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Partnership yields cleaner lake

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 11/21/2012 1:09 PM

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WATERVILLE, Minn. — Dave Henning leads the way through the trees to the ravine that carries water from the farm field across the road to Reeds Lake.

The whole corner was heavily eroded, he said, gesturing to an area now covered with rocks and leaves.

On March 28, 2005, after two days of heavy rain, Henning said, significant water runoff occurred through the ravine into the lake. The water was a dirty brown, carrying soil into the lake.

Henning, who is president of the Reeds Lake Association, started asking questions in his quest to stop the ravine's erosion and keep the water clean in the lake he treasures.

He found help at the Waseca County Soil and Water Conservation District.

They applied for and received Section 319 grant funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to repair the erosion in the ravine and install check dams. The grant covered 75 percent of the project's $14,454 cost. The remaining 25 percent was paid for by the three lakeshore landowners whose property the ravine crosses.

The ravine repairs included the installation of two rock check dams with settling basins. The water ponds behind the check dam before flowing over when it reaches a certain elevation.

The agricultural landowner across the way agreed to leave a grassed waterway and in spring 2009 enrolled 1.5 acres in the Conservation Reserve

Program. It was enrolled for 10 years through continuous CRP, said Marla Watje, Waseca SWCD district manager.

"We didn't take a whole lot of land out of production to get huge results," Watje said.

About 27 acres of surface water drains through the CRP area before it flows through a culvert to the ravine. There is additional tile water draining into the ravine.

The water coming out of the culvert is much cleaner now that the land is in perennial vegetation, said Gordy Jindra, vice president of Reeds Lake Association, which formed in June 2007. Sixty-seven homes ringing the roughly 184-acre lake and 51 people belong to the lake association.

The changes in the ravine have resulted in changes in the lake. The silt fan at the edge of the ravine has stopped growing, Watje said.

"We're dumping the silt in the ravine," she said. There is less silt now because the deep roots in the CRP ground hold soil in place. The roots also aid in water infiltration.

The ravine will have to be cleaned at some point because it will likely fill with sediment and stop performing its purpose of keeping sediment out of the lake.

"I think it's a very clean lake," Jindra said, and the lakeshore property owners want to keep it that way.

Last week, Dave and Marge Henning hosted a group of about 60 people who came to view the ravine, the CRP ground and a rain gutter the couple have installed. The tour was sponsored by the newly forming Le Sueur River Watershed Network.

Patrick Moore said he hopes to inspire projects between lakeshore homeowners and farmers throughout the Le Sueur River Watershed. Moore is executive director of Clean Up the River Environment.

It's rare to see farmers and rural homeowners work together on projects, Watje said.

But Moore wants to change that. He hopes events like the tour and the potluck supper that followed build bridges between the two groups who have common goals, but may not meander in the same social circles.

It's a lot of little projects that will make a difference, Henning said.

"Any work we do is going to help," Watje added.

Reeds Lake is a popular lake for fishing and other recreation. Jindra is involved in an effort to stock the lake with fingerlings that are hatched at the Waterville DNR Fisheries Station and put into a pond down the road as fry. When they reach about four inches, they are placed into Reeds Lake.

The lake association is also working to stop the spread of the invasive curly leaf pondweed. It's an invasive species that shows up in early spring and is usually gone by July, Jindra said. It affects fishing and water skiing.

The lake drains into Lake Elysian.