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Commentary: Action is needed for Lake Winona

By Jeanne Johnson, Alexandria, MN

Thanks for "Water quality remains a problem" and "A solution nobody wants to pay for" (Friday, Aug. 25). Karen Tolkkinen's excellent summary of the local situation was a much needed clarification of recent news about the Lake Winona pollution disaster.

Situations like this are rampant throughout Minnesota and Douglas County is not unique in being hamstrung by overlapping jurisdictions as county commissioners, city sewer district and county soil and water commissioners and city government struggle to blame each other.

Nevertheless, we are quickly arriving at a place where somebody has to pay. I doubt lake owners downstream from Lake Winona are willing to shrug their shoulders and submit to bureaucratic finger pointing and inaction. In fact, all area lakes are threatened by farm and urban runoff, invasive species and heedless land use policy.

The way forward ideally should be lead by a citizen coalition which includes elected officials, business leaders, lake area property owners and other stakeholders that can arrive at a consensus supportable by all, backed by the bucks to get the job done.

While it is hoped that the humorous recommendation by one official to fill it in (Lake Winona) and plant corn on it might not be supportable, a thorough review of the problem and the proposed solutions is warranted. Nor should citizens of Alexandria be forced to give up their water softeners to end the chloride problem. Over use of salting on winter roads bears some part of the blame for that. The carp problem might respond to commercial use of carp for animal feed or clever marketing aimed at making heroes of carp fishermen.

Adding to existing problems is the projected rate of development here in the near future is something in the area of 20 percent-plus and no plan exists to guide sound environmental decisions that protect land and water from further deterioration. That's why it is easy to see action is needed.

County commissioners should quickly take action to set up a coalition along the lines suggested. With local historic trends now pointing to wetter, warmer weather, stresses on our lakes and groundwater will become even greater and the problems more intractable. Second, local people who care have to let elected officials know that hope is not a plan.