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Shoreview to study artificially adding water to Turtle Lake
The city of Shoreview and the Turtle Lake Homeowners Association (TLHA) will look into the feasibility of piping water into Turtle Lake to control its water levels, putting to rest, for now, a years-old question with the help of money provided by a state grant.
Shoreview City Council approved a plan for an estimated $100,000 feasibility study of augmenting the 450-acre lake at a June 16 meeting, a move buttressed by $75,000 in state funds that will be administered to the city through the Metropolitan Council, an appropriation sought by state Sen. Bev Scalze and Rep. Barb Yarusso and approved at the end of this year’s legislative session.
In May, the city had waffled on its support of funding the feasibility study, pegged at $100,000 based upon previous project studies. At the time, the council cited forthcoming TLHA board elections, high lake levels and the possibility of receiving the state grant, while backpedaling on a previously discussed 25-75 percent split of the study cost, between the city and TLHA.
With the grant in place, reducing Shoreview’s contribution to around $6,250 based upon the 25-75 percent split plan, the city council voted 4-1, with only councilmember Ady Wickstrom withholding approval.
The plan for the feasibility study will move forward once TLHA’s support of around $18,750 is put in escrow and writing.
Putting disagreement to rest
As explained by Mark Maloney, the director of public works at Shoreview, Turtle Lake was augmented with groundwater from 1950 until 1989, when the Department of Natural Resources prohibited the use of groundwater to supplement lake levels.
In 2010, when the lake level was at its most recent minimum, some 200 Turtle Lake residents showed up at Shoreview City Hall to discuss augmentation of the lake by another means; the most likely source of water would be the Mississippi River.
“[It was a] pretty significant low water level in the lake,” Maloney said.
Between 2010 and now, the augmentation issue became a point of contention around the lake and for the TLHA, with residents for and against controlling the lake levels, though mostly in agreement about the necessity of a feasibility study if only to conclude discussion of the issue, according to Marsha Soucheray, a TLHA board member.
Moving forward with the feasibility study, Maloney said the city would take the lead as the permitting process can be complicated, and added the study would also likely focus on issues that the DNR, other agencies and area watershed districts have recently studied.
“I’d hate to admit that the engineering part of this is insignificant, because it’s not,” Maloney said. “But the water quality concerns and the invasive species are the two topics that are kind of bouncing around in the agencies.”
Voicing her continued reluctance about augmentation or even funding a study of augmentation, Wickstrom said there were too many unknowns regarding future water needs in the area, and wondered if at some point in the near future, an agency, such as the DNR, might prohibit the use of some future augmentation system at Turtle Lake.
City manager Terry Schwerm said that was possible.
Mayor Sandy Martin said, calling herself a devil’s advocate regarding Wickstrom’s reservations, that with the study essentially funded by the state, there was need to “squander” the money provided and that even if an augmentation system was never put in place, the study could provide valuable information to the city and others.
Council member Emy Johnson said the augmentation question has taken up so much time that something should come from all the discussions.
“I think this topic has gone on and on and on and has caused some contention between residents around that lake, which is a concern to me as a council member,” she said. “If we choose not to do this feasibility study, now that we have this $75,000 grant, what’s the output?”
The one time state grant is for fiscal year 2015, which means it can be accessed starting July 1 of this year; the wording of the grant makes it specific to an augmentation study of Turtle Lake.
Maloney said the soonest an augmentation system could be in place—if a plan is agreed upon—was 2016, though permitting approval could be an obstacle to that date, pushing the completion of the project back to 2017.
As of the June 16 meeting, Maloney said water levels in the lake were near where they’d be kept if an augmentation system were to be put in place, at 891.44 feet above sea level.
As seen from the public beach at Turtle Lake County Park on the afternoon of June 17, several boaters and jet skiers could be seen enjoying the lake, and water levels appeared to be at an appropriate level with respect to a nearby boat launch.
Mike Munzenrider can be reached at email@example.com or 651-748-7824. Follow him on Twitter @mmunzenrider.