Fifteen years ago, Powderhorn Lake in Minneapolis was in a dismal state — trash floated on the surface, the shoreline was eroding, and fertilizer and animal waste running off from the surrounding neighborhood caused frequent algae blooms.
Years of neglect had taken their toll. Loss of natural vegetation, urbanization of the surrounding area, and increased stormwater runoff had all contributed to a decline in the lake’s water quality. In 2002, the lake was placed on the impaired waters list.
But today, thanks to the efforts of residents, the city and other groups, Powderhorn Lake is a poster child for what can happen when citizens and government work together to create change.
In early 2000, an effort to clean up the lake was launched. Virtually all water coming into the lake comes from storm sewer lines. In the area around the lake, storm drains move rainwater runoff into storm sewer lines and directly into the lake.
As a first step, the city began infrastructure improvements like installing grit chambers around the lake. Grit chambers capture stormwater runoff before it enters the lake, allowing sediment and other debris to settle out. In addition, work was done on retaining walls and an aeration system was put in to oxygenate the water, which helps the fish and also reduced the release of phosphorus from the bottom of the lake.
In 2004, the park system lined the shoreline of the lake with barley straw bales to suppress algae growth. Next, native plants were put in along the shoreline to stabilize the shoreline and provide wildlife habitat. Shoreline plantings also improve water quality by filtering rainfall runoff before it enters the lake.
Residents around the lake planted more than 100 rain gardens. Rain gardens feature native plants, which help to keep rainwater on-site. The park also began managing the lake's fish population: Channel catfish were stocked to eat the sunfish that stirred up sediment on the bottom.
All that work pays off
The lake is cleaner, there is less phosphorus causing algae blooms and residents can take pride in their neighborhood full of beautiful raingardens. Powderhorn Lake is now a favored fishing spot for bluegills, largemouth bass, black bullheads and channel catfish (which are stocked annually by the DNR).
In 2012 Powderhorn Lake was removed from the impaired waters list. In 2013, Minneapolis CityPages named Powderhorn Lake the "best lake of 2013."
Partners in Powderhorn Lake cleanup
Many residents, government agencies, neighborhood groups and nonprofits were involved in cleaning up Powderhorn Lake. Project partners in the Powderhorn Lake clean up included Metro Blooms, the city of Minneapolis, the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board, the Mississippi River Green Team, the Conservation Corps of Minnesota, Hennepin County Master Gardeners, more than 100 volunteers and more than 120 residents in the Powderhorn neighborhood who installed rain gardens.
For more information
Find more information about what Minnesota is doing to reduce nutrients in our lakes and streams, go to the nutrient reduction strategy webpage.
Looking for information about how your lake or stream? Visit the MPCA’s online water quality dashboard.