Date: May 23, 2022
Lake of the Woods is a glacial lake, that has been enjoyed by Indiana residents for over a hundred years. Residents of the lake have struggled with various issues over the last fifty plus years. Most lake residents are familiar with accelerated weed growth (native and invasive weeds) and shallow water issues along with other more costly issues which includes phosphates entering the lake through the ditches, poor water quality and algae blooms. Additionally, Lake of the Woods Property Owners Association has recently inherited the maintenance, repair, and liability of the dam structure. This is an added expense from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
A number of factors have impacted the lake over the last fifty years. In 1971 the EPA identified Lake of the Woods as having large amounts of phosphorus runoff entering the lake. Since that time little or nothing has been done to slow or stop the phosphorus entering the lake. The phosphates entering the lake through the ditches accelerates weed growth in the lake and costs lake residents more money every year. From the most recent Lake Restoration study done in 2021, Lake of the Woods has been identified as a Hypereutrophic lake. That means that the lake is effectively dying! There are oxygen free dead zones in the lake, due to the phosphorus release during spring, summer and fall. Phosphorus releases causes accelerated weed growth and algae blooms. Ever wonder why the water in the lake is always green during the spring, summer and early fall? It is the algae blooms, water visibility for most lakes is 6-7 feet, at Lake of the Woods it is 2-3 feet on average. We are at a tipping point on the Lake now and we need to act now or have long reaching consequences if nothing is done.
The Lake of the Woods Property Owners Association has no defined funding. The only sources of funding for the above lake issues are through grants, donations, fundraisers and the generosity of our neighbors. The Lake Association funds the electric bills for the six- street lights around the lake along with Lake Restoration studies. In 2021 only 169 of the 505 lake residents donated to the weed spraying program and/or paid lake association dues. Those 169 lake residents donated over $34,000 in 2021 to cover matching LARE grant money needed for the weed spraying program for 2021. The lake problems are only getting more costly with no funding to tackle the larger lake problems, such as, ditch filters, aeration, dredging, phos lock for the phosphate entering the lake and now the dam maintenance, repairs and liability. The Lake of the Woods Property Owners Association cannot rely on grants, donations, lake association dues and fund raisers as the only sources of funding. That business model is not sustainable in the short or long term due to the big dollar costs required to address the problems. (The increased costs of the weed spraying program and the more costly problems related to the Phosphates entering the lake.
A Conservancy District would cover the increasing cost of weed spraying, ditch filters, dredging, aeration, phos lock and dam repairs. Residents of the Lake need to get behind and support a Conservancy District for Lake of the Woods.
The Lake Association cannot rely on donations only. A sustainable and reliable source of funding is needed to effectively combat the lake problems. For 2022, the preliminary cost for weed spraying is estimated at $74,000, no additional sprayings are included with this estimate. The LARE grant will only cover $39,000, the balance of that money will need to come from donations. In 2021, there were three additional weed sprayings totaling $8,055 in which the Lake Association paid 60 percent. Invasive weeds are now costing more to treat. For instance, Starry Stone Wart is now about 15% of the weed spraying total cost and it is expected to increase in acreage for 2022 from 10 acres to 12 acres. Starry stone wart spraying costs are only covered 40% by IDEM and DNR. The Lake Association members and residents must pay the remaining 60%.
As with everything over the past year, consumer prices have skyrocketed 25-40% or even more. So has weed spraying chemicals along with the associated labor costs. Without sustainable funding there isn’t a way to have an impact in the larger lake problems which results in no positive progress in resolving these problems.
For the last thirty years the idea of a conservancy has been kicked down the road for various reasons, but we need to all come together and act now before the lake becomes too costly to repair and leave the next generations with a great lake legacy!
1. Funding- Achieve sustainable funding to pay for lake improvement projects, grants and become eligible for low interest Government loans for future projects.
2. The percentage of phosphorus entering the lake from the four North ditches is estimated at 68-74%, but it could be much higher? Additional studies of the ditch water flow rate, concentration of phosphorus and sediment studies are needed to confirm the already high estimated phosphorus percentages. Previous studies identified lake issues but failed to provide all of the data required to adequately determine the sources and the max and min numbers, needed to calibrate a ditch filter system.
3. Ditch filters- The ditch filters would decrease the phosphorus entering the lake which would decrease the weed growth and the amount of weed spraying required each year. The filters have sensors and inject a chemical that binds to the phosphorus before it enters the lake. This type of filter does not restrict the flow of the water in the ditches.
4. Dredging- Low water areas in the lake would need to be dredged simultaneously with the filter implementation for best results. The dredging will positively impact the phosphorus levels as well as remove organic material, sand and muck.
1. Phos Lock to bind and capture the already present phosphorus at the bottom of the lake. This prevents the release of the phosphorus in the spring, summer and fall. Decreasing weed growth and algae blooms. The positive by product is better water clarity and quality. This will be a huge benefit to all of the lake residents. The better water clarity can be realized in as little as 1-2 years after filter deployment along with dredging.
2. Aeration- Break up and remove silt, muck and organic material, this will increase lake water oxygen levels and water clarity.
3. It will take years to get control of the lake problems and start to make positive improvements on the lake. The major contributors of the problem are chemicals and accelerated weed growth. Secondary issues are dredging and phos lock to contain the phosphorus at the bottom of the lake. Ultimately annual studies, technology and monitoring of the ditches is needed to provide a larger data base to quantify the current levels of contamination and confirm the implementation of proven methods that are currently in use at other area lakes.
• Tax dollars are 100% deductible. On lake residents would pay based on their assessed value of their property.
• A Conservancy Board allows more access to government grants and low interest loans for larger lake projects as needed.
• Lake of the Woods Property Owners would have sustainable funding for all lake projects including annual weed spraying which is currently funded through donations.
• Proposed lake issues can be addressed and monitored with our ecological partners Eutrophix and Aquatic Weed Control. Other companies are eligible to bid on the lake needs
• Annual expenditures such as weed spraying can be paid without donations and charity from our neighbors.
• The Lake of the Woods Conservancy Board of directors will be initially appointed by the Marshall County Board of Commissioners. After the initial board members terms are up, the Conservancy District Membership will vote the new members into office. I The initial board member terms are staggered and will come up at different times, usually 6 months to 2 year terms, initially.
• Better lake water quality and clarity. Less algae blooms and less weed growth.
• Less weed growth resulting in less weed spraying and less cost required to maintain the lake weeds. Those funds can be spent on other lake needs.
• Once the initial problems on Lake of the Woods are addressed and positive results are achieved, additional improvements are possible.