Eco Voyageur Program
Reprinted with permission of the Atwater Sunfish Gazette
See photos under Educational Programs link
Thanks to the collaboration of the ACGC School District, the Diamond Lake Association and Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center (PWELC), area 5th-graders had the opportunity to learn an important lesson on Diamond Lake Wednesday, May 16.
Simply put, that lesson was “When it comes to water, we’re all in the same boat!”
The students and their teachers spent about half the day engaged in a new Prairie Woods outreach program called Eco Voyageur. The program allow students to learn about water through hands-on experiences on a lake or river near their own school, in the case Diamond Lake, located northwest of Atwater.
It is anticipated that 5th-graders who participate in Eco Voyageur, will be able to:
•List four ways water is used by human communities. •Identify that water is continuously recycle. •Recognize why water conservation is important. •List three ways we can protect water resources. •Demonstrate ability to work in a group to paddle the Big Canoe.
The 34 foot voyageur, donated to the program by Charles and Marjorie Dickman, accommodates up to 16 people and requires a great deal of teamwork to maneuver.
The students received their canoe paddling training first on dry land where they learned how to cooperate in order to make the canoe go forward, back up, turn and pivot. Each student was supplied with a paddle and a life jacket (donated by the Willmar Area Community Foundation) which they were required to wear.
While one group was engaged in the one-hour Big Canoe Adventure, other parts of the class were participating in one of the other learning activities.
One such activity was a water conservation lesson called “A Drop in the Bucket.” Here students learned how much of the earth is water, how much is available fresh water, how we use water every day and finally, they received and exchanged water conservation ideas.
Students also had the opportunity to learn about watersheds and how they work, point and non-point source pollutants and to go on a “critter search.” They used small seines to dip lake water and examine it under microscopes to see what kind of invisible life abounds in the lake.
Finally, they put their new perspective on conservation into practice by participating in a clean-up service project. The Eco Voyageur program is available within 75 miles of Prairie Woods thanks to grant funding by Northern Environmental Support Trust.
PWELC provides advance training for teachers and will also train select high school students as assistant facilitators. Educators interested in involving their students (grades 4 through 7) in Eco Voyageur should contact Anne Dybsetter at the Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center in Spicer. Her phone number is 320-354-5894 or you may e-mail her at email@example.com.
by Matt Redenius, ReStore Manager
The Habitat for Humanity of West Central Minnnesota (HFHWCM) ReStore business, located at 4078 Hwy 71 NW in Willmar, serves two main purposes. One is to sell donated items in order to get funding to continue the worthwhile work of HFHWCM of building homes for local families in need. Another is the environmental benefit of keeping these donated items out of the landfill. Depending on the item(s) being donated, there is a pick-up service available. The donor receives a tax deductible donation form for donating used (but in very good condition) or new household or construction items. If any has cabinets in good condition that are being replaced, or a refrigerator in good working order that is being replaced, please consider donating these to the ReStore. Many other household and building items are also accepted. To see a list of these items, and to learn more about the facility, please visit our website at www.willmarrestore.com. The store is open Wednesday through Friday from 10:00-6:00 and Saturday from 10:00-4:00. Donations are accepted on Mondays and Tuesdays from 9:00-5:00 in addition to the normal store operating hours. Please call 214-7280 for any additional questions you may have.
by Jim Teschendorf
The Diamond Lake Recreational Association sub-committee for water quality met on May 29, 2007 to listen to a presentation by Michael Christensen from “SolarBee” technologies Inc. The sub-committee was formed to investigate and research opportunities for water quality improvement strategies. Keeping with this initiative, the committee invited Michael Christensen to talk about and share how “SolarBee” technology could support water quality improvement initiatives for Diamond Lake. In attendance at the meeting were water quality improvement committee members, and two representatives from the Middle Fork Crow River Watershed District.
Pump Systems Inc., the parent company, has been in the water improvement business since 1978. The solar powered water circulation technology was developed in 1998. In September 2001, Pump Systems Inc. named the new technology “SolarBee”. January 2007 Pump Systems Inc. formed the present operating division “SolarBee” Inc.
