APPLETON — Visitors to Marsh Lake will continue to see lowered water levels as a result of a three-year, $13 million ecosystem restoration project, according to a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources news release.
The project is intended to provide habitat for wildlife and improve water quality by building a new water control structure and rerouting the Pomme de Terre River into its historic channel below the Marsh Lake dam.
Boat access on the lake west of Appleton is not possible as water levels are currently less than a foot deep, but boating conditions below the dam on Lac qui Parle Lake have not been impacted and remain open to boat traffic.
“The signs so far are encouraging,” Walt Gessler, Lac qui Parle wildlife area manager, said in the release. “Native vegetation is re-establishing where we had hoped, which will provide a tremendous benefit for clean water, fish and wildlife.”
Vegetation regrowth is the product of lowered water levels which mimic drought conditions, allowing vegetation to grow. Once water levels rise, vegetation helps hold the lake bottom in place, resulting in clearer water.
“The lowered water levels really represent a significant step in this ecosystem restoration project,” Dave Trauba, regional wildlife manager, said in the release. “The drawdown and vegetation growth are critical for improving water quality and habitat for fish and wildlife. That vegetation needs time to build strong roots before we can allow the water to rise and submerge that plant community.”
By next summer, vegetation is expected to be established enough for water levels to be raised once again and allowed to ebb and flow naturally with the area expected to draw large numbers of waterfowl and an improved environment for fish species.