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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Ice Out March 25 2015

By Steve Laliberte

It is official!  Birch Lake is open.  We had a string of warm weather 10 days ago.  That led most to feel the lake would open quickly.  Then it cooled off.  Yesterday the final packs were overtaken and by the end of the day all the ice was gone.

I have not walked the lake yet.

Any signs of fish kill?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

2015 Ice Out

By Stephen Laliberte

It is Sunday night.  It was 70 today.  The ice on the lake is getting blue.  The aerator opening in getting big.  Ice out is near.

Last year the ice went out on -- I don't know?  Much later, I think it was April.

Hey BirchLakers, when do you think ice out will be?

Please leave a comment with your vote on the date?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Winter 2015 Chairman's Corner

By Dale Bacon

The 2014 VLAWMO Monitoring report is an interesting read.  Birch Lake continues to demonstrate excellent water quality, with nitrogen and phosphorous levels well below MPCA water quality limits. The lake level has been up for the past 3-4 years; the water is very clear; fish are thriving; no algae blooms and the rooted aquatic plant community is well behaved!  Life is good!!

Well almost!  The relatively high chloride level of 80 mg/l is cause for some concern.  Although the level is below current MPCA acute and chronic limits, the data are insufficient to predict future chloride levels. A more robust database is needed to validate current and future compliance.

Road salt is used in large quantities to de-ice roads during the winter season.  The MPCA estimates that the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area uses 365,000 tons of road salt each year.  A 2007 University of Minnesota report estimated that Ramsey County used 12+Tons of road salt per lane mile per winter season!  Higher volume, higher speed roads generally receive more road salt.  The City of White Bear Lake uses far less salt, limiting road salt treatment to intersections, curves and ice patches. 

Birch Lake is bounded on three sides by heavily used roads as well as a residential street. Runoff from these roads as well as side city streets and parking lots drains into Birch Lake. This results in a large amount of chloride ion accumulating in the lake.   Assuming a lake size of 110 acres with an average depth of 4 feet and the current chloride level of 80 mg/l, a back of the envelope calculation yields about 160,000 pounds of salt (expressed as
NaCl) in the lake. The chloride ion is very soluble in water and increases in concentration over time.  If allowed to build up in a lake, it will reach a level that will have an adverse effect on the lake’s biota.
Road salt usage presents a dilemma in balancing the benefits of its use to its environmental consequences.  Total elimination is not practical.  Most of the current focus is on best management practices to reduce the amount of road salt use for deicing.  As an example, the City of White Bear Lake calibrates salt spreaders to better control its application.  Techniques such as pretreatment with a brine solution to prevent ice sticking to roadways have resulted in reductions in road salt use.  The MPCA is leading the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area Chloride Project.  One of its goals is to develop a chloride management that will include recommendations to reduce chloride input to metro area waters.   It is hoped that activities such as this will result in chloride level reduction in Birch Lake.
The BLID board is concerned about the elevated chloride level in Birch Lake and has taken steps to understand the long-term impact better.  Jim Grisim has taken the lead in following developments at the state and local level.  He reports on a recent conference in this newsletter. The board is also working with VLAWMO on this issue. The membership will be kept informed of these activities.   Feel free to contact Jim or me if you have any questions.

2015 Winter Birch Lake Dissolved Oxygen

By Brian Corcoran, Water Resources Manager, VLAWMO
Each year the Vadnais Lake Area WMO (VLAWMO) takes monthly dissolved oxygen readings on all monitored lakes within the watershed to monitor the health of the water bodies within VLAWMO.
Dissolved oxygen (DO) measures the amount of gaseous oxygen (O2) dissolved in an aqueous solution. Oxygen gets into water by diffusion from the surrounding air, by aeration or rapid water movement, and as a waste product of photo-synthesis from aquatic vegetation.  Adequate DO is necessary for good water quality and aquatic life. 

The normal range to support aquatic life is between 4-10mg/l.  Sustained readings below 4mg/l will stress fish and can cause fish kills.  Game fish such as bass, walleye, and pan fish are less tolerant to low DO levels compared to rough fish such as carp and bullhead.  Water temperature and rotting organic matter (leaves, grass clipping, dead aquatic vegetation, runoff) also affect DO levels. Colder water can hold more DO than warm water, and bacteria consume a lot of DO to break down organic matter. 

Dissolved oxygen fluctuates throughout the year.  DO levels usually drop during the winter months as sunlight is limited and some aquatic vegetation is dying.  DO levels will rise in the spring as the ice melts and aquatic vegetation begins to grow.  As water temperatures warm during the dog days of summer, DO levels usually drop; as water cools in the fall, DO levels usually rebound until ice forms. 

The severity of a winter can really change DO levels.  Snow pack can reduces the amount of sunlight entering a water body limiting photo-synthesis; the earlier a lake freezes and snow pack builds, the lower the DO levels may get throughout the winter months.  For shallow lakes, hard, long deep freezes can also affect DO levels.  A thick ice pack will limit the amount of “swimmable” water in a shallow lake and may trap fish in certain areas of a water body.

So far no concerns, Birch Lake’s DO levels are good.

2015 Winter Storm Water Management

Dale Bacon discussion with Mark Burch, Director of Public Works

Storm water management is a high priority in Minnesota.  The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) requires that cites such as White Bear Lake implement a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Program (SWPPP) to improve storm water quality.  The city has developed a very detailed plan to comply with this requirement.  The plan is available on the city web site.  Pollution prevention and good housekeeping activities are key elements of the plan that directly impact Birch Lake. 

