Thursday, November 26, 2009

DECADES for Waterworks

as seen in the Aitkin Independent Age, pretty soon


According to one way of counting, the second decade of the Twenty First Century will soon begin. Remembering all the excitement about year 2000 and its computer algorithms, the predictions of automated shutdowns seem long ago. Most computer systems survived the Millenium shift, and rivers are still flowing to the sea. Whether or not the sea level is rising, or how fast, is a longer-term matter for centuries to tell.

As we enter into year 2010 and another decade, I’m recalling how much organizing has been accomplished since 2000, around lakes in Aitkin County. A number of new lake associations have gotten started, more have been attempted, and new lake monitors have been found to test the water. The county-wide coalition of lake associations, ACLARA, was regenerated several years ago, following a summer of water workshops at the Long Lake Conservation Center.

During this decade, the County Board has enacted a fourth update to the Water Plan for Aitkin County, as well as amending the Shoreland Ordinance with important new Alternative Standards. About two or three years ago the State Legislature mandated a rule-making process for new state-wide shoreland regulations. In early 2010 the resulting draft document from the DNR’s work with advisory committees across Minnesota will be ready for public examination. Already there is strong interest in what sizes and shapes of temporary docks will be permitted in the future.

As the time is soon upon us for New Year’s resolutions, I suggest we think forward about a New Decade with increasing protection for the beautiful waters of Aitkin County.


In recent weeks there has been just a little ice on puddles and ponds. The thin sheets of morning ice on larger lakes have melted quickly before noon. As I rearranged boulders and cement blocks in front of our place the other day for access by skaters and skiers, I felt cold water through my boots, ready to freeze up at the first cold snap.

With any luck there will be clear smooth ice for early skating before snow and rain and cracking roughen the surface. This is the time to remember to wear life jackets and carry spikes on a cord along with you, even when you think the ice is “thick enough.”.

The DNR puts out the same message every year about how many inches of ice thickness are required for walking - driving an ATV or Snowmobile - or driving a car or pickup onto a lake. But are there hidden springs and inlets? Cracks and ridges?

I like to explore carefully at the edges and carry a long probe, besides those spikes - and have a companion along. The best advice? There is no such thing as “Safe Ice!”

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Lake in November


lake in November deep blue and crystal clear

geese flock and rest on this warm afternoon

oak leaves have dropped to make a brown carpet

my firewood is sawed and split - stacked for later warmth

the sunny sky is an airway for every size migrant

beside these waters I sit content and ready

ready for next season next idea next task next sound

it comes across the lake where a hundred geese

approach the shore

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


as seen in WATERWORKS 11/4/2009 The Aitkin Independent Age

Water scientists look at sampling results on our lakes and will only talk about trends in water quality after years of observations. But cabin people like to talk about the look of the lake and the weather we’re having “right now.” “What’s all this about global warming? It’s been cold in October!” Now that the last week of October has seen a little sunshine, and outside chores are finished, I’m still convinced that this is not a "normal" fall season.

In September we had a month of warm summer weather, which kept the green foliage on trees and shrubs. Then a week into October, when brilliant maple colors were reaching a delayed peak, we had sudden snowfalls and a killing freeze that withered our gardens.

Confusion everywhere. Snow collected on green oak leaves. Two inches of snow covered green lawns. Box elder trees shed leaves quickly in connected bunches. Surprisingly, the tamaracks stood out boldly in their finest gold. Deciduous trees around the lake were still green when cold weather forced the last holdout to skip a boatride to view the fall colors. Time to put away the boat and remove the dock ahead of an early freeze-up.

Sure, the glaciers somewhere may be disappearing, and the polar icecaps are getting thinner. There are songbirds are moving their nests north. We can discuss “climate” at another time. But can you recall ever experiencing “weather” like this?


About five years ago a new lake association got off the ground with help from neighbors and the Soil and Water office. Our stated purpose at Nord Lake was pretty simple - to protect and preserve the lake, and to get to know the people living around the lake. In my experience as a vacationer, and more recently as a cabin owner, I have observed that some folks come North to “get away” and are not looking for new social networks.

