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Jennie Lake gets a makeover

Echo Press photo by Lynn Mounsdon Digging work started this week on the south end of Jennie Lake. County Road 56, which winds around the lake, is temporarily closed to traffic. The lake is being drained and re-flooded as part of a project to improve water quality and habitat. The fish, mainly minnows, will be killed off. Below, culverts and piping will soon be installed.1 / 2
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Ducks Unlimited (DU) began work this week to enhance another shallow lake for waterfowl habitat.

This time it's 316-acre Jennie Lake in Evansville Township of Douglas County. The lake will be drained and re-flooded to improve water quality.

This is the fifth of eight shallow lake enhancement projects now under construction in Minnesota that are funded by a 2009 Outdoor Heritage Fund grant to Ducks Unlimited as recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.

State Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen of Alexandria and Les Bensch of Ashby (owner of Viking Valley Hunt Club) serve on the 12-member council.

The Jennie Lake project, estimated to cost about $170,000, involves the engineering and installation of a water control structure and electric pump. This will provide the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) with water level management capability to improve the lake, according to Jon Schneider, DU's Minnesota conservation program manager based in Alexandria.

Additional funding for the project is coming from a federal grant to DU from the North American Wetlands Conservation Council, the Chippewa River Watershed Improvement Project, Viking Sportsmen and the Pioneer Heritage Conservation Trust.

Jennie Lake is one of 45 shallow lakes legally designated for wildlife management purposes by the Minnesota DNR's Section of Wildlife.

The lake has a long history of heavy use by waterfowl during spring and fall migration, and it serves as an especially important stepping stone of habitat for diving ducks that need dependable aquatic food resources as they move through the state, according to conservation leaders.

The lake was also given refuge status by the DNR as a result of a petition by local landowners and the Evansville Sportsmen Club due to its importance to migrating birds.

"Unlike mallard ducks and geese that can feed on waste grain in harvested crop fields, diving ducks rely on aquatic plants, seeds, tubers, and invertebrates such as fresh water shrimp to replenish nutrient and energy reserves during migration," said Schneider. "This is especially important in spring when female ducks must maintain and improve their physiological body condition as they move through southern Minnesota prior to laying eggs on their breeding grounds in North Dakota and Canada."

Unfortunately, Jennie Lake had recently become turbid and nearly devoid of aquatic plants and invertebrates over the years due to stable high water levels and invasive fish, Schneider noted.

In fact, the lake's water quality became so degraded that it was listed as legally impaired by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

These degraded conditions and the resulting decline in waterfowl use of the lake prompted the Minnesota DNR to actively manage the lake to improve it, and provided the basis for their lake designation proposal in 2008. Minnesota DNR commissioner Mark Holsten signed the wildlife lake designation order for Jennie Lake on May 15, 2009 after extensive consultations with landowners, a public meeting, and a public hearing in Evansville.

"Public support for the improvement of Jennie Lake has been strong," said Kevin Kotts, Minnesota DNR Area Wildlife Manager in Glenwood. "We are thankful for the public concern, support, and funding for this important wetland project, and we look forward to actively managing the lake." 

Schneider noted that Jennie Lake landowners Craig and Julie Haseman and Victor Peterson were key supporters of the project.

Wildlife lake designation gives the state the ability to temporarily lower water levels and restrict motor use on the lake.

Temporary water level "draw-downs" simulate natural drought conditions that help create complete fish winterkill conditions and allow sediment to consolidate, aquatic plants to germinate and grow, and aquatic invertebrates to flourish.

Water quality improvements are typically dramatic once managed shallow lakes and wetlands are re-flooded, as previously suspended sediments and nutrients are instead consolidated, anchored by aquatic plants roots, and used by those plants to grow and flourish, according to Schneider.

Aquatic invertebrates then respond to the plants and flourish as well.

"The warm weather and recent lifting of road weight limits allowed our contractor, Duininck Brothers, Inc. of Willmar, to begin work on this project early this spring, which should allow us to complete the project ahead of schedule," said Matt Olson, DU construction manager based in Farwell near Alexandria. "We'll be working with Runestone Electric in May to run power to the site for the pump, which should allow for its use later this summer."


Ducks Unlimited (DU) is the world's largest non-profit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats.

Established in 1937, DU has conserved more than 12 million acres, thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent.

Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever.

The Vikingland Chapter of DU is holding its annual sponsors event at the Maritime Lakes Museum in Alexandria at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 6. For more information, call Tom Akenson at (320) 760-0380.