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Supervisors Discuss DNR’s Blue Wing Marsh Project

By Staff | May 4, 2010

A project to help improve water quality for the Lost Island Lake complex was discussed with the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors during the April 27 meeting of the board. Mark Gulick of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources explained the theory of the project to the board, while asking for the county to make a commitment to assist in the project. Also attending the meeting was Larry Rustan, a member of the Lost Island Lake Protective Association.

“The whole aim of this effort is going to be to reduce the turbidity of Lost Island Lake and thus improve the overall water quality,” Gulick explained. “This is just a huge project that is going to do a lot of good.”

According to Gulick, a habitat specialist out of the DNR’s Spirit Lake Fisheries Bureau, a study completed by Iowa State University showed that the actual watershed of Lost Island Lake, north of Ruthven, was actually in pretty good shape, but that the actual turbidity problem in the lake itself was due to a huge overabundance of carp.

“Carp root around on the bottom of the lake, stirring up the mud and that releases the phosphorus into the water, which promotes the growth of algae and that is what creates the turnover, when the water gets green from the algae,” Gulick explained. “Lost Island just has a huge population of carp. The Fisheries bureau has determined there are 400 to 450 pounds of carp to the acre in Lost Island. That’s a lot of carp,”

The only way to remove carp, short of completely draining the lake or killing off all of the fish, will be to aggressively remove the carp. “That’s where we have a commercial operation come in there and fish the waters beyond economic gain,” Gulick explained. “Our goal is to reduce that population down to 100 pounds of carp to the acre. Once we do that, then we will restock the lake with Northerns and Walleye to improve the fishery.”

Gulick noted that in a recent week’s work, a commercial fishing operation removed 100,000 pounds of rough fish from the lake, and another 170,000 pounds had been removed in limited operations during the past winter.

Another part of the project that focuses on the carp problem will be to exclude the carp from areas where they breed, primarily the Blue Wing marsh, Barringer Slough and the DU Marsh areas. To do that , five fish barriers will be constructed between the lakes and the outlets of the marshes and sloughs, along with four water control structures at Bluue Wing, located on the southeast corner of the lake, as well as Barringer Slough and DU Marsh areas.

“I’m also here to ask the county to consider partnering with the DNR in one aspect of this project,” Gulick added. “The outlet of Blue Wing Marsh runs under 355 Avenue, and we’d like to remove the existing metal culverts under the road and replace them with a concrete box culvert.”

As part of that project, a control structure and a fish barrier would be constructed in close proximity to the area, and Gulick estimated the costs of the work at Blue Wing to be around $60,000.

“If the county could make some kind of contribution towards this project, it would be a great help to making this overall project a great benefit for Lost Island Lake, its residents and eventually the county in terms of additional visitors to the area,” Gulick noted.

Palo Alto County Engineer Joel Fantz offered a recommendation that the county could participate by making a cash investment of around $13,000 towards the project, and also making in-kind contributions through the Secondary Road Department doing the actual surface work after the replacement of the culvert on 355 Avenue, and re-paving that spot in the roadwa, valued at approximately $8,000, along with inspection and maintenance services, valued at $5-6,000, for a total of around $27,000 worth of county contribution.

“That would certainly be a form of economic development, I would think,” observed Supervisor Leo Goeders, with other board members agreeing in principle.

“We know in large projects, there will be benefits, and this would affect around 2,000 acres,” agreed Supervisor Ron Graettinger. “Clean water attracts people, that’s for sure.”

Gulick noted there will be a public meeting in June to explain the complete project. He invited the board to attend the meeting, and expressed appreciation for the board’s consideration of assistance. “What you’re proposing is very generous and would be greatly appreciated.”

“I have no problem with doing something like this,” agreed Supervisor Keith Wirtz. “We’ll benefit from more than just better fishing there. This will also improve water skiing and swimming, too.”