Fountain Lake Supporters Urge Lawmakers for Funding

Posted at: 10/09/2013 6:27 PM
By: Dan Conradt

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- They've asked for funding twice before -- and twice, they failed to make the cut.

Now, they hope the third time is a charm.

"We're promoting a $15 million dollar lake reclamation project," said the Shell Rock River Watershed District’s Brett Behnke.

It's the next step in an on-going effort to clean up Albert Lea’s Fountain Lake.

"We started with a ten year management plan, and part of that plan was to do some upstream watershed work," Brett Behnke explained.

The upstream work included nearly 350 miles of filter strips that have reduced the amount of phosphorous entering ditches that eventually empty into the lake.

"We've stopped the loading from upstream, so we're going to work on the internal loading, which is the sediment on the bottom of the lake," Behnke said.

And that means a lake dredging project that could remove a million cubic yards of sediment.

"It offers three things, basically ... water quality, flood hazard mitigation and wildlife and habitat benefit," Behnke said.

And on Wednesday, the Minnesota House Capital Investment Committee heard the watershed district's pitch for state bonding dollars.

"We always ask the economic impact. why does the state have an interest in this," said committee chair, state representative Alice Hausman.

“It generates a lot of business in and around the lake. being a destination, of course, they support local grocery stores, gas stations," said Albert Lea Chamber of Commerce Director Randy Kehr.

The watershed district will request half of the $15 million dollar cost from next year's bonding bill. The rest would come from other sources, including a local option sales tax.

"We've been losing population, we've been losing jobs and we have to think of ways to bring those things back into the community," said state representative Shannon Savick of Wells.

“It's sort of agriculture and recreation working together,” added committee chair Alice Hausman. “When you restore habitat, you bring the wildlife back and the fish back, that in itself brings people."