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On a passed-down boat, Shagawa Lake water monitoring spans generations

Two men in a blue fishing boat on a lake.
Karl Scheuer's father monitoring water quality on Shagawa Lake.

Karl Scheuer has fond memories of growing up by Shagawa Lake and learning to swim, sail, fish, and explore alongside his seven siblings. He was born on the lake’s north shore and still lives within a stone’s throw of the lake.

“I’m an Ely boy through and through,” Scheuer says.

Little surprise, then, that he would volunteer to keep tabs on the lake’s health through the MPCA’s Volunteer Water Monitoring Program.

He has vivid memories as a kid in the 1960s and 1970s about his father’s concern over the lake’s water quality from sewage running off into the lake. Several years of algae blooms and warmer-than-average summers moved something in his father.  

Out of concern and a deep love for the lake, his father decided to sign up and become a water monitor for the MPCA. Scheuer recalls his father going out on the lake and taking water samples in his small boat, the same boat Scheuer inherited and uses for his own monitoring today.  

“My father loved the water,” Scheuer said. “We all do up here in lake country.”

Black and white photo of a man sitting next to a lake on a wooden platform.
Karl Scheuer's father by Shagawa Lake.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Scheuer has monitored Shagawa Lake for the last three years, but he has seen the lake change from green algae blooms in the summer to crystal-clear conditions over the course of his life.  

Scheuer recalls a pilot project from the federal government that treated wastewater and stormwater before it entered the lake. The algae blooms diminished after the treatment plant was built.  

Going out and taking transparency readings has been a great excuse to get outside and enjoy the scenery, which Scheuer can’t get enough of. As an avid fisherman, canoer, and hiker, the lake is also a source of recreation for him.  

“It’s absolutely magical up here,” Scheuer says.  

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When he’s out monitoring, Scheuer loves peering over the side of his father’s boat and seeing to the bottom of the lake, taking in the rocks and crayfish and other creatures that call the lake home.  

Like his father, Scheuer has shared his appreciation for the lakes of northern Minnesota with his own children.  

“I took my son out to the Boundary Waters a few years ago,” Scheuer said. “He was 26 at the time, but being up there, my son was like a kid again.”  

Scheuer wants those who are interested in volunteering to know that taking a water clarity reading is a simple task with plenty of meaning as the data they collect in their neighborhood helps the entire state.  

Monitoring is Scheuer’s way of getting away from his everyday routine and spending a little time on something that is “greater than himself.” 

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