WAPOA sponsored four summer 2015 seminar/workshops on lake water quality, including actions lake shore owners must take to lighten the nutrient load on the lake, thus improving water quality
This was an unprecedented, indeed amazing, local opportunity for those attending the four summer programs to meet and hear first-hand an outstanding group of research biologists and county water planning officials.
1. June 18, 2015 Peter Jacobsen, DNR Fisheries Habitat Researcher, Park Rapids talked about the water conditions and habitat on Big Trout Lake. It is one of only 6 lakes in northern Minnesota that have or have had lake trout.
Lake trout live at the bottom where it is the coldest. Their existence in the lake is threatened.
There has been a slow decline in the oxygen levels in Big Trout Lake. That has stabilized now, but continued development, agriculture and deforestation are a threat to future water quality and to their survival.
Storm water run-off carries nutrients which lower oxygen levels in the water.
A lake has the best water when 75% of the land around it is forested. Loss of forest for any reason, housing, commercial development, agriculture, is bad for water quality.
Heather Baird, MN DNR, pictured above, spoke about measures for protecting and increasing existing forest and controlling water runoff. There are funds available now to land owners through forest conservation easement programs. Link here for conservation easement application
2. July 21, 2015 Darren Mayers, Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District and Heather Baird, MN DNR continued the discussion about how to protect what has been very good water quality in Big Trout Lake. Heather Baird said that forested area around the lake needs to be raised from 48 % forested to 75% forested. The forest acts as a giant sponge to protect the lake from contaminating water runoff. Conservation easement link
Mayers talked about land easements which allow some activities but not others. For instance a landowner could log the land and use it for recreation, but not keep cattle on it. The owner is compensated for doing this. State funds are available. State help is also available for those wishing to establish a state forest plan.
3. August 19, 2015 Paul Radomski, MN DNR research scientist, continued with the summer theme of water runoff being bad for lakes. Phosphorus is carried into the lakes by rain water and phosphorus is also building up on shoreland all around the lakes. He called it a “ticking time bomb.” Phosphorus promotes algae growth in lake water.
Mitch Brinks, Crow Wing County water planner talked about each homeowner taking responsibility to stop water runoff from driveways, lawns, and impervious surfaces.
In addition homeowners should maintain their septic systems with periodic pumping.
In response to a question from the audience Radomski said that it is runoff, agricultural and other, that is responsible for loss of lake water quality, not motor boats.
Chris Pence, Crow Wing County Land Services Supervisor talks before the meeting to Jim Schultz.
Crow Wing County “Protect Our Lakes” information display on far left.
4. September 24, 2015 MN DNR research biologist Beth Holbrook discussed cisco (tullibee) patterns on the Whitefish Chain. These fish are an important source of food for larger fish and are also important as sensitive markers for lake water quality. They need cold oxygenated water which is threatened by nutrients running into the lake.
As nutrients run off into the lake water quality declines, oxygen fish need decreases or disappears, and cisco die.
She also mentioned that the evidence for zebra mussels affecting the fish food chain is not strong, but that the invasive spiny water flea does compete very directly with little fish for food. While spiny waterfleas have not been found in the Whitefish Chain they are in nearby Mille Lacs.
Kevin Kenow, research biologist leading loon research for the U.S. Geological Survey discussed loons and their migration. Loons do eat cisco. He mentioned that in the fall great numbers of loons will collect above the deep water areas where cisco may be.
An addition: In late October 2015 on one day he observed about “160” loons in Whitefish in one group and later in the day estimated “over 60 loons” in another group.
He spent a considerable time in the summer of 2015 on the Whitefish Chain observing and marking loons to study migration patterns. Five loons on the Chain had radio transmitters implanted. They transmit data to a weather satellite and their progress can be followed as they migrate south. As of November 30, 2015 only one was still in the Whitefish area.