As an example, streets near Birch Lake are vacuum swept 2-3 times in spring and fall.  This helps to prevent fine particulate matter, road salt, and other road debris from entering the lake.

Vacuum Sweeper

 Big Sucker

A vacuum truck is routinely used to clean out treatment devices such as the storm water separator on Birch Lake Avenue.  The storm water separator removes particulates, free oil and other debris from storm water before it enters the lake.  You may have seen the “big sucker” in operation.

The city is concerned about the impact of road salt on the environment and has taken a number of steps to minimize salt use.  One of the programs involves calibrating salt spreaders on trucks to prevent waste.

These activities are a first line of defense in protecting and enhancing the quality of Birch Lake.  Dedicated city employees routinely carry them out in a very professional manner.  We are very appreciative of their service.

2014 Birch Lake Water Quality

VLAWMO has released the 2014 Water Quality Monitoring Program Report. It provides detailed monitoring data as well as an assessment of the water quality for 11 lakes, including Birch Lake, in the VLAWMO coverage area.  The data for Birch Lake are based on biweekly samples collected by Ron Auger and Jim Grisim.   
Birch Lake continues with a high water quality rating, receiving a B+ grade using the Metropolitan Council grading system.  The grade is based on secchi disk depth readings (water clarity), total phosphorous levels (nutrient level), and Chlorophyll A levels (algae level).  The B+ grade for Birch Lake is based on low total phosphorous and chlorophyll A levels as well as excellent water clarity.  Birch Lake’s shallow depth limits the maximum grade to B+!
                      VLAWMO Lake Grades
TSI Status
E. Goose
Eutrophic - Hypereutrophic
W. Goose
Eutrophic - Hypereutrophic

The report indicates that Birch Lake has high chloride levels.  The chloride levels are the result of runoff from road salt on streets and parking lots for winter ice control.  While the chloride levels do not come close to exceeding regulatory standards, they will be closely monitored.  The impact of the use of road salt on urban lakes is an emerging environmental concern.

Click here to get a PDF of the full report.

2015 Winter Road Salt Symposium

By Jim Grisim
In February, I attended the 14th Annual Road Salt Symposium on behalf of the BLID. This symposium was sponsored by the Freshwater Society of MN.
The symposium was very informative and had some very knowledge speakers. Some of the presenters included:
-        Jim Gilbert, renown Naturalist
-        Brooke Asleson, Watershed Project Manager from the MN Pollution Control Division
-        By Satellite feed – Marta Ruiz-Llata, PhD, Professor, Madrid Spain
-        Carolyn Dindorf, Limnologist, Vice President, Fortin Consulting
-        MNDOT Operations Supervisor
-        Federal EPA Storm water Specialist
-        And other experts in storm water and road maintenance

There are many effects that road salt has on our streams, rivers, and lakes.  But also there are other environmental impacts and costs that road salt creates including:
-        Killing wildlife – birds, squirrels and other small animals that pick up looser salt and die of dehydration
-        Drawing deer and other animals out onto roads for the salt – causing increased car accidents and/or wildlife mortality
-        Killing or discoloring vegetation along the roads due to high chloride concentration in the soil
-        Increased crabgrass or other non-desirable plants that are more tolerant due to the high concentration of chloride in the soils
-        Killing of trees along roadways
-        Rust on vehicles
-        Deterioration of sewer lines and cement underlayment due to the salt

The experts put the cost for the salt and labor to disperse it at $73 per ton for salt and $150 per ton for equipment and labor.  Per the environmental specialists, this $223 per ton cost goes up closer to $700-$800 per ton when you factor in all the other costs.  Therefore, there is a real incentive for local government public works and environmental groups to work together on reducing salt being placed on all roadways but especially ones along our waterways.
There are many Cities and Counties that already have a road salt reduction plan and monitoring program in place.  The BLID is working with our watershed, city, and county to find out what plans and programs we have in place.

2015 Winter Fish Survey Final Report

Blue Water Science has issued the final report on the fish survey that was conducted September 4 – 6, 2014.  The survey involved setting live fish traps at 6 locations around the lake.  The trapnets were monitored daily, contents logged and returned to the lake.  Information regarding number, species, weight and length was recorded.
Blue Water Science conducted the first fish survey on Birch Lake in 2011.  The 2011 survey found six species of fish compared to the eight species in 2014.  The major difference between the two surveys is the absence of largemouth bass in 2014.  The largemouth bass decline is attributed to the extreme ice and snow cover during the winter of 2013 – 2014.
The report has the following recommendations and future considerations:
·       In Birch Lake, northern pike are the dominant game fish, although their average length is relatively small.  Walleyes and perch have been stocked in the past and have not become established.  Future stocking of walleyes and perch are unnecessary at this time.
·       Stocking 2,000 largemouth bass in 2014 should reestablish the bass population and add another predator to the fish community.
·       Because sunfish currently spawn in the lake, the young fish should produce a forage base on an annual basis.  The fish carrying capacity of Birch Lake will be established naturally, which is a good long-term management strategy.
·       The winter aeration system is essential to maintain the existing fish community.  It is recommended that efforts continue to ensure proper operation of the winter aeration system.
·       Water quality remains good in Birch Lake and fishing has the potential to be very good for pan fish and largemouth bass.  In three to four years another fish survey should be conducted to evaluate conditions and re-evaluate recommendations.

2015 Lake Clean Up - Saturday May 2

Mark Your Calendars for May 2, 2015!
Plan to join your neighbors in the annual lake clean up scheduled for May 2, 2015.  This is a great way to rid the lakeshore and walkways of the litter that has built up over the winter.  An hour of your time will go a long way in beautifying the lake!