Local group works to improve water quality of Lake Winona

Posted by HBC Newsdesk April 27, 2015

Last fall a water quality study of Lake Winona yielded some unexpected news. The results indicated the water was not as healthy as it could be. The lake has been given an impaired designation. Retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Biologist Eric Nelson explained what the designation means.

“It is a classification ecologist give a body of water if there is an issue with too many nutrients or some biological problem or some sort of pollution problem with the water,” said Nelson. “In our particular case with Lake Winona the classification was related to too many nutrients. Too much vegetation growing, too much enrichment.”

Shortly after learning of the lake’s status, a group of Winonans met with the goal of improving the water quality in Lake Winona. Pam Eyden said the name they came up with was “Healthy Lake Winona.”

“Its a group of all kinds of people: outdoors people, scientists, teachers, writers who are interested in Lake Winona,” she said.
“Last fall the pollution control agency came down and did a watershed summit talking about the state of the waters in our county and in our area. Much to our surprise we discovered that Lake Winona was listed as an impaired water.”

Eyden said the rest of the summit was spent looking for ideas of what could be done to help combat the poor water quality issue. One of those ideas is the construction of rain gardens.

“One thing we’re going to do is we are working with the City of Winona on a rain garden project. The city is going to help people to build rain gardens,” Eyden said. Rain gardens allow rain water to be held in place, instead of directly running off into the storm sewers. Winona residents are also being asked to adopt a storm water drain. The “Adopt a Storm Drain” program will include the stenciling on drains with the information of where the runoff ends up, the lake or the Mississippi River.

Several factors play a role in the “impaired” labeling of our lake. The main factor being an overdose of nutrient rich runoff that includes lawn clippings, leaves and fertilizers. Nelson said the amount of nutrients entering the lake from the watershed are adding to the enrichment of Lake Winona.

“Finding ways to reduce that input is a big goal of ours,” according to Nelson. “That’s why we are looking at the storm water items as well as looking at watersheds of the creeks.” “One of the other things we get a lot of is ducks and geese and they bring along their own waste. That waste is something that enriches the lake, its a nuisance for people who are using the trails. It’d be great to have it reduced a little bit.”

In Winona, rain runoff ends up in one of two places: the river or the lake. Healthy Lake Winona is encouraging residents to “Adopt a Storm Drain” to help reduce the flow of organic material into Lake Winona. Folks should make sure the street gutters are clean so that leaves and lawn clippings are not going into the gutter so they don’t wind up in the lake.

Nelson is taking a closer look at the run off from surrounding farm fields that eventually makes its way into the lake. “I’m looking at the watershed a little bit bigger,” he said, “Seeing what the land owners in the area could do too. Reducing that kind of runoff going into Gilmore Creek could eventually get into Boller’s Lake, around the horn and down to Lake Winona.”

Nelson would also discourage people from feeding the ducks and geese that call Lake Winona home.

To learn more about Healthy Lake Winona and to learn how you can help improve the health of Lake Winona, friend them on Facebook www.facebook.com/HealthyLakeWinona.

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