A few weeks ago, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) released a report on new water bodies added to the state’s impaired waters list.

A few weeks ago, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) released a report that they’d added 581 new water bodies, with 728 new impairments, to the state’s impaired waters list — bodies of water that do not meet water quality standards. More than a dozen watersheds were assessed in this report, including the Kettle, Otter Tail and Cottonwood Rivers. The entire list totals 5,774 impairments in 3,416 different bodies of water.

Buried, midway through the report, was a paragraph about the success of efforts to improve water quality. Sleepy Eye Lake was reported as one of four bodies of water the MPCA is proposing to remove from the list where restoration work has improved water quality:

“Sleepy Eye Lake (Brown County), Faille Lake (Todd County), and Waverly Lake (Wright County) now have nutrient levels low enough to meet recreational standards. Bacteria levels in a segment of Plum Creek (Stearns County) are now low enough to meet recreational goals.”

How did this good result come about for Sleepy Eye Lake?

Mayor Wayne Pelzel, who chairs the Sleepy Eye Lake Improvement Committee, gives credit to the dredging project that was done in 2004. “Dredging removes some of the silt that has settled in the lake over the years,” said Pelzel. “That improves water clarity and reduces the phosphorous level.”

Sleepy Eye Lake was first included on the list of impaired waters in 2002. Phosphorous is a nutrient the MPCA sited as the pollutant or stressor in Sleepy Eye Lake. Too much phosphorous can lead to excess algae in the lake. The delisting reason is that water quality standards have been attained due to restoration activities.

Water enters Sleepy Eye Lake through the slough west of Divine Providence Home. The slough is actually considered part of the lake and filters water before it gets to the main lake basin. Water enters the slough through drainage from the north side of town and a small area of farm land just to its north.

Pelzel said the Lake Committee met with the DNR about a year ago to discuss the next step in improving the lake. In addition to Pelzel, members of the Lake Committee are Brian Cook, Steve Morasch, Tom Moldaschel, Ed Treml, Matt Mathiowetz, and Sam Domeier.

“The slough is filling in with sediment, reducing its ability to filter water for the lake,” said Pelzel. “The committee discussed pushing sediment out when the slough is frozen.”

Pelzel said the next step is to test for siltration in the slough, by taking sediment borings when the freeze up occurs — he said a couple committee members will do this.

“Then we will share the results with the DNR,” said Pelzel, “and start to push to move this project ahead . . . ideally next winter.”