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Silver Lake Restoration Meeting Raises Questions

By Staff | Sep 7, 2016

For over 12,000 years, since the retreat of the glaciers, a small, shallow lake, known as Silver Lake, has been important to the area and to the town of Ayrshire. Years ago the lake was popular for swimming and there was even a dance hall located at the old park. Unfortunately, Silver Lake, like many other lakes in the state, has problems with silting and nitrogen and phosphorus levels. Today, the future of Silver Lake hangs in the balance.

Over 50 concerned citizens attended a meeting with the Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and representative from Iowa State University to discuss the future of Silver Lake, located west of Ayrshire.

“Lake restoration is not a done deal. They are not turning the lake into weed patch. The purpose of the meeting to night is to present our concerns and have an open discussion with the DNR, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and ISU,” Monty Leu, area resident began.

According to George Antoniou, Lake Restoration Program Coordinator, Silver Lake was not one of the lakes considered a priority lake in 2007 when the lake restoration program began. It was only when members of the local community petitioned the Director of the DNR in 20012 to include Silver Lake as a priority lake for restoration within the State’s Lake Restoration Program was the lake looked at.

“Silver Lake is what is considered a shallow water lake,” Antoniou said. ” The main inflow of water comes from Drainage District 6 as well as three unnamed streams and it outflows into Silver Creek. With a surface area of 642 acres, it has what is considered a large watershed, 8,227 acres. With such a large watershed, the lake is more susceptible to nutrient enrichment.”

Antoniou went on to say that the information gathering stage has been completed by ISU and Silver Lake is currently in the Planning and Development Stage and the importance of putting together a steering committee to determine what steps to take to improve the water quality of the water.

“We do not want the lake to become a bed of weeds. Many people have built houses on the lake in recent years and no one want to look out their window and see weeds,” Randy Neimen area resident said.

Iowa State University completed a Diagnostic and Feasibility Study in January that began in April 2014. According to Chris Filstoup, Silver Lake has high nitrogen and phosphorus content, large amounts of algae that is dominated by Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae), high sediment loading from the watershed and reduced transparency, which has resulted in stunted sport fishing.

“Our study determined that Drainage District 6 is responsible for the majority of the nitrogen and phosphorus in Silver Lake,” Filstoup said. “That is where efforts need to concentrate first.”

ISU representative John Downing discussed several restoration alternatives for Silver Lake. He explained that because the lake is shallow, water transparency would most likely improve to 1.9 feet from the current 1.2 feet. By reducing the phosphorus amount coming into the lake by 65 percent.

“The focus needs to be on reducing the nutrient levels in the lake, with a main focus on the northeast watershed area, which is where the greatest concentration of phosphorus is coming from,” Downing said. “By doing nothing there will be little improvement in the water quality in Silver Lake.”

Downing gave some ideas on what can be done to control phosphorus coming into the lake from this area which included enhancing already established wetlands, creating new wetlands, maintaining existing retention ponds and creating a native grass buffer around the lake perimeter.

“How long would it take for people who don’t do the studies to see improvement?” Dave Smith, area resident questioned.

“It would take from five to ten years,” Downing responded.

“As a small business owner, we depend on those folks who live on the lake as well as the rest of our residents. We have a beautiful lake and damn you people if you let these people come in and destroy it,” Tony Terveer stated.

With other discussion that at times put people on the defensive, it was concluded that steering committees needed to be organized. These committees could then sit down with the DNR and ISU representative and come up with a workable plan that would improve the water quality in Silver Lake and restore the recreational and sport fishing use of the lake.