But there were some on our lake who urged us on - to organize, in order to preserve the lake, and to get better acquainted. It turned out that about half of the people near our lake have become association members, with a core group willing to lead picnics, road pick-ups, boat parades, and send out newsletters.

In the summer of 2004 the Aitkin County Water Planning Task Force sponsored a series of workshops on lake stewardship to help reorganize a previous coalition of county lake associations that had become inactive. Today this new Aitkin County Lakes And Rivers Association, or “ACLARA,” is planning some initiatives for its 20 member associations in the coming year. An educational event about the movement of Aquatic Invasive Species into our area, and demonstrations of stormwater management will be offered. Lakes that are looking for help in forming new associations, or support with existing ones, will find experienced organizers ready to work with them.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Our Best Idea

WATERWORKS Column for 10/14/2009 Age

The week September 27 to October 2 contained television at its best, in this columnist’s opinion. Ken Burns introduced himself to millions of public TV watchers years ago when he filmed a riveting special on the Civil War. In this new 12-hour feature Our National Parks, we saw spectacular beauty of the natural features of the United States. The cinematography, historical narration, and musical accompaniment combined to make a program noone should miss. If you haven’t seen it, I’m sure there will be PBS reruns.

As David Duncan explains in the show, the National Parks, which now number at least 38, are America’s “Best Idea.” Except for our democratic form of government. So caught up in catching most of the 12 hours over the six days was I, that I completely forgot about my Waterworks column and its Friday deadline. So instead of the “first Wednesday” this time, it comes to you now.

A year ago in early August the Pricketts celebrated our wedding anniversary with an Empire Builder Amtrak train ride to East Glacier Park, Montana, and a week’s stay at Many Glacier Lodge in Glacier National Park. It was our “Best Idea in 2008,” and it has been fun seeing these sights again with Ken Burns.


My love of wilderness lakes and woods was formed at age 14 when our Scoutmaster organized a two-week canoe trip with his neighbor who manufactured “Barnard Wilderness Tents.” We paddled, portaged, camped, swam, and fished along the Canadian border in the Superior National Forest, at that time a roadless area, where flying was banned.

This year from late August to the Labor Day weekend, seven high school classmates came together up near Ely for our thirteenth “Old Geezer Canoe Trip.” This is the scribe’s account:

Burntside Retreat

After many trips into the wilderness the old guys settle for easier camping: a rented hideaway dry and furnished on a rocky pine-bordered lake at the edge of Ely’’s waters. Old stories are mostly repeated; friendships and rivalries persist since grade school.

Our leader Tony Andersen has died, who restarted us 26 years ago. Four of the living began paddling 60 years ago with Scoutmaster Elmer L. Now we ride in a power boat with electronic finder for fish and depth, zooming here and there at 25 mph to troll and snag, sometimes catching smallmouth and northern pike. A faithful few still paddle Mad River and Grumman canoes.

Sleeping bags cover mattresses in the cabin. Propane gives refrigeration, cooking stove, and lamps. Lake water is drinkable, mostly boiled. We reminisce, eat, and drink well; sing, smoke, and strum.

Just a handful of years remain for this declining gang. Once we could pull a lot of water and take portages in stride. Today we limp onto the dock stiffly, after hours in the boat. We tell each other how fun it is. We’ll do it some more, as soon as we can.

- Guide Gord, September 2009

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Waterworks Column Aitkin Independent Age 9/2/2009


Looking at the foliage, the pastures, and the lake levels this summer, I take encouragement from the renewable water supply in this neck of the woods. We hear of drought, lack of rainfall, heat waves, and wild fires in other parts of the country. About a century ago my grandfather, living in dry Nebraska, saw advertisements for farmland in west central Minnesota. They read “It still rains in Minnesota!” And so it does. From our rain gauge, I recorded 7.9 inches in July and, lacking a couple days, 2.4 inches in August.

With much of the world looking at fresh water scarcity, in Aitkin County we have a resource advantage of plentiful wetlands, rivers, and lakes. Plus a spreading awareness of how to keep the quality of these water bodies safe and secure. One of the projects of our Water Planning Task Force is sponsorship of rain garden and rain barrel demonstrations. By containing and slowing the movement of pouring-down rains, these measures help prevent erosion and siltation. Work is now in progress at the Long Lake Conservation Center and at the Soil and Water Office, where you will be able to observe and receive instruction in better practices with rainfall where you live.


