April 9, 2007

Looking at the lake with the HL Watershed Alliance

Resident education and monitoring for trends in water quality

By Jennifer Gallus
Staff Writer

Even though Howard Lake reported its best clarity reading last summer since the flood of 2002, the lake continues to feel its effects.

The flood negatively impacted water quality in Howard Lake, and the lake has been slowly improving since, according to the Howard Lake Watershed Alliance.

Steady vigilance of lake-friendly practices is necessary for improved water quality.

“Our influence is ever present in all developed areas, rural and urban. Therefore, if Howard Lake has improved, I believe it is with a combination of nature’s healing ways and our efforts to instill small, but consistent changes in our watershed,” said Curt Forst, president of the Howard Lake Watershed Alliance.

The watershed alliance strives to educate those within the Howard Lake watershed on issues that affect lake water quality.

A quarterly newsletter, which updates residents on the efforts of the alliance and details small changes in daily living that should be made in order to help the lake, is sent to those who reside in the watershed.

“Education is a powerful tool. For example, several of the septic systems still present on the north half of the lake have been upgraded. Lakeshore owners have curtailed burning at lake side, and recent efforts have been made to check erosion with use of landscaping and retaining walls,” Forst reported.

“Also, lakeshore owners, town residents, and city officials have worked to curb storm water runoff and no longer use phosphorus-based fertilizers,” he added.

The alliance was given a water retention or turn over time of seven years from the Minnesota Pollution Control’s lake assessment of Howard and Dutch lakes.

“This means that it takes about seven years for the lake to ‘recycle’ chemicals, fertilizers, or sediments – they remain in the lake for this length of time. If this is true, the ‘internal load’ becomes a greater factor for clarity in any one season than incoming pollutants,” Forst said.

“However, this gives a greater urgency to stop incoming pollutants, knowing that they will not exit the system for at least seven years,” he added.

Lake water is tested on a monthly basis for nutrients loads, pH, chlorophyll levels, and more.

“In general, water quality seemed improved in 2006. Monitoring of lake water quality continued for clarity, nutrients, and chlorophyll levels. Incoming turbidity was monitored at 10 inlets. This was the third year for these ‘T-tube’ readings,” Forst reported.

“All of this monitoring has paid off. We now have enough data to notice trends and to pinpoint sources of potential problems,” he added.

“Although the lake showed improved clarity last year, blue-green algal blooms increased, nutrients continue to flow in from storm drains and agricultural runoff, and shoreland erosion continues from wave action during high-water periods,” Forst explained.

Continued education of shoreland owners, local farmers, and those who reside within the general watershed is a goal that is at the forefront of the alliance.

Water quality monitoring and assessments will continue to guide the alliance’s efforts towards regaining a healthy lake.

The alliance meets a minimum of three times per year and new members are always welcome.

Membership fees are $25 per year, which are used to help control aquatic invasive plant species.

An annual picnic is enjoyed by the group during Good Neighbor Days.

The third annual Run for the Lake will take place this June during Good Neighbor Days, with proceeds benefitting the Howard Lake Watershed Alliance.

Howard Lake Watershed Alliance

Mission Statement

The mission of this association is to provide educational resources as well as to protect, maintain and enhance environmental, recreational, fishing and wildlife interests pertaining to Howard Lake and the Howard Lake Watershed area.

To join the Howard Lake Watershed Alliance:

Contact Curt Forst at (320) 543-3736 or any board member.

Board members are:

Curt Forst, president

Marilyn Ringold, vice president

Andy Brisley, treasurer

Wanda Werner, secretary

Dues are $25 per year, which are used to help to control invasive species. The group meets a minimum of three times per year.

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