Neighbors, county join together to keep lake clean; road ﬁxed, run-off sent to new holding pond
Sometimes nature needs a nudge to right its course. That’s what happened when 23 Lone Lake residents teamed up with Aitkin County and a local excavator. Because of their efforts, polluting run-oﬀ from badly rutted 297th Lane is now being diverted into a new sedimentation pond rather than spilling directly into Lone Lake. Improvements to the road, were completed this fall after ﬁve years of neighborhood discussions, fundraising and ﬁnally, design and construction.
During rapid thaws, water spread across lawns and ﬂowed directly into the lake.
It was “a high priority project,” said Steve Hughes, District Manager, Aitkin County Soil and Water Conservation District (SCWD). “Lone Lake is one of the nicest lakes in the county.” The unimproved road acted as a ditch with water carrying dirt and debris from surrounding hills, especially after big spring thaws and heavy rain storms. “To quantify the environmental impact is hard to say, but the improvements will stop sediment and they will not go into the lake. It is signiﬁcant,” Hughes said.
Water carved deep gashes into the lane making travel difﬁcult.
A chain of conversations and plans began after particularly drenching rains in 2009, when Dave Scott, LLPOA board member, saw a delta of sand and debris in the lake. It was obvious that it had come from up the hill and across the road. Scott takes regular water clarity readings and reports them to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. “Being the water quality guy,” he said, “I knew we wanted to keep silt out of the lake.” Neighbors met and talked about design options, and, importantly, how to pay for the work, recalled Jerry and Julie Nelson, two of the project organizers.
The view up 297th Lane shows the rip-rap alongside the road, which will signiﬁcantly slow down the ﬂow of the water. Grasses are planted under the cloth to further stablize the hillside.
In September, armed with a design from John Welle, Aitkin County highway engineer, Larry Liljenquist, Liljenquist Sewer and Excavating, reshaped and resurfaced the 1,000 ft. gravel track. They created a rock filled spillway adjacent to it and planted grass to prevent erosion. Now when water runs, it will stop ﬁrst in a small pond, which is made to let the sediment settle and to allow only clean water to enter the lake.
The next phase of the project is planned for next spring. Lone Lake volunteers will work with Jim Ravis, Minnesota Master Gardener, and SWCD to plant deep-rooted, rain garden plants in the pond and native, bird and pollinator friendly plants further up the hill where the environment is drier. “The plants take up the water through their roots and it transpires into the atmosphere. It won’t go directly into the lake.“ Hughes explained.
The retaining pond is designed to ﬁlter the water so that leaves and other organic matter stay on the pond ﬂoor. A rain garden and meadow will be planted in the spring.
The ﬁrst phase of the project cost ($33,650 with the state and county providing 75 percent of the funding, and local residents funding the remainder. Aitkin County officials and Mille Lacs Electric also donated labor and expertise.