Monday, March 30, 2015


WATERWORKS by Gordon Prickett for 4/1/2015 Aitkin Independent Age


Whatever you think about the global climate today, the weather for North Central Minnesota, in the winter season that just ended, has been unusual. November was cold and snowy, with a heavy snow just before the ice formed on many lakes by mid-month. Since then we had very little precipitation, effectively doing away with snowmobiling and cross country skiing for winter tourists. But the cold temperatures over the winter have kept the heating season close to normal, and there is plenty of propane this year.

Now with reports of drought and with the wetlands lower and drier than usual, we are wishing for moisture. From record high lake levels in Summer 2012 to rivers and lakes that now are headed below normal, we listen to weather forecasts eagerly, as gardeners make their plans. Some of us are figuring how to repair the unusual shoreline damage caused by very thick lake ice that pushed into the beaches in January. Without snow cover, this thick lake ice expanded and contracted, cracked and formed ice ridges, shoving aside trees, steps, walls, and decks. Before we can put out docks and begin boating, repairs must be made. This early Spring 2015 is one for the record books for the amount of lake ice wreckage on many northern lakes. Ice out cannot come too soon this year.


The following protective actions against aquatic invasive species (AIS) are required by state law.

Clean visible aquatic plants, zebra mussels, and other prohibited invasive species off all watercraft, trailers, and water-related equipment before leaving a water access or shoreland property. It is illegal to transport them whether dead or alive.

Drain water-related equipment (boat, ballast tanks, portable bait containers, motor) and drain, bilge, livewell, and baitwell by removing drain plugs before leaving a water access or shoreland property. Keep drain plugs out and water-draining devices open while transporting watercraft. It is illegal to transport a watercraft without draining water.

We will have an active campaign to protect our waters against these aggressive invasive species this spring, summer, and fall. Inspectors will be active at the busiest public access points, but every shoreland property owner has a duty to learn about this threat to all our waters and insure that all water-related equipment at their shore is compliant.

Thursday, March 5, 2015


WATERWORKS by Gordon Prickett   A column for the 3/4/2015 Aitkin Independent Age


About eight years ago money was available to protect the waters in the Big Sandy Watershed. State agencies were funding personnel and publications with an interest in teaching residents along the shorelines how to care for their land and improve the water quality. A couple thousand copies of the "Shoreland Homeowner’s Guide to Lake Stewardship" were published in 2007, with funding from the state’s Clean Water Partnership Grant Fund, for property owners in the watershed. With extra printed copies of this Guide we have spread this valuable document around to many county lake associations in the years since it first came out.

The Guide gives instructions on how to curb pollution and reduce runoff; how to maintain a natural shoreline, and provides a useful checklist, for new and long-time lake residents, about questions we all have when living on a lake.


This 16-page Guide from 2007 has been completely given out, and it is time for a new revision. Fortunately, there is adequate funding available now from the state, through the Clean Water Legacy Fund, as well as Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) funding. Using these funds Aitkin County can update this Guide and include a new section containing the latest information dealing with invasive species. Lake Association representatives will be cooperating with county officials in Zoning and Soil and Water, to put an updated Shoreland Guide into service in our lake country.


Preserving or restoring a natural shoreline is the best way to keep the shore from eroding. Buffers along the shoreline have these benefits:

Less time spent mowing and more time to enjoy the lake. Attracts birds and butterflies. Enhances the lake view by adding interest, texture, and color. Provides more privacy. Protecting water quality protects real estate value. Taller native plants create a biological barrier to Canada geese. Well-established emergent aquatic plants discourage non-native invasive species.