the SWCD first approached the town of 532.

“It took us a bit of time to grasp the vision. Crow Wing Soil and Water worked pretty well with us on that,” Aulie said.

Once she learned that the grant would be the main source of funding, the city agreed to support and maintain the project.

Portrait of Patrick Radtke
patrick radke

Contributed / Ann Wessel, Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources

Deerwood Public Works Foreman Patrick Radtke did much of the city’s $27,000 in-kind work. He is also responsible for some of the maintenance and checked the Summer Place project after the storms.

“We had quite a bit of heavy rain after we put this one up, and it went really well,” Radtke said in the press release. “The owners of this area are just overwhelmed (with) how great it turned out. People are happy. »

With 9 miles of shoreline, 1,100 acres, 62 feet deep

Serpent Lake

is among the main recreational and residential lakes in the Cuyuna Lakes region. It attracts swimmers, anglers, boaters and water skiers to Deerwood and Crosby, who depend on tourism.

About 280 houses surround the lake. About half of these shoreline residents belong to the Serpent Lake Association. The lake association led the work focused on Serpent Lake.

Portrait of Jim Chamberlin
Jim Chamberlin

Contributed / Ann Wessel, Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources

As SWCD staff implement projects, Crow Wing SWCD Chairman of the Board Jim Chamberlin said in the press release that it is partnerships, citizen-driven conservation planning and open communication that makes it possible to improve water quality.

“Of course the benefits we’re seeing for water quality are huge,” said Chamberlin, a former Crow Wing SWCD technician who grew up in Deerwood. “More important is success if you do the right thing on the ground, you can turn the tide for degraded lakes.”

Barrick said the Serpent Lake experience has facilitated the development of specific plans with measurable phosphorus reduction targets for

One watershed, one plan

in the Pine River watershed.

“At the end of the day, I think you get a better outcome when you have a more specific plan rather than a plan that can include lots of options for all kinds of landowners,” Barrick said. “I think you can make better choices if you have this data to guide you on where you should be working.”

County-wide, the SWCD has developed water quality objectives for 21 of its 533 lakes.

“I think things have to be targeted because dollars are limited. At the same time, I think education is huge because we all need to be conservationists,” Chamberlin said.

It took us a while to grasp the vision.

—Mike Aulie

That includes enshrining conservation in ordinances and encouraging landowners to maintain their septic systems and restore their riparian buffers, officials say.

“I’ve seen attitudes change at Serpent Lake. Parents of friends I grew up with on the lake are putting up pads and rain gardens,” Chamberlin said. “I think it’s already changed attitudes and actions on the lake.”

Head shot of Terry Tichenor
Terry Tichenor

Contributed / Ann Wessel, Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources

Serpent Lake Association Vice President Terry Tichenor said in the press release that education is among the lake association’s primary roles. This includes reminding shoreline landowners that good water quality equals higher land values.

Tichenor moved to Serpent Lake full-time in 2014 and gets out on the water or ice three to four times a week. He noted that “well over 50%” of shoreline property owners have installed some type of shoreline buffer to filter runoff.

“There really isn’t a clearer history of the lake than it is now. We are riding a ridge and we want to do everything we can to keep it there,” Tichenor said.

Project Highlights

  • deer antler — Grant funds contributed $500,000 to rainwater treatment at the 13 Summer Place Association cabins; $85,000 for infiltration ponds that slow runoff in nearby Skone Park; and approximately $107,000 (through a related grant) to a rain garden and backwater dam project on private land that reduces flooding on Cross Road.
  • Crosby — $300,000 supported a municipal storm water treatment and flood reduction project.
  • Elsewhere — $90,000 supported a Cranberry Lake alum treatment that bound phosphorus; $90,000 helped Crosby, Deerwood and the Township of Ironwood pass stormwater ordinances.

Source: Minnesota Soil and Water Resources Council