What is the best way to protect area lakes?
That is what Crow Wing County wants to discover. Tuesday, the county board approved a plan to apply for grant money to update its water plan, including ways to protect water quality. The plan was submitted by the Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District, which serves as the county's water plan adviser.
The Board of Soil and Water Resources invited the county to apply for grants as $150,000 has been set aside for counties in the process of updating water plans.
The SWCD reports that lakes cover nearly 14 percent of the county's surface area. The plan is to start with assessments of lakes greater than 1,000 acres as they are some of the most popular in the county and thus face greater stress on water quality, native species and habitat, the SWCD reported.
The 15 largest lakes in the county include some that cross county borders into Cass and Aitkin counties. The SWCD is proposing full assessments of those 15 lakes - Gull, Whitefish, Edward, North Long, Round, Upper South Long, Roosevelt, Platte, Serpent, Borden, Cross, Big Trout, Pelican, Bay and Hubert.
The SWCD wants to see what the water quality is like in the county and to develop specific strategies to improve it where needed. A joint application is planned with Aitkin and Cass counties, which were planning their own water updates. The SWCD will apply for grants totaling $20,000 to $25,000 per county. Aitkin County is expected to include Mille Lacs and Cedar lakes in their assessment plan.
Full lake assessments mean testing water quality using a state-certified lab and taking the influences of the larger watershed into consideration. The money includes costs for lab testing, staff time and educational projects.
Keith Pohl, SWCD district manager, said that in areas where water quality has been monitored, it will be a matter of coordinating data and making sure assessments have been completed. Pohl said the SWCD also wants to strengthen its working relationship with lake associations.
The county board approved a second grant application, which may be between $35,000 and $50,000, to monitor lakes between 500 and 1,000 acres. The SWCD would coordinate the plan using volunteer help and would look at lakes without water quality data already established.
The SWCD reported that the goal through it all will be to make sure that all the lakes 1,000 acres and greater are assessed for water quality and then work down to the smaller lakes.
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5852.
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