Plan to save algae-plagued lake draws optimism, opposition

According to a Minnesota DNR post on the Little Rock algae situation, water clarity at times is less than a few inches due to pervasive algae blooms. (Minnesota DNR)


ST. PAUL, Minn. — A Minnesota DNR plan to save an algae-plagued lake near St. Cloud has drawn contrasting opinions.

The agency plans to drop Little Rock Lake’s level by 3 feet over three days starting on Aug. 1, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.

The gates of the Sartell dam will be opened downstream on the Mississippi River. Volunteers will plant native plants in the hundreds of feet of mud beds that will be uncovered in the shallower parts of the lake once levels drop.

The plants will help the lake’s health because they keep the shoreline from eroding, said Eric Altena, DNR fisheries manager in Little Falls.

Altena said he expects to see significant improvement to the lake’s water quality. He estimates that the lake’s transparency will increase by at least 50 percent.

According to a DNR post on the Little Rock algae situation earlier this year, “Water clarity at times is less than a few inches due to pervasive algae blooms. Many efforts have been made in the watershed to try and address the source of excess nutrients including: alternative farming, irrigation, manure management and septic system upgrades. Despite these improvements there are still water-quality issues on the lake. Something more large-scale needs to be done to address the problem.”

Supporters of the drawdown said farmers in the watershed have made strides in controlling pollution.

But resident Bill Davison and others near the lake would’ve preferred a different option. Davison said river residents felt shutout of the drawdown decision. He said a better approach might have been to build a temporary coffer dam to pump water out of the lake, which would have kept the water level the same.

“There were better long-term solutions,” Davison said.

Resident Mike Nies said he’s also skeptical that the agency’s plan will make a lasting difference.

“It’s going to absorb the stuff that’s deposited there,” Nies said. “But it’s not going to do anything for the continuing runoff, the nitrates.”

The department will raise the water back to normal levels after six weeks.

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