Reports from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency have been published last month for sites at 1317 Minnesota lakes. In Aitkin County about 30 lakes have been regularly monitored in recent years. My individual Site Report for Nord Lake in 2008, and the preceding 11 years, is the most complete and easy to read of any lake information that I have seen.

To see what the status is on any of the monitored county lakes, the first call to make is to an officer or member of the particular lake association. Most of the 30 or so monitored lakes have volunteers who measure the transparency during the summer, and they receive this detailed report. Lake association members, in most cases, have access to the water data, which is shared around the lake.

If you need further assistance, the Soil and Water Office keeps water monitoring records and can direct you to the person who is currently measuring the clarity at each organized lake. Just call them at 927-6565.

In the case of Nord Lake, the clarity has been steady over 12 years with no trending, and the standards for recreational suitability are being met consistently.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Becoming an Eagle

Twenty five years ago our son prepared for high school graduation and entry to college. With only a couple months to go he realized that he was just a few merit badges lacking for his Eagle Scout award. And this needed to happen before his 18th birthday. With a sustained burst of effort he completed those badges and his eagle tree-planting project.

For the past two weeks I have listened and watched along our lakeshore as one and maybe two eaglets have fledged. We saw the nesting pair of adult eagles return to their tallest white pine this Spring. Then for weeks one of the eagles was delivering food from lake to nest.

Imagine if your very first step was out of a warm comfortable nest into thin air ninety feet above ground. Instinct and parents prepare these young birds. They grow and exercise their new wings day by day, gaining strength. As a pilot I recall my very first time alone in an airborne cockpit, maneuvering towards an airstrip with no alternative but a safe landing on the ground.

For about two weeks we have seen a young eagle - all dark brown, with a few light blotches on its chest - flying above the trees along the lakeshore.
Sometimes he lands on a dead branch or a covered boatlift. Always he gives a loud high-pitched squeak every few seconds. Today I heard a second distant squeak while watching the first eaglet sitting on the neighbor's boatlift and squeaking. It appears that a second eaglet has now left the nest. As the air show continued, a parent (identified by its white tail, neck, and head) circled above.

Yesterday out on the lake I saw the young eagle occupying the same bare branch on a tall tree on the island where the parents regularly roost. This perch gives them a clear view in all directions. Flight school will continue now with training in searching, diving, grasping, and carrying fish.

This is the second year we have watched as eaglets are shown by their parents how to become full-fledged eagles. What a delight to observe up close the development of this majestic bird with its graceful and powerful flight.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Waterworks: Fish Population Assessments


In May and June this year Aitkin DNR Fisheries did an assessment of the fish population on our lake. On a Tuesday evening, May 26th, about 9 p.m., my neighbor noticed a boat crew out on the lake with bright lights, towing a raft near her shore, with some unusual equipment. Next morning we talked it over, and I called Rick Bruesewitz, Fisheries Supervisor, to learn what was going on at Nord Lake. It had been about one hour of “standard electrofishing” for Largemouth Bass, with his fisheries crew cruising near shore, around the perimeter of the lake.
This is what I learned about electrofishing. Using electrical probes, a charge is introduced in the water that attracts and then stuns the bass temporarily. The crew scoops up the unconscious fish and puts them in a towed tank for examination, before releasing them unharmed. The fish are measured and weighed, and a few scales are removed to estimate the fish’s age.
I also learned that this was only the beginning of a periodic population assessment of the fish in our lake. Two years ago Rick had presented an historical summary of the Nord Lake Fishery at our annual lake association meeting, dating from 1960. There would soon be a sampling of all species around the lake. He agreed to let us know in advance when the trap nets and gill nets would be placed in the lake, so that we could notice them and avoid getting tangled up with the floats and nets.


On the week of June 22-26, the three-man fisheries crew returned to set and lift nets around the lake, leaving each net in place for a few days. The trap nets are set near shore, with a float and a trap out in the water and the weighted net bottom attached onshore. The gill nets are deployed out in deep water, between two buoys a short distance apart. Lead-weighted lines hold the base of the gill nets on the lake bottom. During the week boat traffic was light, and we put out the word to residents to steer clear of these orange floats.


