Thanks to many partners and funding sources, Bald Eagle Lake in the northern Twin Cities is meeting state water quality standards for the first time since 1980. Once plagued by algal blooms and murky water, this lake near Hugo is now much healthier for recreation.
“This is an example of good science, strong collaboration, and fiscal responsibility resulting in a successful restoration project,” said Bryan Bear, Hugo city administrator.
The Rice Creek Watershed District worked with several partners and tapped many funding resources for the $1.7 million project, including:
- $497,000 from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources’ Clean Water Fund, established by the 2008 Legacy Amendment.
- $400,000 Clean Water Partnership loan from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
- Remainder from the watershed district and Bald Eagle Lake Water Management District, a special tax for lakeshore owners that was initiated by the property owners themselves.
Partners in the lake restoration included the City of Hugo, lakeshore property owners, and a local golf course. Following the implementation of the project, phosphorus and algae decreased by 67% and 69%, respectively, and clarity improved by 63%. Bald Eagle Lake is meeting state water quality standards for nutrients, algae, and clarity for the first time since 1980, when data collection began.
“Today we have more than 5 feet of water clarity on Bald Eagle Lake. I think it was closer to 8 or 10 feet this year in August. Three years ago, we were lucky to have 1 foot. I no longer need to worry about my grandsons swimming in a toxic algae bloom!” said Gary Krejcarek. He has lived on or near the lake for 40 years and is president of the Bald Eagle Area Association.
This project used a three-pronged approach to improve water quality in the lake. First, the lake was treated with aluminum sulfate, or “alum.” Alum is a non-toxic material that attaches itself to phosphorus. Once alum and phosphorus are combined, phosphorus is no longer available to stimulate algae growth. This was Minnesota’s largest full lake alum treatment.
Second, the local Oneka Ridge Golf Course installed a system that captures stormwater and reuses it for watering the golf course. This reduces the amount of stormwater flowing to the lake and reduces the use of groundwater for irrigation.
Finally, 10 residential rain gardens were installed and 6 shoreline areas restored. They capture stormwater and reduce runoff that carries phosphorous into the lake. The results may help the lake move off the impaired waters list, a rare accomplishment and a long-term process.
The project earned the Rice Creek Watershed District a special award in 2016 from the Minnesota Association of Watershed Districts. “This is particularly satisfying because the award is heavily based on the measurable results in the lake. The fact that the homeowners are pleased makes it even more gratifying,” said Matt Kocian, the district’s lake and stream specialist.
The Rice Creek Watershed District encompasses about 186 square miles of urban and rural lands in Anoka, Hennepin, Ramsey, and Washington Counties with the purpose of conserving and restoring water resources for the beneficial use of current and future generations.