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Fight against algae to continue at Lake Mitchell

The buzz around Lake Mitchell is about the lack of a certain "bee" on the water so far this year.

The SolarBee, an algae-fighting device purchased in 2010, has not yet been placed on Lake Mitchell for the summer season but is expected to be in the water by the end of the week.

"We would have liked to have had it in earlier, but the staff has been so busy with other projects throughout the spring," said Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department Director Dusty Rodiek.

The city will get help from Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee member Troy Helleloid and the use of his crane to place the 800-pound device in Kippes Bay near the Sportsmen's Club.

Rodiek said while there isn't any quantitative data on how well the SolarBee is working, it did seem to make a difference during its first two summers.

"That bay and the area around it seemed to be a little better than other parts of the lake, so we will have to wait and see if that is the case again this year," Rodiek said.

The machine was first placed in the lake during the summer of 2010.

The device now sits beside the city of Mitchell's North Building near the soccer fields on Airport Road.

The SolarBee was stored in the building during the 2010-2011 winter, but because it is a solar unit, the battery was drained and needed to be replaced.

"It didn't come with a whole lot of instructions, but we did find out that the solar panels need to be exposed to as much sunlight as possible in order to keep the battery operational," Rodiek said. For that reason, it was decided that it would be stored outside last winter.

The SolarBee was invented by a company of the same name based in Dickinson, N.D. The device uses a rotor to blend cool and warm water together.

Blue-green algae thrive in warm, stagnant water, according to the SolarBee company website, so the device is designed to prevent warm water from serving as a breeding ground for algae.

The Mitchell City Council provided $20,250 to help purchase the device and the Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee an arm of the city -- kicked in another $6,750 from its budget to purchase and install the device in 2010.

Rodiek said other measures to control the algae population are being explored by the city.

Algaecide, a chemical that kills and prevents the growth of algae, was used last year but had limited success.

"We are still looking for other alternatives to help control the problem," Rodiek said.