Of course, we will not disclose here exactly what was learned. The details of all Aitkin Area fishery population assessments can be viewed at the DNR office next to Southgate on Highway 169. However, a number of Largemouth Bass were collected and released, and the lengths and average weight are in a preliminary report.
There were nine trap net sets and nine gill net sets, during the week. The significant species observed included: Black Crappie, Bluegill, Dogfish, Hybrid Sunfish, Largemouth Bass, Northern Pike, Pumpkinseed, Walleye, and Yellow Bullhead.
Copies of these catches were shared with lake association members at our annual picnic last Saturday. To find out more about fish surveys - when they are scheduled and to learn about the populations on your lake of interest - just call DNR Fisheries at 927-3751.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Water Treatments

On July 1st the Aitkin Independent Age weekly newspaper ran my previous posting in its Outdoors Section, as the "Waterworks" column, published every First Wednesday over the last 11 years. A portion of the piece is included here -


Suburban developers buy off and take over natural open space to clear cut and bulldoze forest, farm fields, and wetlands to house the thousands who flock to the Cities for better paying jobs and for their cultural amenities. The rainfall on these made-over suburban communities runs downhill into ponds, streams, wetlands, rivers, and lakes. The roofs, asphalt driveways, patios, and chemical lawns all add their ingredients into our once beautiful waters. To escape their routine of commuting, working, and schooling, the suburban families search out a “lake place” for summer weekends. They bring their horticultural habits with them, as well as memories of winter vacations on the saltwater beaches in the Gulf of Mexico.

These Minnesota lake properties used to be the province of resort owners who offered weekly rentals with housekeeping cabins, a fishing boat, and a swimming beach.
Most of them have gone the way of the family farm, with only a few large Ruttgers or Craguns left, and quite a few RV campgrounds around the settled lakes. But a large number of northbound folks decide to buy land. Pull up a house trailer and someday maybe build a cabin or retirement home. They may find vacant resort property with cabins that can be remodeled and enlarged. Everyone wants his own dock and sand beach. In this way the shoreline on many lakes is altered, and the lake water changes from clear and transparent to not-so-clear as before. (end of excerpt)

This brings us to the Fourth of July 2009. Our lake was filled with floating algae yesterday morning on a no-wind glassy surface. The shallows in front of our dock are filling slowly, year by year, with more emergent aquatic vegetation.

Some of the shoreland residents use chemical fertilizers and herbicides to groom their lawns that reach down slope to the water's edge. Heavy rains flush these components into the lake, which takes up excess nutrients of phosphate and nitrogen. This process hastens the lake's eutrophication - the filling of a fresh water basin with more and more plant growth. What once was a clear lake becomes, over time, a green vegetation-choked wetland marsh.

Water planners in Aitkin County are providing lake stewardship guidebooks to newcomers, educational pieces in the newspaper, and briefings for lake associations, all containing information about "best practices" for taking care of the lakes and rivers we enjoy.

The lakeside image of a grassy fairway to a broad sand beach, as the ideal, is fixed in many minds. But it has nothing to do with healthy lakes in Northern Minnesota, and in fact, can lead to their decline.

My message for everyone who comes up to our lakes is this: Stop mowing or clearing any lawn or vegetation within at least 15 feet of the shore. Let the seeds in this ground sprout and grow to restore a natural filter for the shoreland runoff. It's as simple as that. A cleared narrow path about 10 feet wide is all you need for access to boating and swimming at your dock. Install no more dock structure than necessary to float your watercraft.

This is one very important way that you can help improve the quality of the lake water.

Friday, June 26, 2009

How Clean is the Lake?

Minnesotans have proudly driven the “10,000 Lakes” license plates all over the continent. Now thousands of us have adopted the state bird, the Common Loon, to identify us as motorists from Lake Country. We’ve always assumed that there was plenty of clean, fresh water in our state. The Father of Waters starts here, occasionally flooding downstream cities and farms that occupy its acknowledged “flood plain.” So it comes as a shock when these pristine waters, that European settlers “discovered”, become contaminated, polluted, and clogged with clumps and blooms of dangerous algae. We read about fish kills when manure ponds from feedlots breach their dams.