Christensen’s “Solar Bee” power point presentation and video demonstration were very informative and helped to understand how the “SolarBee” technology operates. The unique design creates water movement and lift to an area of 35 acres of surface when deployed in a water basin. The laminar flow reaches to the edge of the 35 acres to sustain water movement and circulation. The “SolarBee” machines have been successfully deployed in 170 lakes for the purpose controlling blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) blooms.
Most property owners and visitors to Diamond Lake will certainly remember the blue- green scum floating on the surface of the water during the summer of 2005. That scum was the dying result of a blue-green algae bloom. The “SolarBee” technology equipment when strategically deployed to a water basin or lake will prevent the blue-green algae from achieving a bloom. Because of the solar energy providing the renewable source of power, the mixing action by the solar pump renews the surface re-aeration of dissolved oxygen 24 hours a day. This mixing action enables the good green algae to out compete the harmful blue-green algae for phosphorus. By controlling the nutrient rich surface micro layer the blue-green blooms are eliminated. The water quality improves and living organisms in the food chain thrive and the health of the lake returns too normal. This is a simple explanation of the operating result of the equipment. A much more technical explanation and illustration can be researched and viewed on “SolarBee” Inc. web site address. http://www.solarbee.com
The outcome of this committee meeting and discussion will be shared with the rest of the Diamond Lake Recreational Association board. The Decisions regarding the purchase or leasing of the “SolarBee” equipment will be addressed when plans are implemented in the up-coming months. The Middle Fork Crow River Watershed District will also be included in many of the strategies and decisions being made regarding Diamond Lake. “SolarBee” is only one possible solution that seems promising based upon other deployment successes. All initiatives will focus and address the Impaired Water status of Diamond Lake and the water quality improvements.
Remember: the annual meeting is scheduled for Sat., Aug. 18, 9 AM at the Community Park shelter. We hope to line up speakers from the new Middle Fork Crow River Watershed District.
The Minnesota Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) is an organization funded by the State Legislature and administered by the U of M and several state agencies for the purpose of addressing environmental and energy issues and projects. The agenda is formed by those who show up. There are 6 regional teams. The West Central team usually meets in Sunburg. For more information contact Joel Haskard at 612-625-8759 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit www.cleanenergyresourceteams.org.
by Abner Malady
You may have seen some ugly little tent-like structures hanging in the crotch of branches on little trees, most likely basswood, oak or aspen. These are probably Forest Tent Caterpillar nests – not to be confused with their eastern brethren who prefer fruit trees. These caterpillars are more of a nuisance than anything else – someone who grew up in northern Minnesota remembers riding bicycle thru infestations on the road and having the squish fly off the wheels onto her calves as she rode along; when she got home she had to decide whether to jump over them to reach the front door or wade thru their hanging webs by the garage door.
The Forest Tent Caterpillar comes in cycles, sometimes lasting several years. Just like many of us, they prefer to camp near lake areas. Outbreaks have been occurring about every 10-20 years in Minnesota. It appears that infestation is gradually moving further south. The caterpillars feed on tree leaves, and generally don’t adversely impact the health of trees. However, if the attack is sustained over time, and if the tree is otherwise stressed or suffering from some debilitating disease, it can contribute to a tree’s demise.
The larva or caterpillar is easily identified by its blue-black color with white spots down their back and long brown hairs over their body. “The adult moth is buff colored and has a broad brown band across the front wings. They are night fliers and come to lights in large numbers” (MN DNR, Division of Forestry). Unfortunately, they are real hardy hibernators, easily surviving -40 F temperatures.
Forest tent caterpillars are naturally controlled by their own self-destruction; they eat themselves out of their habitat. Native flies, sarcophagi aldrichi, kill many pupae in their cocoons – but they, in turn, can become a nuisance. The Bt bacteria (well known to farmers) also kill them, and can be applied without any harm to the environment. Other insecticides, such as those containing malathion, acephate, carbaryl or diazinon, can also do the job but unfortunately will kill bees and other beneficial insects. They should be avoided.
