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Kandiyohi County hears about project to enhance Diamond Lake water quality discussed

WILLMAR –– A project to draw down the water of three small lakes southeast of Spicer in an effort to reduce the carp population there and improve the quality of the downstream waters in Diamond Lake was presented Tuesday to the Kandiyohi County Commissioners.

The proposal, which has been in the works for years, is a joint effort by the Middle Fork of the Crow River Watershed District, Ducks Unlimited, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Diamond Lake Area Recreational Association.

Josh Kavanagh, a regional biologist with Ducks Unlimited, said there is a lot of excitement because of the partnerships involved with the project and because the action would result in “ultimate improvements to Diamond Lake.”

The issue is phosphorous that’s coming into Diamond Lake and the presence of rough fish, like carp.

Studies show the phosphorous levels in the upstream lakes — Hubbard Lake, North Wheeler Lake, South Wheeler Lake and Schultz Lake — greatly exceed state limits, said Kavanagh.

Margaret Johnson, manager of the Middle Fork of the Crow River Watershed District, said progress has been made to improve the waters of Diamond Lake, which is a popular fishing and recreational lake in the county.

She said the elimination of many septic systems when Diamond Lake residents hooked up to the Green Lake Sanitary Sewer and Water District, as well as fish barriers, agriculture conservation and shoreland best management practices have all helped to improve water quality.

The next step, she said, is addressing the turbid upstream lakes than channel phosphorous-loaded water and undesirable fish to Diamond Lake, which spurs an annual algae bloom.

Part of the plan includes installing water control structures and fish barriers on the chain of small lakes and draining the water into County Ditch 28.

The water in the small lakes would be drawn down periodically to just a few feet to ensure a winter kill of rough fish and give the lakes time to re-establish aquatic vegetation that will improve water quality once the lakes gradually fill up again.

The commissioners were assured that draining the water into the county ditch would not negatively affect property owners and if there were any flooding risks during a heavy rain season, the draining process would be stopped.

A structure will be installed to maintain the water levels on Diamond Lake.

Commissioner Harlan Madsen, of Lake Lillian, said he has heard concerns and questions about the complex project, including outlet fees, assessed benefits and additional costs that could potentially be added to the County Ditch 28 system.

Although a detailed cost estimate has not been developed for the project, Kavanagh said that based on the cost of the four separate structures that would be installed, it’s estimated the project would cost about $1 million.

Kavanagh said Ducks Unlimited received a $4.9 million appropriation from the state’s Outdoor Heritage Fund grant and that could provide funding for the Diamond Lake project.

Informational meetings and hearings on the project will be held with affected property owners.

If adequate funding and all the permits and approvals are received, Kavanagh said construction could take place in the fall of 2015.

The commissioners also took action to accelerate efforts to establish a standing county committee on aquatic invasive species, following legislative action to fund local government programs that meet guidelines.

County Administrator Larry Kleindl said Kandiyohi County could receive $140,000 in July to fund efforts to prevent or control the spread of aquatic invasive species, such as zebra mussels.

Next year the county could receive $250,000.

Commissioners Dean Shuck and Roger Imdieke were appointed to serve on the committee, with Commissioner Doug Reese serving as the alternate.

They also appointed six other individuals who had been recommended by various organizations. Additional members will be appointed next month once organizations have submitted recommended names.

Once the full committee has been appointed, members will begin meeting to finalize a plan of action and how to appropriate funds.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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