Local governments in northwest Iowa are discussing an agreement that would launch a study of the entire Iowa Great Lakes watershed.
Milford Mayor Steve Anderson says Lower Gar Lake is on the state list of “impaired” waters due to the amount of algae bloom and the level of turbidity or cloudiness of the water.
“It’s due to the sediments that keep building up in Lower Gar Lake and those sediments during low water times are causing issues,” he says. “I know there are navigation concerns and what not, but when you look at it from a water quality standpoint that’s what’s causing algae blooms, that’s what’s causing water quality concerns of that lake.”
Lower Gar covers 250 acres and is the lowest lake in the Iowa Great Lakes chain. Anderson says Iowa State University professors conducted a study of the Great Lakes watershed in the 1970s and that really helped push things forward.
“The reason why we see water quality in East (Okoboji) Lake like we do today versus what we saw in the ’60s is because of that study,” Anderson says.
Seven major lakes lie within the watershed, including West and East Okoboji as well as Big Spirit Lake. The ISU study concluded each of the lakes was overly enriched with minerals and nutrients. Anderson says it’s time to take steps to slow down or contain sedimentation in Lower Gar. because that lake has an impact on the other six in the chain.
“Part of this is putting together a coalition, this resolution of the cities and the lake associations with DNR to put a coalition together to keep focus on what we can do to get Lower Gar off the impaired waters list,” Anderson says, “and if we can do that, that means we’ve fixed the rest of the lake systems.”
Anderson is sending a letter from the City of Milford to other cities in the Iowa Great Lakes Watershed, hoping to get all parties to express their support of a study. The Iowa Great Lakes were carved out by glaciers and among the 34 “natural” lakes in the state. The other 65 percent of Iowa lakes were constructed by humans.
(By Matt McWilliams, KICD, Spencer; Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson also contributed to the story)