Suburban developers buy off and take over natural open space to clear cut and bulldoze forest, farm fields, and wetlands to house the thousands who flock to the Cities for better paying jobs and for their cultural amenities. The rainfall on these made-over suburban communities runs downhill into ponds, streams, wetlands, rivers, and lakes. The roofs, asphalt driveways, decks, patios, and chemical lawns all add their ingredients into our once beautiful waters. To escape their routine of commuting, working, and schooling, the families search out a “lake place” for summer weekends. They bring their horticultural habits with them, as well as memories of winter vacations on the saltwater beaches in the Gulf of Mexico.

These Minnesota lake properties used to be the province of resort owners who offered weekly rentals with housekeeping cabins, a fishing boat, and a swimming beach.
Most of them have gone the way of the family farm, with only a few large Ruttgers or Craguns left, but quite a few RV campgrounds around the settled lakes. A large number of northbound folks decide to buy land. Pull up a house trailer and someday maybe build a cabin or retirement home. They may find vacant resort property for sale, with cabins that can be remodeled and enlarged. Everyone wants his own dock and sand beach. In this way the shoreline on many lakes is altered, and the lake water changes to not-so clear.


The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is asking for residents and users of lakes in Aitkin County to volunteer as “monitors” of the water quality in our lakes. Just because you have a lake association where you vacation or spend the summer doesn’t mean that there is a water monitor who measures the transparency or chemical composition of your lake. If somebody is doing this job, he or she would very much like to hear from you. You can listen to their water quality story and offer to help them take readings. Or you can receive training and become one of hundreds of Minnesota volunteers who are helping protect our lakes. It starts with a phone call ( 927-6565 ) to Janet Smude, who coordinates our Aitkin County Rivers and Lakes Fair and all of Aitkin County water testing.

- Gordon Prickett, Waterworks Columnist, Aitkin Independent Age

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Memorial Day Weekend is the opening of the "Come up to our lake" Season. Retired cabin people get back from Arizona and Florida in time to put the dock in the water. Year-round folks and Twin Citians are all set for the arriving relatives. Everyone is ready to fish, ride the pontoon, and watch the campfire.

During the memorable weekend I was out in the canoe for some perfect paddling on calm water. Over near the public access a watchful loon kept boaters at a distance from the family nest. The major boat traffic was fishing parties and touring pontoons. Suddenly from nowhere a motorboat came alongside my canoe at high speed - only to cut the throttle and coast up to a nearby dock.


This fast boat was powered by a 150 hp outboard motor and rigged for fishing. It reminded me that there are no speed limits generally on Minnesota lakes, unless local ordinances are adopted. We don’t see too many large motors on our lake, which is less than a mile across in any direction. But on holiday weekends, when visitors come towing their boats, we are seeing larger and faster watercraft every year.

In Aitkin County we have just completed work on the Governor’s Clean Water Initiative and adopted new Shoreland Standards for protecting our waters from over development at the water’s edge. Out on the lake on a busy Saturday afternoon I saw another need for protection. A regulation that will protect waterfowl, small craft, and the shoreline from wave action and collision.


Minnesota law defines three classes of lakes for local governmental shoreland ordinances. Each class has specific rules for shoreline land use. These classes are based a lake’s environmental condition and its historical settlement. They are: General Development (GD), Recreational Development (RD), and Natural Environment (NE).

It is during these crowded boating weekends that I have concluded "There ought to be a law!" A speeding law. Perhaps there are others on our lakes who also wonder if there isn’t a slower, safer way to enjoy our beautiful waters.

To start the ball rolling, here is my proposal - a trial balloon for lake associations, the DNR, and state government. On Minnesota’s protected waters, watercraft shall be limited to the following top speeds: For GD Lakes, 50 MPH. For RD Lakes, 40 MPH. Finally, for NE Lakes, 30 MPH. Let’s talk it over.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Engineer on Our Lake: American Beaver

Some of the best times on my wilderness canoe trips in Minnesota have been spent in the company of wild creatures - moose, common loons, black bears, and the American beaver. In this week's broadcast of "Living on Earth" on KAXE 91.7, writer and photographer Mark Seth Lender is interviewed by Jeff Young and gives a poetic tribute to this creature who shares Nord Lake with our neighbors.

