Nov. 20, 2006

Winsted Lake Watershed Association looking for new leadership

By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

The Winsted Lake Watershed Association (WLWA) is the lake’s number one protector. It’s the mission of the WLWA to improve and preserve Winsted Lake for future generations.

“We want everybody to be involved. You don’t have to live on the lake to enjoy it. Every day, everybody in town enjoys this lake. It’s a community lake,” Mike Mahoney of the WLWA said.

New officers will be elected at the WLWA meeting Monday, Dec. 4. Nominations are open and will remain open for president, vice president, and secretary until the election meeting. Anyone who is a member of the WLWA can be nominated.

The association has been working diligently since it began in 1994, to improve the quality of Winsted Lake.

Its first major project was buying aerators for the lake. The electrical service needed to run the aerators was also paid for by the WLWA.

The aerator is a motor with a propeller that keeps the lake from freezing. Because Winsted Lake is a shallow lake, keeping the water open adds oxygen to the lake to ensure the fish survive a very cold winter.

For the first time last summer, the aerators were also used successfully to keep the beach area cleaner and decrease algae.

Beginning in 1987, water samples of the lake were tested for sediment and other pollutants. Since 2001, the lake has been tested monthly by Holy Trinity School’s science class, under the supervision of its teacher, Marv Ebensperger.

Testing has been done by the landing area by the dam for nitrates, phosphates, carbon dioxide, oxygen, and pH. A secchi disc is used to check the water for clarity monthly, with the exception of winter when the ice makes it difficult to get an accurate reading.

“Since we began, the levels are pretty constant. When we started, there were a lot more variances than there are now,” Ebensperger said.

New testing is to begin at the north and south inlets of the lake where the watershed comes in. The WLWA is very interested in seeing what information the tests will provide.

The lake testing area is being changed because of a request by the Crow River Organization of Water. It is asking all lake associations that have water that runs into the Crow River to test those lake inlets.

In addition to the major projects accomplished by the association, it is responsible for a number of annual undertakings, as well.

The WLWA has spring cleanup of the shoreline the first week in May. All volunteers receive a picnic lunch after the cleanup.

It also works with the Winsted Summer Festival committee providing summer games for both adults and children.

The money raised from the festival is used for lake association projects. They are currently raising money for a survey gun to be used on the south channel project, where the grade of the water flow needs to be changed because the water there is stagnant.

Looking to the future, the WLWA has numerous challenges to tackle. Curlyleaf pondweed has now been seen throughout the entire lake.

WLWA President Petie Littfin approached the DNR when she first noticed the Curlyleaf pondweed, but the DNR felt that as long as it wasn’t by anybody’s home area, it could be left alone.

“Each time a boat goes through the Curlyleaf pondweed, they drag seeds to another part of the lake. When I first noticed it about three years ago, it was just in the bay area. Now it is throughout the whole lake. Now we have to try to figure out how to control it,” Littfin said.

Littfin would also like to work with homeowners and farmers living along the watershed that begins in the Cokato area.

“Everybody who lives any place is on a lake because whatever goes onto their ground, somehow seeps into some creek, which seeps into some river that eventually ends up in the lake,” Littfin said.

The WLWA would like to see grass strips along all of the ditches. In the wintertime, when the snow melts off, it would filter through the grasses.

“It would keep the landowners from losing their soil and it would not be ending up in Winsted Lake,” Littfin said.

Another suggestion to improve the watershed would be having lake-shore residents plant buffer gardens.

“They did lakeshore restoration in Long Lake. Everybody who lives around Long Lake worked with the State of Minnesota to do their lake- shore. Instead of grass going down to the lakeshore, they put up buffer flower gardens. It looks beautiful and it helps. Buffer gardens are one of the ways we have to get our lake clean again. Next year, I am going to put up a buffer garden along our lakeshore,” Littfin said.

A new board of directors was chosen at the last WLWA meeting Nov. 6, and they will focus on a five year plan, a mission statement and looking at the bylaws to see if they need to be changed. The board consists of Francis Condon, Petie Littfin, Mike Nathe, and Jim Neff.

Petie Littfin has decided to resign as the WLWA president Jan. 1, after serving six years, because she feels, “it is time for somebody else.”

When Winsted residents were surveyed by the Minnesota Design Team during its visit October 2004, Winsted Lake was voted the most important asset that the City of Winsted has.

Of Winsted’s approximately 2,000 residents, there are 97 family members and 23 business members of the WLWA committed to protecting and improving the quality of Winsted Lake.

The annual cost of the WLWA membership is $20 per family or business.

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