Sometimes spraying campaigns are initiated. The State usually prefers to leave its forests alone, unless the caterpillars impact recreational areas. Property owners can protect their own trees, but caution should be taken due to potential adverse consequences to beneficial insects. At this point it is very hard to say if the caterpillars we see now will represent a wide-spread problem or not. Additional information can be found at the DNR website (www.dnr.state.mn.us), Wikipedia, or using a search engine for Forest Tent Caterpillar.
Diamond Lake TMDL
by Jim Teschendorf
Total Maximum Daily Load, (TMDL) is a mouth full of words. They probably mean nothing until broken down in such a way that they can be understood. Basically, TMDL is a process and a project.
Diamond Lake is an impaired body of water. By definition, impaired means failure to meet one or more water quality standards. Federal standards exist for basic pollutants such as sediment, bacteria and nutrients. Because Diamond Lake fails to meet basic standards in one or more categories, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is required by the “Federal Clean Water Act” to identify and restore impaired waters. For each of the water impairments identified the “Clean Water Act” requires completion of a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study.
This process is identified by a “number”, and becomes a project that typically involves two to four years of technical study and intensive data gathering. The “number is a calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant the water body can receive and still meet quality standards. The TMDL results in a pollution reduction plan. The plan identifies all the sources of the pollutant responsible for the impaired water status in the lake. The good news is that a great deal of information has been compiled over the years regarding Diamond Lake water quality. Water samples and secchi disc readings have been taken analyzed and documented. There have been studies conducted and documented, the most recent being that by Steve McComas of Blue Water Science in St. Paul Minnesota, which should be part of a Lake Management initiative. This information is very valuable and will be a good resource as the TMDL begins.
This process also requires stakeholder commitment and public input. The Diamond Lake Recreational Association and property owners on the lake are both stakeholders and members of the public residing in the watershed district. The lake association and public involvement are very important to the execution and completion of the TMDL. The process for completing the TMDL study is complex and varies from project to project. Some of the many variables include:
- Number of pollutant sources
- Type of pollutants and size of the watershed
- Amount of existing data
- Relationship of one or more impairments existing in the lake or nearby water bodies
- Extent of stakeholder involvement and number of stakeholders
- Availability of necessary resources.
At the completion of the project, a formal public comment period is held. Following that, the MPCA submits the TMDL report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for final approval. Although the MPCA is ultimately responsible for completing the TMDL and submitting it to the EPA, stakeholders and public resource assistance play a large role in the success of the project. After the EPA approves the TMDL, a detailed implementation plan is finalized. The plan must meet the TMDL’s pollutant load allocation and achieve the needed reductions. Depending on the severity and scale of the impairment, the restoration may require many years and a lot of money. The EPA will be the largest financial contributor to the project.
The Middle Fork Crow River Watershed District, with the support of the Diamond Lake Recreational Association, has requested the that MPCA accelerate the timetable for the Diamond Lake TMDL study to begin. The Watershed District and the Diamond Lake Association will keep everyone informed in future newsletters and publications as the process unfolds.
“A Beautiful Way To Improve Water Quality in Your Community”
by Julie Klocker, Administrator Middle Fork Crow River Watershed District
A rain garden is a landscaping technique which is an easy way for land owners to make a positive impact on water quality by reducing the pollutants and volume of runoff from their property. As its name implies a rain garden soaks up the rain from your roof, driveway and lawn and allows the water to slowly filter into the ground rather than running off into a storm drain. As the rain water soaks into the ground pollutants are trapped and nutrients are used by the water-loving plants.
A rain garden is simply a low depressional area or slightly excavated area in your yard that is planted with wildflowers and other native vegetation. It reduces the area of your lawn and can often be placed in ‘problem’ mowing areas or areas where grass is difficult to maintain. Compared with a patch of conventional lawn, a rain garden allows about 30 percent more water to soak into the ground. Holding back the runoff helps prevent pollutants such as fertilizers from washing off your yard and into storm sewers or nearby lakes and streams. By reducing the amount of water that enters a local storm drain, rain gardens can also reduce the chances for local flooding, as well as streambank and shoreline damage.
Grant funding for rain gardens and other best management practices is available through the Middle Fork River Watershed District. If you are interested in building a rain garden and would like more information please call the Middle Fork Crow River Watershed District at 320-796-0888 or contact us through email at Peter@mfcrow.org.