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Corps of Engineers floats a plan for Little Storm Lake

Monday, February 20, 2006

'Trying to move forward'

Cleanup of Little Storm Lake would cost at least $3.6 million and work will start no sooner than 2009, according to a preliminary restoration plan submitted by the Army Corps of Engineers to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources this month.

Like many other environmental projects, the plan was delayed for two to three months by the Corps' commitment to clean up after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The plan provides two timetables for the project, projected in May and November 2009, respectively, dependent on Corps policy. Funding is already in place.

Little Storm Lake wetland preserve, which acts as a filter between the Storm Lake watershed and the larger lake, has been marked for attention to capitalize on the campaign to improve Storm Lake's overall water quality through dredging and watershed protection.

The Corps plan, submitted by Camie Knollenberg, study manager, calls for a slate of improvements to Little Storm Lake to assist its ability to trap sediment and keep it from reaching Storm Lake. Also addressed are ways to keep livestock from affecting the watershed, incentive programs, and altering fertilizer applications along Powell Creek and other watersheds.

During high periods of runoff, Little Storm Lake becomes relatively ineffective in keeping sediment from the larger lake. Also, a reduction in plant diversity in the smaller lake has prevented Little Storm Lake from filtering nutrients. Purple loosestrife has compounded the problem by taking over large areas and keeping away other plants that help improve water quality.

Several approaches are proposed in the plan. They include controlling purple loosestrife, dredging, windbreaks such as rock jetties or small islands to reduce silt suspension, and treating with alum to immobilize phosphorous and sediment. Another proposed method is water level controls.

While the DNR has agreed to act as local sponsor, final approval is in the hands of the Corps.

Iowa DNR Senior Environmental Specialist Julie Sievers noted that the effort has been delayed by the Corps' more immediate commitments following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. "It's not as soon as we would have hoped, that that's their timeframe," she said.

A feasibility study is likely in 2006-07 and plans and specifications in 2008.

"We're trying to move forward," Sievers said. "The cleanup of Little Storm Lake is a very important piece in the overall lake restoration project."

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