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'Once-in-a-lifetime bog': Crew removes football field-sized mass of cattails from beach

John Kamphake, owner of JJ's Co. Excavating in Parkers Prairie, chips away at a football field-sized bog that lodged against the southeastern shore of Lake Miltona. The DNR granted special permission to use heavy equipment in the lake. (Karen Tolkkinen / Echo Press)1 / 2
Boaters hold a floating bog close to shore while a backhoe cut it apart and loaded pieces into dump trucks. It took more than 100 trips to haul the bog pieces to a nearby farm field for composting. (Karen Tolkkinen / Echo Press) 2 / 2

A bog the size of a football field that floated across Lake Miltona and wedged against a beach took an excavator and 119 dump truck trips to be removed.

"I guess you'd call it a once-in-a-lifetime-size bog," said Steve DeSutter, president of the Lake Miltona Association. "We get a lot of little ones that are 15-, 20-feet-wide when the ice breaks up every year. Bogs are nothing new to Miltona, but one this size is."

About two weeks ago, the bog broke free from a peninsula of bulrushes and floated around for a couple days before settling in front of several homes on the southeast side of the lake, DeSutter said.

When bogs settle in, homeowners have to remove them before they take root, or the state might not allow their removal, said Jerry Wendlandt, aquatic plant management specialist for the DNR. In this case, Wendlandt said, the bog was so massive that he granted special permission for an excavator to enter the lake.

Wendlandt has already approved 14 bog removal permits this year, which is high for mid-May. High water levels have uprooted cattail bogs from lake bottoms. Winds then drive them across the lakes and leave them where they're unwanted.

"And we are very early in the permitting season," he said. "I would anticipate the numbers going up quite a bit."

The bog problem is so severe, he said, that many lakeshore residents have been delaying dock installation.

"Those things are heavy and they get so much momentum that they could destroy docks and lifts and anything in their path," he said.

Mark Warborg, a driver for JJ's Co Excavating in Parkers Prairie, which removed the bog last week, said beach houses blocked trucks from reaching the bog, so an excavator had to travel down the beach and push the bog away from shore. A fleet of waiting boats then pushed it next to a lake access road at the Carlos Rod & Gun Club.

After the bog settled in, the excavator operator, John Kamphake, who owns the company, used its bucket to grab bites of bog for loading into dump trucks. The trucks then hauled the bog to a nearby farm, where they would disintegrate into compost, Warborg said.

Kamphake said his company has removed more than half a dozen bogs. About six or seven years ago, one of them, near Brainerd, was larger than the Lake Miltona bog, he said.

DeSutter said no government money went to remove the bog, although the lake association is considering its options for government assistance.