Progress reports on water quality highlight annual Shell Rock River Watershed meeting

On March 10, the Shell Rock River Watershed Board of Managers and community members received details on water quality improvements across the watershed as a result of 10 years of project work. 

“This is an impressive flow of grant dollars through the years, over $25 million in addition to funds from the local option sales tax, that is showing tremendous results,” said Board Chairman Gary Pestorious.

For over a decade the Shell Rock River Watershed has compiled water monitoring data, first using volunteers, but now collected by the district. To date, the SRRWD monitors a total of 13 stream locations, and eight lakes in 12 different locations. All data is then composed into an annual report that can be used to track district projects for success and identify and target areas of concern. These reports help the district identify changes and trends within the watershed.

According to Conservation Technician Jerad Stricker 2015 data showed significant progress in a number of areas. The 2015 streams report showed a significant decrease in the total suspended solids being transported to Fountain Lake from Wedge Creek.

“Wedge Creek suspended solids loads were lower than their yearly average by almost 50 percent,” Sticker explained. “This can be largely attributed to the completion of the Wedge Creek Stream Restoration Project.”

Another notable finding from the report showed Pickerel Lake attained all three state shallow lake standards. After the Pickerel Lake reclamation, charity and chlorophyll-A had values that attained standards. Last year was the first year phosphorus values were also below the standards.

“This is a critical finding because it can lead to the delisting of Pickerel Lake from the State Impaired Waters List,” said District Administrator Brett Behnke. “This would be a significant milestone, marking the first lake to achieve the delisting goal.”

Andy Henschel, director of field operations, gave an update of the significant projects completed by the district in 2015, including the Wedge Creek Stream Restoration, Goose Lake Fish Barrier, and the Albert Lea Lake Dam and Fish Barrier.

“After many years of hard work and dedication, the district completed a state-of-the-art outlet structure for Albert Lea Lake. Collaboration between many agencies made this project successful,” stated Henschel. “This fish barrier will protect Albert Lea’s prized chain of lakes from growing threat of invasive species. We appreciate the ongoing support of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council for investing in our work.”

Henschel also previewed a list of district projects to be completed in 2016. These include Twin Lakes Fish Barrier, Upper Twin Lake Pumping Station, Pickerel Lake Dam and construction of the confined disposal facility for the Fountain Lake Restoration Project.

“I want to congratulate the outstanding work by the staff of the watershed,” said Pestorious. “The success of these projects is critical to achieving the vision for water quality within the watershed and Albert Lea.”

Details of the watershed’s projects and the next generation water plan can be found at www.shellrock.org/.

The mission of the Shell Rock River Watershed District is to implement reasonable and necessary improvements to the water-related and other natural resources of the district. For more information on this project and other work of the district go to www.shellrock.org/.

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