A beaver takes a tree. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender ©)

Pablo Picasso once said creativity is a sum of destructions. Salt Marsh Diary writer Mark Lender observes that nature is a sum of creations and destructions, as exemplified in the American Beaver.

YOUNG: People aren't alone in their desire to change the places where water and land come together. Writer Mark Seth Lender spent some time watching one of nature's engineers at work.

LENDER: The pond is still as polished stone, a duotone, tannic brown and gray. And quiet. A quiet made of fine rain. Slow churning of earthworm. Purr of woodpecker on a dead tree across to the other shore. Hush of river rolling over the dam of crossed sticks, which holds all this, this space, this wetted openness.

Toward me now comes the Engineer. Fast as a blur he comes, the V of his wake deep and sure, nose lifted just above the water. Thick fur, wet but warm, covers him all but where he sees and breathes and hears, and the pad of his paw. He has no gills, no fins, no scales. When he dives he holds his breath. Where water flows he must stop it. Wherever it goes he will find it. He is drawn by the sound and by the feel and perhaps, even the scent. Now closer, as close to me as curiosity demands, 'til the flat of his tail waves goodbye and smooth as a silk scarf he disappears, under water.
Taming of the liquid force is the lifework of the American Beaver. It is the product of both forethought and design and an agile mind. First, a survey must be made. Noting where the bank is high and the river narrow he will begin there. He needs no protractor. No T square. Lacking transit and plumb bob he proceeds by rack of eye alone yet what he builds endures. With saplings and small lumber, in a weave that seems random but is not, with mud, with stones, layer by layer the dam is raised until all water will be conquered.

In the finishing of a pond a beaver takes many trees. Teeth are his adze and ax and he works in the round. Carefully. His lodge laid of branches is the keep where his family shelters, and their safety is his purpose. High in the leafy tops, predators may lurk in the form of eagles. Low down, cougar and coyote may hide behind the trunks. To hold the standing woods at a distance is not unwise in a beaver's nearsighted eyes.

Among the beaver's works trout and minnow swim and great blue herons fish for them. Wood ducks in Kandinsky colors. Kingfishers, querulous lovers. Painted turtle, drifting ark. Dragonflies hunting, near dark; Late returning red-shouldered hawk...

All this is here from what the beaver clears. Much depends upon the Engineer.

YOUNG: Mark Seth Lender writes a syndicated column called "Salt Marsh Diary." To see some of his photographs, go to the Living On Earth website:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

REAL CHANGE - At Water's Edge


For more than a year we heard this call, "Are you ready for change?" As the housing recession sank into something worse; as our soldiers were blown up with devices we had invented two decades earlier, you bet we were! Now it’s been 107 days of change at the White House. Is it still too early to tell how we like it?

For several years I watched the DNR carry out the slogans and the concepts of our conservative, clean water governor. I voluntarily became part of the process. Using this column - which costs the Independent Age no fees - I urged on the participation of readers, lake associations, and shoreland residents in the clean water initiative for Aitkin County.

In October 2008 the County Board agreed formally and unanimously. It was time for a change to shoreland regulation of our lakes and rivers. As of today, May 6th, it has been 126 days - of living with the revised Shoreland Management Ordinance, which went into effect on January 1, 2009.

The Planning Commission, the Board of Adjustment, and the Board of Commissioners haven’t processed cases yet that deal with resort improvements, or with conservation subdivisions, or with newly-required setbacks on very small lakes. Or with alternative standards for preventing runoff and erosion, or limiting visual blight from densely-settled, clear-cut beaches. But we will begin this summer. The ordinance is available over the counter in the Zoning Office, where guidance is given to builders, buyers, and resorters. By the October one-year anniversary of the Board’s decision on this new law, you might ask "How has it worked so far? This Clean Water Initiative."


To help introduce these new shore standards to a wider segment of residents and property owners, the Aitkin County Lakes and Rivers Association (ACLARA) has asked for individual copies of the new ordinance for each member lake at its May meeting. These ordinance booklets are being distributed in time for preparation of annual meetings and newsletters this summer.

