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Neighborhood involvement sought for Como Lake clean-up

Posted on 10 September 2018 by Calvin

Shoreline buffers help to capture stormwater runoff from roofs, driveways, and parking lots in the fully built-out watershed that feeds Como Lake. The tall-growing native plants reduce shoreline erosion by holding the soil in place and discourage geese from congregating on the water’s edge. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The Capitol Region Watershed District (CRWD) held the first of three community meetings regarding the future of Como Lake on Aug. 9 at the Como Pavilion.

Community members are encouraged to attend the two remaining meetings and become part of this public advisory group. CRWD staffer Bob Fossum said, “It’s crucial that we tap into the wealth of engaged neighbors, citizens, and users of Como Lake.”

“Como Lake is a shallow, urban lake with a fully developed watershed,” Fossum explained. “For the last 20 years, our organization has worked on installing projects to capture nutrient-laden runoff including rain gardens, stormwater ponds, and underground infiltration systems. Despite all this work, water quality improvement is still needed. Our emphasis has been on the watershed; now it’s time for us to start looking directly at the lake.”

The Como Lake Strategic Management Plan was created in 2002 and has been the blueprint for efforts to protect, manage and improve the lake ever since. The plan is being updated to reflect the latest science, innovations in stormwater management, and community goals for the lake. CRWD intends to use input from their citizen advisory group, as well as agency input, to help create a more balanced eco-system.

Como Lake has been a St. Paul destination spot since the mid-1800’s and has gone through many changes in that time. Its current size is 72 acres, some 50 acres smaller than it was before the Como Golf Course was built.

In 1925, a significant dredging project added more depth to the lake.

By 1998, Como Lake was suffering from shoreline erosion, water pollution, accumulated litter, and runoff from unfiltered stormwater. The District 10 Council petitioned the State of Minnesota to create the CRWD; its members knew that help was needed to restore the health of Como Lake.

All lakes contain a mixture of nutrients, but the water in this lake is out of balance. Como Lake contains three times as much phosphorous as it should for a lake of its size, which causes an overgrowth of algae to bloom throughout the season. There are three main reasons why this happens: stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces, decomposing plants (especially the invasive species Curly Pond Weed), and the process of lake-bottom sediment breaking down.

Each of these events releases phosphorous into the lake, which results in spontaneous algae blooms.

In addition, Como Lake suffers from an unbalanced food web. It holds too many panfish because the larger predator species don’t thrive there. Panfish eat zooplankton which, in a healthy lake, can help to keep the growth of algae in check.

The goal of the updated Como Lake Strategic Management Plan is to identify a holistic, adaptive strategy for in-lake management, to complement the many improvements they’ve made in watershed management over the last two decades.

Consider becoming part of the public advisory group to make your voice heard. CRWD is partnering with the Fresh Water Society and LimnoTech, a nationally recognized expert on clean water and healthy ecosystems. This is an opportunity for people who care about Como Lake to help shape its future.

The next two public advisory group meetings will be held in November 2018 and February 2019. Contact CRWD’s Britta Belden at 651-644-8888 or britta@capitolregionwd.org with questions about upcoming meetings.

Learn more about the Como Lake management planning process at capitolregionwd.org/comolake.



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