By Jennifer Kotila
COKATO, MN More than 50 volunteers showed up July 14 to make short work of the planting of vegetation near Sucker Creek, along the south shore of Cokato Lake.
With such a large group of volunteers, the task, which usually takes several hours, was completed in less than two hours.
The planting was made possible with a shoreline habitat restoration grant from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), with funds from the Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment.
The plants, which included 150 hardstem bulrushes, 162 softstem bulrushes, 162 burreeds, 56 river bulrushes, and 56 arrowroots, were obtained from Natural Shoreline Technologies of Maple Plain, a company that specializes in providing native plants to restore shorelines, according to Cokato Lake Association President Jim Brodd.
The cost of the project was a little more than $2,000 for the supplies and plants needed to create the natural water vegetation bed, and about 400 feet of shoreline was able to be restored.
The Cokato Lake Association has been stocking the lake with additional fish, and contacted Dan Nadeau from the Crow River Organization of Waters (CROW) to inquire what could be done to maintain the stocked fish.
Nadeau informed them better habitat needed to be provided for the fish, and the CROW could assist with that by obtaining a shoreline habitat restoration grant from the DNR.
Along with providing better habitat for fish, the plants will assist in cleaning some of the nutrients, or pollutants, out of the lake, which is on the state’s final 2010 impaired waters list for nutrient impairment.
In order to find out where the vegetation that provided habitat to fish had been in the past, Nadeau contacted Paul Diedrich of the DNR Fisheries Office in Montrose.
In the 30 years that Diedrich has been working for the area fisheries office, not much has changed on Cokato Lake, he said.
One of the reasons Diedrich speculates the lake has little vegetation is that it drains a large watershed, and the water levels bounce up and down.
That fluctuation makes it difficult for plants to establish themselves, Diedrich said.
There is also a large carp population in the lake, which uproot vegetation that has been established, he added.
Although it may be difficult to establish vegetation, “It’s a good thing they are doing,” Diedrich said. “It will definitely make good fish habitat.”
Diedrich identified four areas in Cokato Lake where fish beds had been located, one of which was near Sucker Creek.
The location near Sucker Creek was chosen because it is an area of the lake which has less traffic and is a quiet bay with less wave action from wind, which allows for a better chance for the vegetation to become established, Nadeau said.
“I know from personal experience that aquatic vegetation beds are hard to get going get established,” Nadeau said.
Which is why Nadeau also created brush bundles to act as barriers while the vegetation becomes established.
The barriers will act as wave breaks, as well as slowing down the amount of sediment carried onto the vegetation bed by waves, Nadeau said.
In addition, it will assist in keeping out rough fish, such as carp, which can harm or uproot the plants, he added.