Local effort will make a difference
The impact of last summer's state dredging project over 180 acres of Storm Lake cannot be measured until after the spring of 2003, when nature can again take over with her wind and waves.
Because ice moved in shortly after the project was completed, it was impossible to accurately estimate the results in terms of water clarity and quality.
"We won't know really what kind of an effect it will have on the water quality until later on, specifically once the ice goes out and it starts to warm up," said Lannie Miller, fisheries biologist with the Iowa DNR.
The project didn't finish until right before ice first formed on Storm Lake. Because of that there hasn't been time for water to flow back into the lake and for wind to churn up sediment.
The state project, though, will be a good start for continued efforts. Miller said. The west end of the lake was targeted by the state because that is where a majority of silt and nutrients enter the body of water.
"The DNR felt it proper to dredge the west end to remove what sediment was there and to create a settling basin for whatever else comes in," Miller said.
However, the benefits of that project won't be seen over all of Storm Lake's 3,000 acres.
"That small area won't affect the wind-suspended sediment all that much, but when you add to that dredging what the local effort is pushing toward, then it will start to make a real difference," Miller said. "I don't think you'll see a huge difference in water quality until more of the lake is dredged and more of the watershed is brought under control."
Because of that, the DNR is working closely with the Lake Improvements Commission, the local entity overseeing improvements on both the lake and in the watershed.
"The DNR is actively working with the local group trying to get this additional dredging project into motion," Miller said. "We're really excited about it, we think it's a great project."
Even with the first part of the dredging project completed, a winter fish kill won't be a concern because of Iowa's atypical yet typical weather.
While the lake usually has total ice cover by Thanksgiving or the first week of December, Miller said not to expect that now until after the first of the year.
A winter fish kill won't be a concern this year either, with increased water depth and the fact that there basically is only three months of winter left, he said.
That provides security for the lake's fish population, while at Black Hawk Lake expensive-to-operate aerators haven't needed to be turned on.
"It's a good thing we don't have ice cover, but then again look at the fact that none of us can go ice fishing," Miller said.
Because of the uncertain ice levels, any winter anglers are urged to take extreme caution on Storm Lake and any Iowa lakes south of here.
"At this time we simply have no good ice conditions," Miller said.