Residents Express Concerns Over Casey Lake Conditions
Representatives from the Ramsey-Washington Watershed District, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and the City of North St. Paul met via Zoom with several residents to discuss the condition and care of Casey Lake on Wednesday, September 1.
Residents approached the City expressing concerns over the lake’s conditions. Paige Ahlborg, Watershed Project Manager and Bill Bartodziej, Natural Resources Specialist and District Biologist, both from the Watershed, and Robb Dodd from the DNR answered resident questions and shared the latest updates on Casey Lake’s history, management and maintenance.
Watershed staff presented the latest findings on Casey Lake’s water quality over the last several years and the ongoing efforts to measure the lake’s health. Several factors impacting the lake were discussed including how the drought conditions over the summer has impacted the Watershed’s ability to harvest weeds on the lake due to low water levels. Other concerns mentioned included storm drain and road maintenance concerns to help keep pollutants out of the water and the on-going need to remove trash from the lake.
Lake Management Roles
Currently, the Watershed District manages plant harvesting on the lake, monitors water quality, conducts fish assessments and restocks if necessary and manages the stewardship grant program. The City of North St. Paul installs and maintains an aerator throughout the winter months to ensure there is enough oxygen to sustain the gamefish populations. Ramsey County Public Works does annual street sweeping and sump catch basin cleanouts on County roads that drain into Casey Lake.
The efforts of RWMWD and other partners have greatly improved the water quality and ecology of Casey Lake. Harvesting was completed on September 9, 2021. RWMWD mainly harvests aquatic plants for a water quality benefit. Duckweed is not one of those plants that is harvested because it does not have a negative impact on water quality. The harvester ran across numerous bluegill and largemouth bass while working on Casey. Many were smaller fish indicating natural reproduction is taking place.
What Residents Can Do to Help
Dodd spoke to the residents about DNR permits that allow residents to clear cattails and other vegetation from their shorelines to accommodate recreational use on the lake. Ahlborg also referenced the Stewardship Grants available to property owners from the Watershed District to help with shoreline restoration and other improvements to protect Casey Lake’s water quality. Residents can reach out to RWMWD staff to schedule time to discuss shoreline restoration options.
Casey Lake Depth
Several residents expressed concern about the water level at Casey Lake and what, if anything can be done to increase its depth. Casey Lake has always been a shallow lake/wetland. City and RWMWD have and will remove accumulated sediment around structures as needed. Raising the water level will still result in the same plant community and is not needed to sustain a native fish community.
RWMWD reached out to the Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Board of Soil and Water Resources for more details about artificial lake level changes and dredging.
DNRresponse from Daniel Scollan, Acting East Metro Area Hydrologist for Ramsey and Washington Counties:
“Casey Lake (62-5P) is a DNR Public Water with a Natural Environment Lake shoreland classification. The current outlet structure for Casey Lake has a runout elevation of 925.3’, 1’ below the ordinary high water level of 926.3’. The existing outlet structure was authorized by DNR Permit #1991-6202.
To change a lake level control, Minn. Statutes 103G.407 requires that (1) all of the property abutting the ordinary high water level of the public water is in public ownership or the public entity has obtained permanent flowage easements; and (2) that DNR finds that the proposed change in the control level is in the public interest and causes minimal adverse environmental impact. A change in Casey Lake’s control elevation would be restricted by Minn. Rules 6115.0221, subpart 2, which states that “where a functioning outlet existed in a state of nature or for a long period of time following lawful creation, […] the proposed outlet is at essentially the same control elevation.” DNR’s goals for managing public waters, as stated in our rules, include maintaining or restoring natural water level conditions to the maximum feasible extent and limiting the artificial manipulation of water levels, except when the balance of affected public interests clearly warrants the establishment of appropriate controls that are not proposed solely to satisfy private interests.
With regard to the excavation of a public water like Casey Lake, note that DNR’s goals, as stated in our rules, include limiting the excavation of the beds of public waters in order to preserve the natural character of public waters. A project would need to be the "minimal impact" solution to a specific need with respect to all other reasonable alternatives. Excavation of public waterbasins like Casey Lake is specifically regulated by Minn. Rules 6115.0201, subpart 3. To get the required approval from DNR, a public need for the excavation must be established by a local government resolution specifying the public interests to be improved. The excavation project would need to achieve one or more of the following objectives: (1) improve navigation, swimming, and other recreational use; (2) reduce winter fish-kill potential; and/or (3) remove sediment to eliminate a source of nutrients and/or contaminants. To be considered for approval, a proposed excavation project would need to be part of a comprehensive plan for lake improvement that is based upon an rigorous background study with field data, and that includes an analysis of alternatives to excavation. Preparation of an environmental assessment worksheet (EAW) would likely be required by Minn. Rule 4410.4300, subpart 27.”
Board of Soil and Resources Response from Ben Meyer, Wetland Specialist
“Casey Lake is listed on the DNR PWI map as 5P which means it is a regulated Public Water Lake. The DNR would then regulate any excavation or outlet modification. If there is wetland fringe, the activity could not fill, excavate or drain in these areas.(RWMWD note: Casey Lake is a wetland fringe).
WCA allows for excavation of accumulated sediment in deeper water wetlands only when currently used as a stormwater basin (this assumes that stormwater pipes brought in the sediment). Otherwise, excavation would not be allowed in a Types 3, 4, 5 wetland without replacement. “
Residents can reach out to RWMWD staff to schedule time to discuss shoreline restoration options