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High water problems on Green Lake in Spicer, Minn.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources works with the owners of the private dam at the Olde Mill Inn to assure that the water entering Green Lake is equal to the discharge at the dam in New London. Some of that water flows through a structure where hydro-electricity was once produced. (Tribune photo by Tom Cherveny)

SPICER - High water on Green Lake in Spicer continues to chew up lakeshore and over-work sump pumps, but there really is no short term solution to the costly dilemma.

The lake's outlet at Lake Calhoun is a fixed, concrete structure and water flow there is equal to and greater than the flow coming into Green Lake from upstream.

Even if the outlet at Lake Calhoun could be enlarged, downstream culverts and road crossings, the size of the channel and a relatively flat grade would not allow any significant increase in the flow.

Those were among the messages delivered when members of the Green Lake Property Owner's Association met with representatives of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Kandiyohi County and the Middle Fork of the Little Crow River Watershed District on Wednesday to discuss the high water challenges being faced.

Green Lake is not alone in seeing high water damage, noted Skip Wright, southern region director of ecological and water services with the Minnesota DNR, and Ethan Jenzen, hydrologist in the DNR's Spicer office.

"It's regional and it's almost state-wide,'' said Wright of the high water problems being experienced. Other Kandiyohi County lakes, Nest and Big Kandi in particular, have also been experiencing significant damages due to high water levels.

There's no telling just how costly the high water problems will prove to be on Green Lake, but they are already substantial. Dick Gunderson with the Green Lakes Property Association said a ballpark calculation shows that 10 percent of the lakeshore has been damaged and will need more than $400,000 in repair work.

Lake resident Roger Stehn said he knows of a lakeshore owner facing a $25,000 to $30,000 expense to repair 125 feet of lakeshore.

Gunderson had to replace his sump pump in May. Since then, its replacement has been running non-stop and pumping 30,000 gallons of water each day.

Consecutive years of higher than normal precipitation and recent heavy rains have served to raise water levels to an elevation not seen since 1986. On July 27, the lake's level was 1157.91 above sea level, or .8 foot below the all-time high recorded in 1986, according to Jenzen.

A court ruling years ago requires the outlet at Lake Calhoun to be a fixed structure set at 1155.3 feet, said Wright.

A previous court ruling had also essentially led the county to abandon a diversion ditch that had been built downstream of Green Lake, possibly in the 1930s.

Water entering Green Lake is controlled by a privately-owned dam at the Olde Mill Inn. The DNR works with the operators of the dam to assure that the system is managed as "run of the river.'' The dam is kept open so that the flow into the lake is equal to the discharge at the New London dam, said Wright.

Earlier this week, the flow from the dam to Green Lake was measured at 181 cubic feet per second.

Downstream of the Lake Calhoun outlet a gauge on the Middle Fork of the Crow River at County Road 2 showed an outflow of 190 cubic feet per second, according to Jenzen.

The outflow from Green Lake could exceed the inflow if we experience a break from the above normal precipitation levels. Or, as Jenzen said at the meeting's start: "Let's hope somebody shuts off the faucet pretty soon.''

Participants encouraged landowners to consider working with the watershed project, county and DNR on natural landscaping improvements that can reduce erosion. Property owners can also contact the DNR for emergency permits to protect shoreline.

Long term, Wright warned against taking steps to change the height of the outlet structure. Lowering the outlet would lead to substantially greater problems during dry periods, he explained.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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