Fountain Lake Restoration Project
Boosting Efforts to Improve Water Quality, Recreation, and Fish Habitat
The City of Albert Lea and the Shell Rock River Watershed District (SRRWD) are partnering to request $7.5 million in state funding for the dredging of Fountain Lake in Albert Lea. By dredging the accumulated sediment, we seek to improve Fountain Lake’s water quality, fishery, and recreational opportunities.
Fountain Lake and its three bays—Bancroft, Danes, and Edgewater—are central to the City of Albert Lea’s tourism industry and identity. The 555-acre lake, with its adjacent parks, is a popular summertime destination for boating, swimming, water skiing, fishing, canoeing, and kayaking.
Fountain Lake has a tributary watershed of approximately 63,000 acres, which consists primarily of agricultural land.
Runoff from the upstream watershed includes sediment and pollutants such as phosphorous, which are conveyed to the lake through streams, ditches, and storm sewer pipes. Historically, large deposits of sediment and phosphorus in the lake have hampered the lake’s water quality.
Water Quality Concerns in Fountain Lake
Over the past 10 years, the summer-average water clarity in Fountain Lake has been only 1.5 feet—well below the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA’s) standard (see graphic at right). And in 2008, the lake was included on Minnesota’s impaired waters list. As a result, the SRRWD has been partnering with the MPCA on a Total Maximum Daily Load study to determine pollution-reduction strategies necessary to help the lake meet state water quality standards.
The SRRWD and its partners have been proactive in their efforts to improve water quality in Fountain Lake. In addition to stabilizing upstream creeks, repairing failing septic systems, and managing populations of rough fish in upstream lakes, the partners have actively promoted agricultural practices that support conservation efforts. While these recent measures have helped, overall phosphorous levels remain high.
How Dredging Works
Hydraulic dredging, which uses suction pumps and piping to move dredged material and water from the lake bottom directly to a storage or disposal site, is the best technique for sediment removal. The dredged material is typically disposed of at a permitted solid waste facility or off-site location. It can
also be reused as fill, road sub-base, or in land applications.
Dredging, sludge storage, and disposal are estimated to cost between $12 and $18 for each cubic yard of sediment removed.
With a total dredge-volume estimate of 1,000,000 cubic yards, the estimated project cost is $15 million. The City of Albert Lea and the SRRWD will fund half of this cost through a local option sales tax.
The clarity of Fountain Lake has shown improvement in the past three years, which is likely a result of the ongoing watershed management activities. However, phosphorus levels within the lake remain high, due in part to phosphorus from the lake sediments. It is the SRRWD’s goal to reduce the internal source of phosphorus through dredging.