This is a long-awaited win

Watershed board unanimously approves dredging permit for Fountain Lake

In a vote that received a standing ovation from meeting attendees, the Watershed District board of managers completed the last step necessary before movement can begin to dredge Fountain Lake.

“This is a long-awaited win for the Watershed District,” Shell Rock River Watershed District Administrator Brett Behnke said.

The Shell Rock River Watershed District voted to approve the limited dredging permit set forth by the Minnesota Department of Resources. This permit differs from the one offered to the Watershed District in October, which Behnke said then was approximately 200,000 cubic yards shy of their goal.

Director of field operations Andy Henschel said the updated permit allows the Watershed District to dredge 92 percent of the proposed volume and is approximately 70,000 cubic yards short between the two contracts. However, the district could make up that 8 percent with additional soil borings allowed by the DNR in areas of best management practice and in-question areas within the lake, he said.

“Pretty much every inch of this lake has been negotiated,” Henschel said.

Watershed District Attorney Matt Benda said he worked closely with DNR Ecological and Water Resources Deputy Director Steve Colvin in negotiating the permit that was passed.

“On our side, we were trying to make sure that what we permitted conformed to our rules, particularly relating to things like not being detrimental to significan fish and wildlife habitat or preserving the natural character of public waters — trying to ensure that … what was removed was indeed sediment and not natural lake bottom,” Colvin said. “And so that led to a series of exchanges around three basic issues the shoreland setback … (shoreline) the steepness of the cut or the slopes for the dredging project and then the bottom elevation of the finished completed dredging.”

According to Benda, the biggest negotiation with the DNR was in regards to bottom depths. Benda said the limited permit turned out well for the district.

“All your objectives should be hit with this map,” he said.

According to Henschel, the DNR compromised more on the distance required for dredge setbacks from the bank, while the Watershed District compromised more on side slope ratios.

“In the case of the shoreline setback, we were particularly interested in ensuring that what they call the riparian area, or … the shallow vegetated area of the lake where most of the fish spawning and nursery areas and feeding areas and stuff are, was reasonably protected throughout, and we wanted to make sure that the slopes were stable but also that they were consistent with the types of slopes we observe in lakes in this part of the state in general,” Colvin said.

The first phase of the dredge includes two contracts: one for the Edgewater Bay area, and one for Dane Bay and the main bay.

In Edgewater Bay, the approved permit has reduced the shore offset in most areas to between 30 and 75 feet from the shore, with one stretch of 100-foot setback and three of 150 feet. Most of Edgewater Bay has retained the DNR’s preferred 10:1 side slope ratio.

While the DNR did not agree to dredging in two bay areas in a northwest and southwest corner of Edgewater Bay, the Watershed District will be creating a 30-foot wide channel for boats to move in and out from dock areas.

In the main bay, the approved permit has reduced the shore offset to 100 feet or less in all areas, but all areas save one have kept the DNR’s preferred 10:1 side slope ratio. In Dane Bay, the approved dredging setback is 30 feet all the way around with a 4:1 side slope ratio.

Additionally, when the Watershed District plans to execute the soil borings, Henschel said the permit includes an amendment process that will allow the Watershed District to notify the DNR of their intent and to move forward and avoid repeating the dredging permit process upon proper coordination.

Watershed board manager Dan DeBoer said he is glad the permit was amended.

“To do it right sometimes takes longer, and I think what we see here it’s gonna be a project that’s right,” DeBoer said.

Lakes Foundation member Susie Petersen led the standing ovation after the vote to approve the limited permit.

“The gems in our community are our lakes,” Petersen said.

Henschel said the next step is to accept bids for dredging Fountain Lake. According to a press release, the Shell Rock River Watershed District is having a special meeting Jan. 4 to authorize the process for hiring a dredging contractor.

“Spring of ’18 is when I see a dredge in the water,” Henschel said.

© 2015 Shell Rock River Watershed District, 305 S 1st Avenue, Albert Lea, MN 56007