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Willmar Lake soon to join list of impaired waters

Submitted The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has added Willmar Lake to its draft list of impaired water bodies in the state. The designation may aid efforts to improve water quality in the Willmar Chain of Lakes, shown above, including Foot, Willmar, Swan and Skataas. 1 / 2
Submitted The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency added Willmar Lake to its draft list of impaired waters that was released Wednesday. The impairments for turbidity and excessive nutrients and algae blooms are found in the main body of the lake. 2 / 2

WILLMAR — Willmar Lake is about to be designated as an impaired water body.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency included Willmar Lake in its draft listing released Wednesday of impaired water bodies and waterways. After public hearings, the list of water bodies to be added to the list is submitted to the federal Environmental Protection Agency for approval.

The designation could aid efforts to clean up the lake and adjoining lakes in the Willmar Chain of Lakes, according to Forrest Peterson, an information officer with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in Willmar.

The designation will make it possible for local entities to compete for grant funds to take on the nonpoint pollutants — such as pollutants carried in stormwater runoff — that are the cause of the lake's impairment. It also calls attention to the lake's problems, and may help motivate more to work on its behalf, he explained.

The designation does not reflect a sudden decline in the lake's water quality. It is being listed as impaired due to excessive levels of phosphorus, algae and suspended solids.

Those problems have been evident in the lake for many years. Water quality monitoring conducted by the Hawk Creek Watershed Project in 2008 and 2009 documented that the lake exceeded water quality standards for levels of nutrients and turbidity.

However, until last year, the MPCA had averaged the water quality measures in the main body of Willmar Lake with those from the south bay of Willmar/Foot Lake. When averaged with the deeper waters from the dredged area of Foot Lake, the standards were not exceeded.

Peterson succeeded in persuading MPCA officials to treat the main body of Willmar Lake as a separate water body and as a result, recognize the impairments.

Residents on Willmar Lake have been working to revive the Willmar-Foot Lakes Association and improve water quality, according to Craig Holmgren and Mike O'Brien. They have been concerned especially by the growth of curly pondweed in the lake. Both hope to see the curly pondweed managed before it spreads throughout the shallow water body.

And of course, O'Brien and Holmgren said they hope to reduce the inflow of nutrients that feed algae blooms and increase turbidity in the water. O'Brien said he was surprised to discover how many stormwater inlets enter the lake.

Rough fish are also a concern and both hope action can be taken to reduce their numbers.

Peterson helped host an informational meeting in April to gauge public interest in working to improve water quality in the Willmar Chain of Lakes including Foot, Willmar, Swan and Skataas. He said it was apparent that many in the community appreciate the value of these waterbodies to the community, and would like to see improvements in water quality.

Holmgren and O'Brien are also optimistic that support is there, and said the recent designation as impaired waters could help the community take on the challenges of addressing nonpoint pollution sources.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

(320) 214-4335
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