At the Rivers and Lakes Fair, Saturday, June 20th, there will be materials on display about building rain gardens and installing rain barrels. These are two important ways to prevent runoff pollution from entering the watersheds. Fact sheets about shoreland rules are being updated and created. Ask for them.

As you launch your boats this Spring from public access landings, look around and notice how well our state officials are doing in managing their shoreland property. Our local county regulations should be followed in this shore impact zone as well.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day Gift 2009

If you haven't seen today's GOOGLE page yet- - you are in for a visual treat. And an inspiration to clean up, preserve, and conserve.

Last night, Tuesday, April 21st, on PBS Frontline, journalist Hedrick Smith hosted his two-hour production titled "Poisoned Waters." Most of the footage and interviews concerned the watersheds of Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound.

Some of the alarming topics shown were industrial scale poultry farming, stormwater runoff, sprawling over-development in critical areas, species extinction - including the Orca Whale and salmon.

The DVD can be purchased for $25 at I recommend earth people see it.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


In Mid April I found myself in Duluth at the Lift Bridge Canal with a break between the Annual Mining Symposium and its closing banquet at the posh Kitchigami Club on Superior Street. The sky was clear. The lake the deepest blue. Even with water temperature at freezing, the lake walk was enjoyable. No camera, but I found a pencil.


lift bridge canal ice
floating melting in the sun
sparkling white mid April

Duluth clear blue sky
natives run walk sit and smile
gulls announce their day

Now to return to Aitkin County, where lake ice is rapidly melting, and nearby loons are watching for their waterways.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Eagles Have Landed

We took a walk past our nearby eagle nest on Palm Sunday. Pam Perry of the DNR's Non-Game Wildlife Section had said recently that bald eagles in this region will be nesting in April. As yet we hadn't seen any sign of them. Geese, swans, and ducks have been spotted already. Eagles have returned elsewhere, but not the pair on our north shore, we thought.

I looked through binouculars at the nest as we approached it from the east. No activity was apparent around this large nest at the top of the tall white pine. Directly below the nest I stopped and was peering up when my wife called, "Here he comes!"

Flying over us at low altitude, and circling, was an agitated eagle. We walked on ahead without delay. Safely beyond the nest, I stopped and looked back. Perched above the nest, and watching us closely, sat Mr. Eagle. We only saw one bird. I'm pretty sure his partner was on the nest, out of our view.

In about two weeks the ice will be out, and fishing season on Nord Lake will start for these returning neighbors.

Welcome back!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

WATERWORKS - April 1st - In a Time of Flooding

The Alternative Shoreland Standards are in the Aitkin County Shoreland Ordinance, amended in October 2008, by a 5-0 vote. Conservation Subdivisions and Resort-Friendly Rules now apply, effective January 1st.

The current topic is "High Water and Runoff." - from the Aitkin Independent Age -

"The rain pelts a sodden earth. Creeks rise and rush to swollen streams.
Streams spill over banks. Rivers rise relentlessly."

This was my account from a vantage point on the Mississippi, half way to the Gulf of Mexico, in the Summer of 1993. And for a month after writing, all along this mighty watershed, we had more rain - and record flooding.
Driving by a washout on our township road last week, I noted how brown the puddles and streams had become. We now are very familiar with the story. Frozen ground prevents soaking. Heavy rains continue to fall, and the hydraulic power of all that meltwater and rainwater overwhelms gardens, plowed fields, and anything in the way.

Rain gardens and rain barrels are coming to a meeting near you this summer. The Aitkin County Water Planning Task Force has a plan and a project. And a committee is being formed with volunteers.
The idea is this: We all live downstream. Any means to slow down that rushing water - from our roofs and driveways - gullies and gutters - means less muddy runoff and chemical contamination for the waters of Aitkin County and beyond.

There are some good examples nearby of how to control runoff. And more will be constructed. More than twenty lakes in the county have associations that were formed to preserve some of the beauty that attracts people to their lakeshore. The lessons of prevention of flooding and erosion will be made available through these associations by our Task Force and its outreach to lake people.

From workshops like the one held in McGregor, Thursday, March 26th, to the Rivers and Lakes Fair, coming to Rippleside Elementary School in Aitkin, on Saturday, June 20th, the answers of storm water management will be available.

It’s one of our "Waterworks."