County board, lake residents discuss high water levels
Lake residents expressed interest in combating beaver dams and lake levels trending upward together at the Sept. 1 Hubbard County Board meeting, possibly forming a task force.
The Hubbard County Board recommended managing the problem through the Crow Wing River One Watershed, One Plan (1W1P).
County Land Commissioner Chip Lohmeier explained that the Spider Lake Association asked the county to install a Clemson pond leveler on an old beaver dam at an outlet on the south side of Spider Lake.
“Spider Lake, as well as many other lakes in the county, have been experiencing high water levels this year. Spider Lake is exceptionally high,” he said. “They would like to be able to drain some of that water out through some private land that goes into tax-forfeited land (TFL) and eventually drains down into Shallow, which goes down into Belle Taine. Of course, moving water from one area to another always impacts more than just the initial lake. It impacts those downstream.”
Lohmeier noted there is also an active beaver dam on private land south of County 40, but the county has no jurisdiction over that. “That is what is holding the majority of water on Spider Lake back,” he added.
Lohmeier said a Clemson leveler on the private property would likely be more effective, allowing a slow infiltration of water downstream.
Lohmeier and Park Rapids area DNR hydrologist Darrin Hoverson examined the beaver dam on county TFL. They recommended additional survey work to determine elevations of a culvert, the dam and the lake.
Hoverson said this dam is rotten. “There is not much holding that thing together,” he said, speculating there hasn’t been an active beaver at that location for at least a decade.
According to Hoverson, “the water levels on Spider Lake are at their historic high right now,” trending a foot above the ordinary high water mark over the past 20 years. “In the case of Spider Lake, it’s being driven entirely because of that downstream beaver dam and blockages.”
The last major effort to address these beaver dams occurred in the early 2000s, he said, but ran into some roadblocks to a solution.
Beaver dams are unprotected in public water rules, so they can be removed, Hoverson noted, with an owner’s permission.
Hoverson pointed out that Clemson levelers don’t always work perfectly and require management. In addition, they are normally placed once the water has receded. In places of low grade, like the TFL spot, Hoverson said he usually doesn’t recommend a leveler.
County commissioner Dan Stacey advised contacting the private landowner for his or her thoughts.
Hoverson said the Spider Lake Association did reach out and the landowner is seeking advice from Hoverson. He reiterated that additional surveys will be helpful for all parties, including downstream landowners on Shallow, Deer and Belle Taine lakes.
The Belle Taine chain has a documented 14-foot change from the 1930s to the spike in 2001, Hoverson said.
Even if the beaver dam was removed entirely, Hoverson said the water would slowly flush downstream over a matter of months.
Jim Dombeck has lived on Spider Lake since 1992. Riprapping is under water. A causeway to Spider Island is in potential jeopardy. He said a plan is urgently needed, as property values are being affected.
Marty Steffel, a Spider Lake property owner for about 25 years, said he looked forward to a joint effort to solve the problem. He expressed confidence the county could find a win-win program.
Board chair Char Christenson reminded everyone that the county can only weigh in on the TFL; the rest is a DNR issue.
John Maczko, a Belle Taine Lake Association board member, said, they “very much empathize” with Spider Lake residents and the ill effects of high water, like erosion.
“There’s currently sandbagging going on on Belle Taine to protect property,” Maczko said, noting the causeway to Camper’s Paradise is 15 inches away from being under water.
He said the lake association’s request of Spider Lake residents is to be cognizant of effects downstream.
County commissioner Tom Krueger said 2nd Crow Wing Lake is also experiencing high water levels.
“You all have outlets, we don’t,” Maczko said of Belle Taine Lake. He proposed a task force to tackle the water issue, adding that the Belle Taine Lake Association is willing to do their share.
George Lanz, another Spider Lake resident, said, “We want to be good neighbors to Belle Taine.”
Dan Olympia, also on Spider Lake, said he appreciated the education. “Being a lake owner is more than owning a boat and getting to fish,” he commented.
County commissioner David De La Hunt said, after managing the beaver scourge, the long-term problem of high water would best be served in the Crow Wing River 1W1P.
Krueger agreed, saying planning sessions would be a good place to start and part of that process is forming an advisory committee. He urged public participation.