Celebration marks the beginning of a project six years in the making
Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (left) and Jim Cox, vice-chair of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, at the Lake Christina project kickoff celebration.
ASHBY, Minn., Sept. 14, 2010 – On an inspiringly beautiful afternoon, partners and supporters gathered Saturday at the Lake Christina public access area to mark the start of a long-awaited enhancement project. Local advocates for the project discussed the history of the lake and expressed their passion for improving water quality and seeing ducks return to this once vibrant waterfowl migration habitat.
"We want to see Lake Christina in its former glory again," said John Lindquist, president of the Chirstina-Ina-Anka Lake Association.
The 4,000-acre project, and seven others like it, is made possible by a 2009 grant to DU from the first year of Minnesota's Outdoor Heritage Fund as recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. Each speaker praised Minnesota voters for passing the legacy amendment in 2008 that established the dedicated funding measure. With the passing of the measure, the legislature created the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. The Council is charged with recommending projects and expenditures from the fund to the legislature that restore, enhance or protect wetlands, prairies, forests and other fish and wildlife habitat in Minnesota.
"Lake Christina is an example of what we want to do with the Outdoor Heritage Fund money, and when this project is done, people will have a tangible result for their investment," said Jim Cox, vice-chair of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.
Waterfowl habitat on Lake Christina recovered after rotenone fish toxicant applications in 1987 and 2003 that reduced fish abundance in the lake. Both treatments dramatically improved water clarity and aquatic duck food production in the lake. In 1994, the lake hosted 105,000 canvasbacks, similar to the number of birds it supported in the 1940s before the hydrology of the lake was altered by the construction of dams. Later, an electric fish barrier was installed to prevent invasive fish from entering the lake and degrading the habitat. Unfortunately, turbid conditions in the lake returned, causing plants to disappear along with the aquatic invertebrates that supported abundant numbers of ducks. This prompted Lake Christina stakeholders to seek alternative solutions.
"With all the dramatic recovery efforts that have been conducted in the past, Lake Christina has caught the imagination of all Minnesotans," Cox said.
Many other partners and supporters of the project were recognized at the celebration including the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Christina-Ina-Anka Lake Association, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pioneer Heritage Conservation Trust, Pelican Lake Property Owners Association, Flint Hills Resources and the McKnight Foundation.
All the speakers and guests recounted their personal histories associated with the lake and described their emotional ties and hunting experiences. The overall sentiment was one of preserving the heritage of Lake Christina and a desire to see the lake as it had been when it support tens of thousands of canvasbacks and served as a nationally significant stopover area for ducks on their way to breeding and wintering grounds.
Construction will begin this week to install the pump and related infrastructure, and the DNR will start a drawdown in fall 2011. Subsequently, the permanent electric pump station will allow the DNR to periodically draw-down water levels in Lake Christina when needed to enhance its aquatic ecology for ducks and other migratory birds. DU recently awarded a construction contract for the $1.5 million project. The pump project has been six years in the making.
The project is part of DU's Living Lakes Initiative and the Minnesota DNR's Duck Recovery Plan. These cooperative efforts call for the enhancement, restoration and protection of shallow lakes and large marshes for both waterfowl migration and brood-rearing habitat.
Ducks Unlimited is the world's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited 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.
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