About the Comfort Lake-Forest Lake Watershed District

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It all started when…

A group of 74 residents, two cities, and two counties petitioned the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) to establish the Comfort Lake-Forest Lake Watershed District on November 18, 1998. A public hearing concerning the establishment of the CLFLWD was subsequently held on June 21, 1999 at the Forest Lake City Hall Council Chambers. The CLFLWD was formed by order of the BWSR on September 23, 1999.

Since then, the CLFLWD has been striving to protect and improve local water resources through the use of careful planning, targeted water monitoring, and implementation of a variety of water-improvement strategies.

WHO WE ARE

The CLFLWD is a local government organization that covers 49 square miles in northern Washington and southern Chisago counties. The District includes portions of the City of Wyoming, Chisago City, Chisago Lake Township, Franconia Township, the City of Forest Lake, and the City of Scandia. Like other watershed districts, our geographic boundaries are not determined by municipal boundaries, but instead by hydrologic boundaries.

Overall, the CLFLWD is a watershed wherein all water ultimately flows to one point, Comfort Lake. This 49-square mile watershed is divided into four major lake management districts for planning and projects. Each major lake district is divided into smaller subwatersheds for monitoring and project work. The four lake management districts include Bone Lake, Forest Lake, Little Comfort Lake, and Comfort Lake.

what we do

To achieve our goals, we implement several programs and capital improvement projects. Funding for these initiatives comes from a variety of sources, including an ad valorem tax levy on properties within District boundaries, grants, and partner contributions. The District sets an annual budget including administration, programs, and projects, including capital projects. The budget for 2019 is $2.5 million.

Projects

Adaptive management is an iterative approach of implementation, evaluation, and course correction that reflects the dynamic nature of water resources. The District sets an adaptive management policy to be able to react to changing conditions while also remaining mindful of the long term goals for the resources of the District. One of the primary goals of the District is to restore and maintain lake water quality as appropriate to each resource. Excess nutrients are the main factor degrading water quality in most District Lakes. Targeted diagnostic monitoring is used to identify the most cost-effective nutrient load reduction projects. The District uses cost-benefit analysis to stretch public dollars further toward reaching water quality goals.

Using the watershed method, the District starts at the top of the flow network and works its way down, improving each lake along the way. Three types of nutrient loading affect a lake – upstream lakes/streams, watershed (i.e. runoff from the surrounding landscape), and internal (i.e. nutrients that are already in the lake and are feeding algae blooms). Similar to when you wash your car, the District starts at the top and addresses those lakes first. As upstream lakes improve, that helps improve the downstream lakes. Next, watershed loading is addressed through implementation of best management practices within the lake district. Finally, once all manageable external loading is addressed, the District tackles internal loading through a variety of methods such as alum treatment, rough fish management, and/or curly-leaf pondweed management.

Throughout each step in this process, the District cycles through the adaptive management model of monitoring, re-evaluating, and course-correction. In-lake conditions do not necessarily respond quickly to changes in the watershed. Adaptive management decisions will therefore be made based on long-term observed trends in lake water quality as well as evaluations of the effectiveness of specific practices.

Programs

In addition to implementing water quality capital improvement projects, as described on page 8, the District maintains several ongoing programs which play a crucial role in protecting lakes and streams. While the projects are often the ‘star of the play’ receiving most of the attention, the programs are the much-needed support structure around them. Below are descriptions of just a couple of our many programs.

Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS): The Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Prevention and Management program is multi-faceted. It recognizes that the most effective strategy against invasive species is to prevent their introduction and establishment. Watercraft inspections and public outreach are key tools in this effort. Additionally, the District performs plant surveys and management of rough fish and invasive plants to preserve water quality and ecological integrity of the resources. Policies and goals in the CLFLWD Watershed Management Plan are designed around the ecological integrity of water resources within the District. Accordingly, the District’s involvement in the long-term management of AIS presently is be based on the benefit to ecological systems.

Cost-Share and Plant Grants: The District offers grants for projects that improve water quality and/ or decrease stormwater runoff. In recent years, the main focus in the residential sector has been the Plant Grant program which provides 100% cost-share grants to homeowners in an amount up to $500 for the purchase of native plants. The District is also expanding its agricultural best management practice cost-share program which will provide funding and support to farmers and rural landowners to help reduce their land’s impact on water resources while maintaining functionality of the land.