Supporters determined to save Lake PepinKatie Himanga is ready to put her work boots on.
By: Jen Cullen, The Republican Eagle
Katie Himanga is ready to put her work boots on.
The former Lake City mayor encouraged about 100 people Thursday to do the same to save Lake Pepin.
"It's time to put a little skin on it," said Himanga, member of the Mississippi Makeover project. "It's time to put our work boots on, or sometimes a suit, and get the work done."
Himanga's referring to a study outlining ways to improve water quality in Lake Pepin — which officials say will fill with sediment in 300 years.
About 100 people met Thursday in Red Wing to get the latest on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Total Maximum Daily Load study, which is expected to be complete by the end of the year.
The report specifies ways to clean up and restore Lake Pepin by determining its pollutant sources. The Clean Water Act forces states to evaluate impaired waters.
Lake Pepin was placed on the 2004 list of impaired waters because of its turbidity and excess nutrients, which cause algae blooms that are particularly severe during lower-flow periods.
"You don't have to love this, you don't even have to like this," said Trevor Russell, member of the Twin Cities citizens' group Friends of the Mississippi River. "But this train is leaving the station and we all need to get on board and do this together."
The Lake Pepin study is part of a larger statewide watershed cleanup effort, though the southeastern Minnesota lake is a major player.
Lake Pepin drains the Mississippi, Minnesota, Cannon and St. Croix river basins — about two-thirds of Minnesota’s land area.
"This is something worth doing," Russell said. "This is something we owe to ourselves, we owe to our future generations, we owe to our river."
Reducing the lake's pollutants will help decrease the risk of nuisance algae and increase the quality of recreational activities, said Norman Senjem of the MPCA.
Several local citizen groups — the Mississippi River Makeover project and the Lake Pepin Legacy Alliance — have also formed to throw other concerns into the mix like recreational opportunities, wildlife abundance and economic vitality along the river and lake.
"We're undertaking a big project for the mighty Mississippi and Lake Pepin," Senjem said. "We're going about it the best way we can to connect it at all ends."
While excitement is mounting as officials prepare the restoration study for Environmental Protection Agency review, Himanga said those dedicated to improving water quality and helping Lake Pepin have a tough task ahead.
Implementing the study's ideas will not be easy, cheap or seem fair to all Minnesotans, she said.
"Going the rest of the way is going to take guts. We cannot just appeal to the good will of the people of Minnesota," Himanga said. "There are people who just don't care about the common good."
To learn more about the study, go to www.pca.state.mn.us/water/tmdl/tmdl-lakepepin.html