Winsted Lake Watershed Association’s diligence pays off

Decmeber 31, 2007

By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

A clearer, cleaner Winsted Lake has been the benefit of the hardworking Winsted Lake Watershed Association (WLWA).

The association, formed in 1979, has relatively new officers for the organization, elected last year, and a new board of directors. The group has been striving to continue the lake association’s efforts started almost 30 years ago.

The WLWA president Bev Schmitz is a lakeshore owner who has seen definite improvement to Winsted Lake in the 14 years she has lived here.

“The lake is much clearer. There are so many times I can go down to the dock and see the bottom of the lake. Ten years ago, that was almost impossible, almost any time of the year,” Schmitz said. “I think we are going in the right direction.”

To support the WLWA’s move in the “right direction,” the City of Winsted has stepped forward to help.

“We have a really good relationship with the city and they are our best resource. They are always willing to help us and we think that is fantastic,” Schmitz said.

One major project the city will be responsible for is to improve the west side of the lake shore with the addition of the lakefront promenade scheduled to begin in the early part of 2008.

The city will also be helping to fund a chemical treatment of Winsted Lake to reduce an invasive weed called curly leaf pondweed.

Although the funding is now in place to treat the weed, the WLWA is waiting for the DNR to get back to the association with permission to chemically treat the curly leaf and to find out how much of the weed it will be allowed to treat.

Permission will not come until the spring of the year after the DNR comes out to see the weed in the lake and sign off on the permit.

Last year, the association requested the same permission and it was denied by the DNR.

“The DNR feels that any weed in a lake is a good weed. They think it is beneficial to the fish. But this is the wrong kind of weed for us. Especially with our lake being so shallow,” Schmitz said.

“Last year, they did approve doing a very small portion but it wasn’t cost efficient and would not have made a difference because it would have been like treating a needle in the haystack,” Schmitz said.

A group called Lake Restoration was hired by the WLWA to do a global positioning system (GPS) mapping of the lake to discover where the weed was located in the lake. From the mapping, the weed was discovered around the entire lake perimeter.

The lake association is hoping to reverse the results of the DNR’s previous decision which has let the weed infect a total of 32.6 acres of offshore area, and 67 acres of onshore area. Winsted Lake is 376 acres in total size.

If the WLWA does get permission to treat the curly leaf pondweed, it will be done in the spring with a chemical that has no known side effects and is environmentally safe.

Some of the WLWA 2007 accomplishments

The WLWA created a water testing results database. Data which has been collected through water testing since 1987, has been entered into the database.

Marv Ebensperger, a math and science teacher at Holy Trinity High School, has had his students test the lake water monthly, under his supervision, since 2001.

Ebensperger and WLWA Vice President Dale Maus created the data base to be able to compare testing results from previous years.

Besides creating the water testing database, the watershed association has updated its bylaws, the mission statement, formed a finance oversight committee, and restenciled curbs with a warning that tells residents this “drains to lake.”

In preparation for the grass strips project planned for 2008-09, WLWA secretary Gary Daigle has volunteered to head a committee to work with the soil and conservation department of McLeod County to get grass strips placed along watershed ditches.

A list of all landowners who make up the watershed has been compiled. The WLWA plans to bring all of them together to talk about how to get the grass strips in place. A meeting in the fall of 2008 is being considered.

It is the WLWA’s wish to offer incentives to the landowners for planting the grass strips, but still needs to work that out with the DNR.

The WLWA would like to see the landowners sign up by the fall of 2008, and the grass strips planted in the spring of 2009.

The lake association will get a helping hand on this project from a team which is part of the Blandin Foundation. The team’s goal is to work on improving water quality by limiting nutrient invasion via watershed. The grass strips project as well as the curly leaf pondweed will be issues the team will be working to solve.

Another ongoing project is rain gardens. Some association members have been doing research on native plants for the lake and natural vegetation that can grow along the lake, to be used as a buffer, grabbing nutrients that would otherwise flow into the lake with runoff water.

To become a WLWA member

Anyone can become a member of the WLWA. The only membership requirement is to pay yearly dues of $20 per family, and the group encourages members to volunteer their time on projects when asked. To join, call Kevin or Andrea Dietrich at (763) 684-1370.

The group meets at the city hall, the first Monday of every month at 7 p.m.

The WLWA is looking for individuals who would be willing to help with grant writing, someone with expertise in fundraising, and someone to help set up a web site where events can be posted, as well as information regarding the Winsted Lake Watershed Association.

Current officers are President Bev Schmitz; Vice President Dale Maus; Secretary Gary Daigle; Treasurer Sue Thurk (Sue’s term ended December 2007 and a new treasurer is needed).

Current members on the board of directors are Francis Condon, board secretary; Mike Nathe, chairman; Jim Neff; Petie Littfin (past president); and Bev Schmitz (current preisdent). Gene Hausladen serves as honorary ex-official.