Modern lake associations rally around environmental causes

The fishing pier at Island Lake County Park.

Lake associations have been a part of Minnesota lake life for generations. Historically, they performed many functions, often recreational, safety-related and social. Whether founded recently or decades ago, however, addressing the threats of aquatic invasive species and other conservation work now dominate the focus of most lake advocacy organizations.

The White Bear Lake Conservation District(wblcd.org) was formed by the state Legislature in 1971 with powers not granted to ordinary lake associations, including the authority to enact ordinances. Board member Scott Costello describes the district as “set up as a governmental body with representatives from each city,” explaining that it levies its board of directors and around $100k in funding from the 5 municipalities surrounding the lake. He reports the largest budget item annually is Eurasian watermilfoil (EWM) treatment. Other board activities include issuing permits for events, regulating multiuser docks, organizing cleanup events and mediating disputes between landowners.

The Lake Owasso Association(lakeowasso.org) was founded more than 70 years ago and, as stated on its website, “the primary significant activity of the LOA since 1955 is the control of aquatic plants, and safety associated with lake users.” The association has been engaged in Eurasian watermilfoil control work since the invasive species was discovered in the lake in 2000. In 2020, the association spent over $25K on EWM control (almost 99% of that year’s budget). LOA is also involved with carp removal on the lake, which includes a free-admission carp fishing contest.

The Bald Eagle Area Association (baldeagleassn.org) is “dedicated to improving the water quality and usability of Bald Eagle Lake and the surrounding area.” Board President Bart Crockett reports that most of the organization’s work over the course of the year includes participating in boat launch inspections, helping to fund shoreline restoration work and working in coordination with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Rice Creek Watershed District to control aquatic invasive plants. It is also currently engaged in zebra mussel surveillance. In recent years, association members spearheaded efforts to obtain alum treatments to reduce phosphorus levels in the lake, which have subsequently improved water clarity.

The purpose of the Turtle Lake Association of Shoreview (TLAS) (turtlelakehomeowners.com) is “to preserve the native beauty of Turtle Lake and enhance outdoor experiences for current and future generations to enjoy.” TLAS also connects residents with social events, and has been active since 1961. Regarding the nonprofit organization’s recent work, a statement provided by association President Kevin Ousdigian reads: “TLAS spent over $60,000 in 2020-21 on aquatic invasive species to preserve natives and enhance recreation for all. The prevention efforts included staffed boat inspections (500+ hours) and a boat cleaning station to avoid new infestations like Zebra Mussels or Starry Stonewort. The management has focused on minimizing milfoil, however TLAS also identified invasive Phragmites, treated, and eradicated the plant from numerous plots on the lake.”

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