Community Voices

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Dredging is a win-win issue

Millions of dollars. That's the sticker shock people get when they find out how much it will cost to dredge Storm Lake. But let's take a look at the whole picture.

The first question people might ask is: How is this going to help our community?

Besides the obvious answer of knowing that it will improve wildlife, fishing and the aesthetic beauty of the lake, it will also help Storm Lake's pocketbook. Let me give you two real life examples. Because the Iowa Great Lakes is known for its pristine waters, the news reported it received $150 million of revenue this past 2002 resort season.

This is all because water quality protection is number one in their minds. Another example is of Lake Ahquabi. I heard this from a reliable source. Before Lake Ahquabi was dredged, it received an average of about 70,000 visitors a year. The first year after it was dredged, it received over 200,000 visitors that year. That's a 35 percent increase in one year! Now bear with me. If each one of those visitors spent a conservative $30 for camping, lodging, food and shopping in one weekend, that would give the surrounding communities an economic boost of $3.9 million. Some of that increase could have been used to help pay for the dredging. We have the means to pay for the dredging, but do we have the vision?

Another question people might ask is: How does making a lake deeper affect anything?

The answer is simple. Even though Little Storm Lake has for years been filtering out sediment from the upland, many of the finer particles have settled out in the big lake. Sediment carries with it phosphorus. This phosphorus, which enters our lake through Powell Creek, small tributaries and through surface runoff, is responsible for the green lake we get during the warm summer. That green look is caused by algae. If fact, if I remember correctly, one pound of phosphorous can produce about 500 pounds of algae.

Wow! What a big problem we have. So now imagine 20 to 30 years of soil entering our lake. We have a huge reserve of phosphorus in our lake. By dredging the lake, we will be able to get a fresh start again.

So as we look at the whole picture, we can see by the two examples above that this project can easily pay for itself in a short amount of time. It also shows that dredging will help us get a fresh start again. Once our lake is dredged, upland protection in rural and urban areas should be our number one concern. By using buffers around streams, and reducing phosphorus runoff by using turf grass management on our urban lawns, it will ensure that our lake's water quality remains high on our list of priorities.