Losing our Lakes






The following is a three-part series from the Minneapolis Star Tribune 




Part One 



Officials in Minnesota’s vacationland can’t say ‘no’ to those who want to break the rules.


By JIM SPENCER  jim.spencer@startribune.com

      Dan and Janelle Tepper wanted to build a three-bedroom house on the shore of North Long Lake, but they couldn’t squeeze in everything they wanted without breaking the rules. The lot in northcentral Minnesota was just too narrow. They needed permission to build 20 feet closer to the lake.

      Neighbors protested. They said allowing the Minneapolis buyers to build so close to the lake and a nearby road would pollute the water and flood the road. If the county was going to allow that, two neighbors argued, rules aimed at protecting the lake were not worth keeping.


      Unimpressed with the complaints, a land-use board in Crow Wing County unanimously approved the Teppers’ request in August. That kind of indulgence is typical in the heart of Minnesota’s vacationland, where lakefront development has continued despite the recession. 

For full article, click on:  Losing Our Lakes



A Stinking Mess!

Part Two





  Lake Independence was supposed to be Minnesota’s first success in the Clean Water program. Instead, it was our first failure.


  By TOM MEERSMAN  meersman@startribune.com

     On a sunny day in June, Lake Independence is calm but certainly not clear. A wide ribbon of green algae swirls through a roped-off swimming area. At a nearby fishing pier, invasive plants surround the dock, turning the water a dark and murky green.   scientists studied the water and $410,000 in state money was set aside to tackle the problem. Lake Independence emerged as the first lake in Minnesota with a state-approved cleanup plan.

     In another month or two, this natural treasure will be covered in green slime and smell like a sewer. Thickets of Eurasian water milfoil will clog boat propellers and snare swimmers.

   “You can’t see much more than a foot deep in the middle of summer,” said Mike McLaughlin, who has lived along the lake for 20 years. “People don’t like to swim in it anymore.”

     This unpleasant cycle has intensified over two decades as the lake, about 20 miles west of Minneapolis, chokes on phosphorus from horse manure, chemical fertilizers and other local sources.

     Alarmed by rising pollution levels, state officials put the lake on their list of “impaired” waters in 2002. Citizens mobilized,

     Eight years later, almost nothing has changed.   For the full story, click on:

Stinking Mess





Part 3



A worried officer tells of the enormous struggle

 to protect state lakes  



By JIM SPENCER  jim.spencer@startribune.com  


     As he guided his boat across the surface of Cross Lake, state conservation officer Cary Shoutz studied the lakeshore house in front of him. It was 6,900 square feet of living space crammed on a 23,000-square-foot lot with a lawn sprawling downhill. “The elevation is going to drain all the runoff into this channel here,” said Shoutz, a 22-year veteran of Minnesota’s lakeside enforcement wars. “It’s legal. But it would have been nice if they could have left natural growth near the water and built a catch basin for the runoff. ... They had a chance here to do something really special, and we didn’t get the message to them, obviously.”

     He chuckled and shook his head. The laugh is Shoutz’s version of a shrug of resignation tinged with gallows humor. Word about environmental damage to Minnesota’s lakes has not hit home for most of the decade Shoutz has worked on Cross Lake.

For the full story, click on:  Overwhelmed