Water Quality Background – 2009

Community Cooperation in Improving the Environment

As Cross Lake and Pokegama Lake Associations  continue  another year of thorough water quality testing and evaluation of the two lakes, the Snake River, and numerous streams,  it is obvious  that not only does our previous data reveal some positive trends but also some concerns.  For example, many of the streams that enter our lakes and the river carry excessive sediments and dissolved nutrients which leads to algae bloom and the buildup of bottom “muck”.  Sediment deposited in the lakes and river from streams and shorelands becomes a reservoir of phosphate which is released from the bottom as oxygen levels decrease during many months of the year.  Some of the streams carry E-coli bacteria, which is found in the waste of all warm-blooded animals, including livestock and humans.   Stream testing has indicated excessive amounts of this group of potentially harmful bacteria  in runoff during heavy rains with some health risk at lakefront property affected directly  by those streams.

It’s important to note that we find very little evidence of harmful bacteria in the lakes or in the river adjacent to Pine City.

Assistance in  monitoring or  fixing known problems has been requested from the Pine County Soil and Water Conservation District, Snake River Watershed Management Board, Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Minnesota Department of Health,  Minnesota Waters Foundation, and the Initiative Foundation.  Pine County SWCD has been of assistance by providing onsite inspection of land areas, getting support of land owners regarding manure management and control of runoff  They have also provided education and  technical  assistance in building rain gardens and buffers and in controlling shoreland erosion.  They have helped with the securing of grants for laboratory water testing of samples collected by the associations. The Snake River Watershed Board has provided grant money for this testing.  Additional grants have been requested of this and other agencies and the Initiative Foundation in order for the associations to carry on projects to reduce the impact of sediments, nutrients, algae, and invasive plants such as Curleyleaf Pondweed.  The results of much of the testing is entered into the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency database and shared with other agencies.

In the spirit of cooperation, the two associations and the Snake River Management Board provided funds to bring Dr. Fedler, University of Texas professor of engineering, to Pine City to provide valuable new insight into managing community wastewater.  Hopefully his expertise will allow the city to explore a more effective and less costly  solution to the problem of building a new facility.  One motivation for doing this was to encourage the use of a new or remodeled facility for unloading of human septage from rural septic tanks rather than the current practice of dumping on farmland resulting in runoff into the lakes and river.   His professional experience give our water quality committee valuable insights in dealing with nutrients entering or actually in the lakes. 

We encourage further shoreland erosion control and support the building of rain gardens and buffer zones in Pine City and along other shorelands of the watershed.  It is important to note that  the  city has also implemented the construction of a stormwater interception project in order to reduce pollution of Cross Lake and the Snake River.  Pine City also installed four test wells around the sewage ponds in order to monitor any problems in the groundwater caused by downward movement of water from the ponds. 

The Snake River Watershed Board has funded many erosion control projects in the entire watershed, many of them directly affecting Cross Lake.  Funds will likely continue to be available to shoreland property owners.

At the state level, the legislature is working through the process of deciding how to best use the projected $200-300 million dollar per year provided by the 3/8% sales tax that 57% of the citizens of this state voted for last November.  As I reported in a previous article, the Department of Natural Resources has been working closely with many groups in order to write new shoreland regulations to protect surface water.  The draft is available on the internet and comments are encouraged.

There is much to be done cooperatively to improve our declining environment.  Apparently we are in agreement on that.

Jerry Trent

Cross Lake Association