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Shell Rock River Watershed District Receives Legacy Funds for Two Fish Barriers

On May 25, 2009, Governor Pawlenty signed into law the framework and initial funding allocation for the Dedicated Funding flowing from the Constitutional Amendment passed in November 2008. This action will send $655,000 in funds to the Shell Rock River Watershed District to construct three fish barriers on Fountain Lake.

According to Board Chair, Al Bakken, “We were ecstatic when we received this news from St. Paul. Receipt of this new funding source is confirmation that we are moving in the right direction and furthers our goal of leveraging our local sale-tax dollars.”

In March, the Shell Rock River Watershed District passed the first major hurdle in being one of only 19 state-wide projects to receive the recommendation of the Lessard Outdoor Heritage Council, to that protect, restorer and enhance habitats for fish, game and wildlife.

As detailed in the Project Plan submitted to the Lessard Council, “[The District]” will install fish barriers at two locations in the Watershed District to exclude carp and other rough fish that destroy fish habits and aquatic vegetation and stir-up phosphorous rich sediments that cause algal blooms and cause water quality impairments. The project will allow for effective carp control in an effort to improve fish habitat, fish spawning and habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife.” District Administrator, Brett Behnke, also emphasized, “Improving fish habitat has a clear and measurable added value in improving water quality and aquatic vegetation.”

The District is required to obtain the approval of the Minnesota Department of Resources and have a work-plan approved by the Lessard Council prior to completion of the projects. According to Behnke, “These projects allow us to continue our relationship with the DNR and take us another step closer to completing the Fountain Lake Restoration and Management Plan and eventually obtaining the green light on dredging.”

The Shell Rock River Watershed District was established in 2003 and covers 246 square miles in Freeborn County. In 2005, Albert Lea voters approved a 10-year, ½ % local option sales tax to fund the District’s clean water efforts

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Mud Lake Electric Fish Barrier

What is an Electric Fish Barrier? An electric fish barrier can be thought of as an impenetrable barricade. It works like this: You have two or more electrodes passing currents through a medium which is the water. This creates an electrical field. When the fish swims in the electrical field it becomes part of the electrical circuit which allows the current to run through the fish. The use of both alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC) have been used in electrical fish barriers, but most barriers use DC current because it is less stressful on the fish. This current causes the fish to have a small twitch to make it turn around or causes a paralyzing twitch that makes it flow downstream until it comes out of its paralysis.


Why place a barrier in front of Mud and Pickerel Lake? In the last four years Pickerel Lake has had water clarity less than 6 inches by mid-June. A large contributor to the poor water quality of the lake is due to the carp. The Carp up-root all the aquatic vegetation and stir up bottom sediment. This re-suspends phosphorus into the water column where the algae uses this phosphorus to explode into large algae blooms, thus making the lake look like pea soup. The DNR has done test netting on Pickerel Lake. They estimate that the pounds of carp per/acre on Pickerel lake is between 1,000 to 1,500 pounds. The Watershed District felt that Pickerel and Mud lakes were acting like Carp nurseries that transport carp to the rest of the lakes in the District. This can influence water quality in the lakes downstream of Pickerel and Mud Lakes.

The Fish barrier location is at the outlet of Mud Lake West of Albert Lea on County Rd. 46 and is located on property owned by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The outlet is an un-named creek that flows East through Shoff Park and enters into Dane’s Bay.

The purpose for the barrier is to prevent rough fish from traveling from Fountain Lake to Mud and Pickerel Lake to spawn and reproduce. We did this by replacing 3 existing culverts at the outlet of Mud Lake and replaced them with 62 inch and 42 inch culverts which have four metal bands placed inside of them. From the downstream side of the culvert to the upstream side of the culverts, the electricity (DC) current is increased in these bands. The further they swim up the culvert the more of a shock they will get. If that doesn’t detour them, they would hit the fourth band. This band will have enough of a shock to paralyze them and send them back down stream.

On December 16, 2008 the barrier will become operational, once we are sure that the backup systems are working and we have no chance for fish to pass through the barrier. In the fall of 2009, the Minnesota DNR will perform a fish kill on both Pickerel Lake and Mud Lake. The plan is to re-stock Pickerel Lake with Northern and Perch in the spring of 2010. This should greatly increase the water quality of both Pickerel and Mud Lake and also the water flowing to Fountain Lake.



Fish Barrier Photos