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Barten said the Shriners were a huge help, but much more needed to be done.
“There’s no one silver bullet to improve the water quality of a lake,” he said. “It takes a concerted effort to address all the sources of phosphorus.”
Three Rivers crews have treated the lake with an herbicide each spring since 2009 to kill invasive curly-leaf pondweed. They also spread liquid aluminum sulfate across the lake in fall 2010 and spring 2011, thanks to a $450,000 grant from the state’s Legacy Outdoor Heritage Fund. The compound mixes with phosphorus, creating heavy particles that drop to the bottom of the lake and remain inactive there. And Three Rivers also reduced erosion into the lake by stabilizing part of its shoreline.
Barten said Lake Rebecca has several advantages that made the turnaround happen faster than might be possible at other lakes. Because it has no lakeshore development, it has no lawns, streets, houses and driveways to contribute runoff. And because large motors aren’t allowed, bottom sediment loaded with phosphorus does not get churned up and re-suspended in the water.
But other sick lakes can also reverse directions if there’s enough time, money and commitment, Barten said.
At Lake Rebecca, the Park District did not install a protective curtain at the swimming beach in 2011 and 2012, the first time that’s happened in more than a quarter century. Earlier this month, crews were spreading clean sand and sprucing up the area for this summer.
“In the past, we’d basically pull in algae-free water and blow out surface water just to maintain a decent swimming area, and even that was marginal,” Barten said.
“Now we don’t need the beach curtain any more. The water quality is really excellent.”
Tom Meersman • 612-673-7388