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Lake Mitchell restoration study in hot water

A Lake Mitchell restoration proposal is having trouble keeping its head above water. Enthusiasm from the Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee over a lake study has waned after three members of the board joined Mayor Jerry Toomey on a visit to one of ...

A Lake Mitchell restoration proposal is having trouble keeping its head above water.

Enthusiasm from the Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee over a lake study has waned after three members of the board joined Mayor Jerry Toomey on a visit to one of the past lake restorations from Omaha-based Fyra Engineering, the water resource specialists who pitched a $73,725 plan to collect data in an effort to find the source of Lake Mitchell’s algae-causing phosphorus.

At Tuesday’s meeting at the Mitchell Recreation Center, the committee said it can already pinpoint the source of the phosphorus as nutrient loading from Firesteel Creek, which feeds into Lake Mitchell.

Following a visit to Carter Lake, which the lake board called Fyra’s “crown jewel,” the committee may look elsewhere to solve the issues at the 670-acre Lake Mitchell before committing millions of dollars and several years to a full-scale restoration effort.

“I’d like to make a motion that we scrap Fyra, because there’s no way they can use us for a guinea pig,” board member Dave Allen said after hearing a report from his fellow board members. “Right now, they haven’t cleaned that lake up.”

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Allen referred to comments from board members Joe Kippes and Mark Puetz, who relayed several concerns from city officials in Carter Lake, Iowa, who were unhappy with the recent lake restoration conducted by Fyra Engineering in their backyard.

Kippes said the Fyra employees stabilized the lake’s shoreline and conducted a full fish kill, but it was a heavy dose of aluminum sulfate that led to dissatisfaction from Carter Lake officials.

Kippes said the alum made Carer Lake “gin clear.” He said the over-application of the alum improved water clarity so much that sunlight could easily penetrate the lake’s surface to cause heavy weed growth. While those weeds made for quality fish habitat, they routinely get tangled in boat motors, putting an end to Carter Lake’s popularity as a playground for watersports enthusiasts.

“They made the lake very clear, they didn’t do a good job of anticipating the unintended consequences and they’re dealing with maybe a more serious issue now than what they had,” Kippes said.

The committee decided to hear one more opinion of Fyra from Chris Larson of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources before kicking the company to the curb. The group that visited Carter Lake, including Kippes, Puetz, Toomey and John McLeod, said Larson worked closely with Fyra throughout the restoration.

Puetz, who said he was leaning toward standing behind Allen’s initial pitch to ditch Fyra, wanted to cover all bases before coming to a final decision on whether to recommend Fyra or not at the board’s June meeting.

“I don’t want to close the book until I’ve heard all the perspectives,” Puetz said.

For now, the city will look to volunteers and new city ordinances to help clean up the lake.

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On Saturday, board members will be joined by volunteers to help plant cattails in the lake in an effort to help filter water in the shallow areas of Lake Mitchell and near the point the Firesteel Creek feeds into the lake.

The group also proposed setting heavy fines for littering into public bodies of water in Lake Mitchell.

At last week’s City Council meeting, a new littering ordinance that would bar the dumping of tree debris, leaves and other waste into Lake Mitchell received its first reading. With its second reading expected for Monday’s council meeting, Allen proposed the board recommend establishing serious fines for those contributing to nutrient loading and other issues at Lake Mitchell.

Allen recommended those found littering into public bodies of water be fined $250 upon first offense and $500 upon second offense.

“That should get the point across,” Allen said.

The board unanimously supported Allen’s recommendation, which will likely be heard during the second reading of the ordinance on Monday.

As the lake committee considered passing on Fyra, it finally gave up on its SolarBee. The SolarBee cost the city $27,000 and was first placed in the lake in 2010 to limit algal blooms, but the device failed to live up to the hopes of the lake board.

“You’d need about 28 of those to have any total effect on the lake,” Toomey said about the SolarBee.

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The board recommended to sell the device rather than go through the trouble of putting it out on the lake for another year.

“You still have costs in moving it in and moving it out, and I’m just not sure it’s even worth that cost to be honest with you,” Puetz said. “I’d rather get money back for it being that the premise of buying it was if we didn’t see the results, we would try to resell it.”

Related Topics: LAKE MITCHELL
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