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Jul 07

Good, Bad and Ugly about Algae

Posted on July 7, 2020 at 3:08 PM by Ryan Hiniker

Drainage update 7/7/2020


Upcoming Drainage Hearings or Meetings:

    Blue Earth County has recently started hosting board meetings and some drainage hearings virtually.  Blue Earth County staff has been using a combination of live-streaming video and conference call-in options.  Notices sent out for drainage hearings will include all necessary information for our constituents to attend these hearings virtually via internet or through the call-in option.
  • No upcoming hearings.                                                                                                                                                                            

Good, Bad and The Ugly About Algae:

I know that seems to be a reoccurring topic around this time of year.  Algae and toxic algae blooms affect many of our southern Minnesota lakes.  What do you get when you mix warm weather, sun, warm water temps, lots of nutrients and a calm bay area?  More than likely you get algae blooms on our shallow southern Minnesota lakes.

Many of our southern Minnesota lakes are the ideal breeding grounds for algae and algae blooms.  Algae is a natural reoccurring thing found in almost all water bodies, but algae blooms, especially blue-green algae blooms, are not found on all bodies of water.  Algae is usually harmless and found in just about all water bodies, however, blue-green algae is a beast all its own.  Blue-green algae is actually a bacterium and not an algae.  The bacteria are called Cyanobacteria, and when conditions are right, they turn into Cyanotoxins.  The bacteria getting to the toxic level is when it becomes dangerous to humans and animals.

Blue-green algae blooms are often described as pea soup or an oil slick of thick green film, usually accompanied by a very fowl order of decay.  Harmful algae can be found on almost any lake in Minnesota, but the southern Minnesota lakes usually have the worst algae blooms.  The shallow southern Minnesota lakes are believed to be worse due to the increased urban population and the availability for extra nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen.  Extra nutrients gain access to our lakes and waterways through run-off.  Whether the run-off comes from city storm drains or agriculture, both are contributors to extra nutrient supply to our waters.

So, now I’m at the lake and suspect it could be Blue-green algae, what do I do?  Avoid contact with the contaminated water.  This means try to keep kids and critters out of the water as well.  Humans may experience a slight reaction from algae blooms from exposure to the skin, but most harmful is ingesting or swallowing the bacteria-ridden water.  Dogs are susceptible to the bacteria waters as well.  Both, dogs and humans can have similar reactions if exposed to the Cyanobacteria waters.

Unfortunately, blue-green algae is here to stay in our lakes.  About the only thing we can d is manage the nutrients entering our waters.  Reducing the amount of sediment and nutrients that enter the lakes, rivers and streams will greatly reduce the severity of the algae blooms, when they do occur.

If you suspect your lake or water body has a blue-green algae problem you can report it to local Department of Natural Resources (MNDNR) Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) staff.  For more reading on this topic check out the link provided.

Project Updates:  

  • JD34 (LeRay Twp.)  Nothing new to report from last week.
  • CD05 (Medo and Danville Twps.)  The new township road crossing was installed.  Additional cleaning of sediment is still going on.  Photo of the new crossing being installed as it nears completion.cd05 new road crossing
    cd05 new road crossing 2
  • JD09 North (LeRay Twp.)  No changes from last week.
  • CD48 (Cambria Twp.)  The new system seems to be functioning well.  The system got a big test last week with the heavy downpours in the area.


Recent Drainage Inspections:

  • CD35 (Mapleton Twp.)  The ditch banks seem to be holding stable, as conditions have been rather dry. 
  • CD56 (Garden City Twp.)  The two areas of repair started two weeks ago are still full of water, not much crews can do besides wait for the water to drain down.  Photo showing water pouring out of in-take.cd56 intake
  • JD15 (Lincoln Twp.)  All the gains we made two weeks ago where lost by the recent heavy downpours.  It will take the rest of this week for the waters to drain down again before crews can continue repairing old tile lines.
  • JD17 (Garden City Twp.)  Nothing new from last week, still dewatering and waiting for water levels to drop to finish repairs to tile lines.
  • JD48 (Butternut Valley Twp.)  Recent flooding and downpours brought some sloughs and even large chunks of grasses floated downstream like bogs, which plugged one township road crossing for a short period of time.  The floating debris eventually did break itself free and waters dropped back inside normal ditch bank areas.
  • CD47 (Cambria Twp.)  Large amounts of standing water.  Not an uncommon sight for an aged tile system and over six inches of rain.  Photo providedcd47
  • JD01 Faribault (Sterling Twp.)  Monitoring in-let tile from Lura Lake.  The in-let for JD01 is vital to controlling water level heights for the lake.  There is another lake outlet on the southwest corner in Faribault County.  

Do you have questions or topics about drainage that you would like to here more about? If you would like me to incorporate those concerns or topics in one of my future blogs, please feel free to email me at the listed email address below. 

We have multiple contractors making repairs across the county currently.  Please report repair issues to our drainage staff as soon as you notice them, as this will expedite the time in getting those repairs made.

We require that all repairs to a county drainage system (tile or open ditch) be authorized by one us in the drainage office, either Craig or myself, before any repairs are made.




Ryan Hiniker

Drainage Management Specialist