Wednesday, June 27, 2012


from WATERWORKS by Gordon Prickett, an Outdoors Column for the 7/4/2012 Aitkin Independent Age. Everybody’s talking about it. Sandbagging in downtown Aitkin. The Mississippi took four or five days to crest at a level near 1950 records. While a tornado strikes and leaves, flooding continues on for weeks, sometimes months. Emergency service from Aitkin Area road crews and law enforcement has been exceptional during the storms and in the aftermath, and the difficult recovery work will continue for a long time. The dry fall and dry early spring here meant that docks on county lakes were installed at lower elevations than normal. However, heavy rains in May, and a torrential downpour on June 18 and 19 put many docks underwater and many lakes and rivers have reached high water marks not seen in decades. Sections of docks and debris floating in lakes, and even loose watercraft, have brought danger on the water. SLOW THE BOAT DOWN! In this emergency the Aitkin County Board has enacted boating speed limits at the urging of Sheriff Scott Turner. At this writing, all county lakes, North of State Highway 18 and County Road 2, are under a SLOW-NO-WAKE restriction. Boat wakes can cause tremendous shoreland erosion. By observing slow-no-wake speeds, meaning 5 mph or less, the boat’s wave action is reduced and shore damage is prevented. EROSION PREVENTION Driving across the county and cruising the lakes today you see the amazing power that stormwater can deliver. Cutting away banks, gouging out new paths downslope, the water rushes ahead carrying sediment into pools and flushing watersheds into lakes. For years Best Shoreland Practices have taught us to use “Buffer Strips” at the water’s edge. Leaving a 10 to 20 foot “No-Mow Zone” of natural vegetation beside the river and lake, makes a Buffer Strip. The deep plant roots prevent erosion, and the vegetation filters out sediment and contaminants. The result is cleaner water. A much cleaner lake results than if everyone tries to have clipped bluegrass all the way to water. A walking path through the Buffer Strip can provide adequate access to boat and swimming docks. For the rest of the summer, here’s wishing you “Clean Water and Safe Boating.”

Friday, June 1, 2012


This WATERWORKS column by Gordon Prickett is written for the Outdoors Section of the June 6th 2012 Aitkin Independent Age. Around the lake where we live there has been trouble with what DNR-Wildlife refers to as “Nuisance Species.” Whole patches of rushes have been chewed off and then pulled up by the roots and consumed. Muskrats. Recently a neighbor’s pontoon had it’s fuel line chewed on just before they tried to motor it over to the public access for winter storage. Stories are told of wiring on pontoons being gnawed by critters at the waters edge. Again the destruction was caused by muskrats. Several years ago we had a population explosion of beavers. New beaver families built lodges and began felling trees on the loon nesting island. Shoreline maples and oaks were girdled as these skilled loggers and builders expanded their colony. Thanks to an experienced trapper, who took twenty beaver in one open trapping season between late October and mid-May, we were able to restore balance in our habitat. The mature hardwoods along the shore are no longer threatened. We are studying how to deal with the growing number of muskrats all around the lake. Information from the DNR tells us that an adult female may have two or three litters in a summer, with as many as ten young per litter. In marshes they build domed houses with mud and vegetation, but in our lake they have tunneled into dens on banks. Predators of muskrats may include mink, otters, eagles, foxes, and racoons. Fairly soon I expect you can add our skilled trapper to this list. WHEN BOATS NEED LIGHTING Most of our boating is during daylight hours, but as we launch our boats after a winter of storage, it’s important to get ready for early and late outings. Be sure to test the navigation lights; the sockets and wiring may have corroded, like mine! A stern (rear) white light must be visible from all directions (360 degree circle). Red and green bow (front) lights shine red to port (left side) and green to starboard (right side). The combination of red and green covers an arc of 225 degrees ahead of the boat. Each light is seen from directly ahead to a point 22.5 degrees to the rear of the beam (midpoint of the boat) on each side. Boats must be lighted from sunset to sunrise, so today, June 6th, navigational lights must be on before sunrise at 5:27 am, and shining again after sunset at 8:57 pm. These times may be found at the back of the current Minnesota Boating Guide published by the DNR.