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!”

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