High water threatens water quality, erodes shorelines

 Last August Lone Lake residents made willow wattles, a tied bundle of just-cut willow, alder and other young woody trees, which are staked just at the shoreline to capture organic matter from the lake and break wave action. Native plants, typically planted behind the wattle, set down deep roots and become established. Wattles can also be used on steep slopes on the land. (Pictured from front to back) Dave Scott, Carrie Van Slooten, Shelley Larson, Dean Frost, Julie Nelson and Kathryn Engdahl carry a newly made willow wattle from shore to lake.

Last August Lone Lake residents made willow wattles, a tied bundle of just-cut willow, alder and other young woody trees, which are staked just at the shoreline to capture organic matter from the lake and break wave action. Native plants, typically planted behind the wattle, set down deep roots and become established. Wattles can also be used on steep slopes on the land. (Pictured from front to back) Dave Scott, Carrie Van Slooten, Shelley Larson, Dean Frost, Julie Nelson and Kathryn Engdahl carry a newly made willow wattle from shore to lake.

Living on Lone Lake, we are fortunate to be able to enjoy a lake that has some of the clearest waters in Minnesota.  It’s not uncommon to be able to see 30 feet down into the water on a summer’s day.  We have not been plagued with blooms of algae or excessive plant growth -- a sign of too much phosphorus in the lake – that is caused by soil erosion, lawn fertilizer, decomposition of leaves at the shore, and other pollution running off the land.

But with more frequent spikes of higher than normal water levels, which we’ve been experiencing since 2014, shoreline erosion threatens to create more runoff from the land, and the pollution that is carried with it.  Even before the heavy rains of May 16-19, the lake was already just about 4 inches below our lake’s Ordinary High Water Mark.

“The shore land zone where you live is the lake’s first line of defense,” according to the Aitkin County Shoreland Homeowner’s Guide to Lake Stewardship. “What you and your neighbors do--or don’t do—on your shoreland property can have a significant impact on the quality of the lake.  Managing water quality means managing the land use around the lake to reduce the amount of pollution that enters the lake.”

 Reed Canary Grass is a non-native invasive grass that crowds out more beneficial deep-rooted shoreline plants. Its blades are 1/2” wide, and the leaves stand up vertically. It is good to remove it — but don’t pull it because it will disturb the bank. Instead, “swipe” the leaves using rubber gloves and a cloth with a product like Rodeo if near the water, or make a home mix of Dawn detergent, vinegar and salt.

Reed Canary Grass is a non-native invasive grass that crowds out more beneficial deep-rooted shoreline plants. Its blades are 1/2” wide, and the leaves stand up vertically. It is good to remove it — but don’t pull it because it will disturb the bank. Instead, “swipe” the leaves using rubber gloves and a cloth with a product like Rodeo if near the water, or make a home mix of Dawn detergent, vinegar and salt.

With persistent high water, “it’s really been challenging the last few years,” said Shelley Larson, preservation expert with Hayland Woods Nursery.  “We’ve been seeing water quality decline in lakes.” Shelley will be leading a second educational session and hands-on workshop to teach us about lakeshore preservation strategies and techniques at the lake on Saturday, June 10 starting at 10 a.m. Location: Dave Scott’s home at 29789 380th Ave. (Location may change – details will be published via email.)

New techniques, borrowed from nature, are replacing rip-rap, the traditional rock-based shore protection approach. “The old idea of rip-rap…the ice just shoves it back and eventually it just collapses,” she said. Instead, today, homeowners are encouraged to use natural woody materials such as fiber bundles and willow-wattles along the lakeshore. Planting native plants in the water and along the shoreline will “protect the toe,” she explained – the place where the water meets the lake.”  They will “absorb the energy of the waves.”

With Shelley’s guidance and funds from an Aitkin Co. Soil and Water conservation grant, a LLPOA team is working with interested homeowners to assess their lots and shorelines, and recommend erosion control and planting approaches.

If you are interested in participating and/or learning more, please attend the June 10 workshop, and/or contact Dave Scott at 218-927-2967, or Jennifer O’Neill at 218-839-6825. We will be publishing more information on our web site throughout the year: www.lonelake.org.