LONG LAKE TOWNSHIP -- From the shore it doesn't look like much -- just a small island, maybe a quarter of an acre in size, rimmed by bulrushes and with a few ash, maples, willow and alder trees holding on against the waves.
But the island, known simply as "Lot One," plays an important role in the ecosystem of Lower South Long Lake, a 1,313-acre lake in southeast Crow Wing County. Lot One is the lake's only island and the abundant weeds in the surrounding waters serve as a water filtration system. Every lake needs a Lot One.
Yet today the future of the island is uncertain. Old-timers can remember when it was two acres in size. That was 50 years ago. Before that it was the tip of a peninsula extending into the lake from Paradise Beach. But erosion caused by waves has taken its toll. Lot One is losing ground every year and soon might be entirely submerged.
The loss of Lot One would not rank with the great natural disasters of all time, but it would be a significant event in the history of Lower South Long Lake. DNR officials say if the island goes, nearby shoreline would eventually be lost. Fish spawning habitat would be destroyed and birds would nest somewhere else. Ultimately the lake would lose part of its character and the quality of life in and around it would be diminished.
Lot One, a tiny island on Lower South Long Lake, is in danger of eroding away. As part of a restoration project the area lake association, with help from the DNR, erected a fence to block the waves created by northeast winds.
Last winter the Lower South Long Lake Association decided to save Lot One. The association contacted Terry Ebinger, an aquatic plant management specialist with the Brainerd DNR and asked what could be done. Ebinger recommended an aquatic plant restoration, a process in which native plants are transplanted around the island. The plants create a wind break for the shore, and a protected shore is less prone to erosion.
With the help of Tim Brastrup in DNR fisheries, Ebinger applied for and received grant monies totaling about $4,000. The island's owner, who lives in the Twin Cities, was contacted and gave his permission to proceed with the project.
The first step was to erect a fence that would break the waves that pound the tiny island whenever the northeast or southwest winds blow. Seven-foot posts were driven into the lake bottom and plastic snow fencing, courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Transportation, was attached. Then nearby plants, including Sweet Flag (a type of reed), bulrushes and burreed were uprooted from a location nearby and transplanted behind the fence. About 239 plants were transplanted in six hours. Sewer rock was placed at the base of the plants to hold them in place until the roots take hold.
The work was performed by lake association members Larry Tritsch, Harry Sundberg, Sue Warner, Edith Schuppel, Marian Kapusta, Bob Fischer, Al Gluck, Leonard Olson, Tom Shallbetter and Bill Shook with help from DNR employees Audrey Posterick, Lloyd Anderson, Paul Radomski, Wayne Mueller, Beth Olson and Kim Fredricks.
The crew started at 9 a.m. Thursday, June 29, and was finished by mid-afternoon. A once-vulnerable shoreline now is dotted with reeds and bulrushes waving gently in the wind, signaling better times may be ahead for Lot One. "They're looking great," Tritsch said of the new plants. "Lloyd (Anderson) and I looked at them Friday morning and the muck had really settled in. A muskrat had already eaten off some of the tops. We hope we don't have to do any varmint control but we might."
The crew still must erect signs saying "No Wake Zone" and "Project In Progress" and figure out a way to keep snowmobilers from running over the island next winter.
It will take about a year to determine whether the project is successful. Tritsch said he will check on the new plants at least once a week when he's out fishing.
"If it works, great. If not we'll go back to the drawing board," he said.
Eventually the association would like to replant all of the shoreline around the island. The end result, Tritsch said, will be better water quality.
"This is just the start," he added. "We're beginning to monitor septic systems and runoff. The work will never be done."
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