“It’s a whole family thing,” says Sheri Berg about being part of the state’s volunteer Citizen Lake Monitoring program for the past 33 years.
First her children helped her check the clarity of Long Lake near Detroit Lakes, and now her grandchildren accompany her. Once a week during the warm months, they lower a black and white “Secchi” disk into the lake and record the depth when it disappears.
“They all know how to do it, and sometimes we all go out together on the pontoon,” she said
When they started taking measurements in the mid-1980s, clarity in Long Lake was about 16-17 feet, but it gradually worsened, down to about 11 or 12 feet, until a few years ago when it improved again. This was a few years after most of the homes on the lake hooked up to the city sewer.
“We don’t know why but the lake is much clearer now. In fact, we had to ask them to send us a longer rope since we ran out at 25 feet and we could still see the disk!” Berg said.
She recently retired from state employment after working about the same number of years as the family has been volunteer monitors. “I probably won’t ‘retire’ from monitoring,” Berg says. “We will probably continue to do it just because the kids and grandkids love doing it so much, and I’m just always curious as to how the lake is doing.”
“The main thing right now is we are anxiously waiting for spring to see if we get the diatom bloom like we had last year,” Berg says. “That made the lake look absolutely horrible for a couple weeks and had many people worried about what was going on. Thankfully, if it happens again this year we will know it is a ‘this too shall pass’ situation and within a short period of time, all will be right with the lake and world again.”
Learn more about the program on the citizen monitoring web pages.
The diatom bloom Berg refers to received local news coverage that included an interview with the MPCA’s Andy Butzer.