Lakes group getting back to work

FAIRMONT – Over the years, Fairmont Lakes Foundation had dwindled down to a two-person board, neither of whom were present at a monthly foundation meeting Tuesday.

Thankfully, they didn’t need to be. Ten new board members were present, plus Fairmont’s water resource technician, staff from Martin Soil and Water Conservation District, and a county commissioner.

The more the merrier, the board says.

“The group will be more sustainable the more people we have involved,” said member Scott Unke.

The foundation’s resurrection began about a year and a half ago, with a clean water grant awarded to Fairmont area lakes, according to newly appointed chairman Mike Katzenmeyer. Informational meetings were held, and attendants were asked to recruit volunteers to help with projects. As people got excited to get involved, renewed interest in the nonprofit lakes foundation developed.

As a result, the foundation was reorganized and reconstituted.

Last month, the first meeting of the 11-person board was held. Officers were appointed, funds were discussed, and solutions for curbing invasive species were brainstormed.

This month, the foundation again wasted no time getting down to business. Members learned what the city of Fairmont is doing to improve water quality; they voted in support of seeking a grant for a Dutch Creek wetland biofilter that would lower the amount of nitrates entering the chain of lakes; they discussed signage to educate the public about proper boat etiquette; and they touched on future goals, like drumming up more public input and creating more lake-centered events.

One frequent complaint brought up Tuesday was low lake levels, which is creating problems for boaters trying to dock their watercraft, get them out of the lakes, and use the channels joining the lakes. Corresponding with this problem is the height of the George Lake dam. Fairmont’s chain of lakes flows from south to north, until it reaches the dam on George Lake. During the spring and early summer, the water flows over the dam, but the foundation wants to know if that water could be kept within the Fairmont lakes system by raising the height of the dam.

The foundation worked on compiling a list of questions for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, including how the current lake level policy was developed and what can be done to alter that policy.

“‘I want them cleaner and I want them higher.’ That’s what I keep hearing,” said board member Scott Jones.

On the flip side, Katzenmeyer pointed out, some residents who live on the lake enjoy the shoreline they gain later in the summer when the water levels drop.

Anyone with questions, concerns or ideas related to the city’s lakes can seek out one of the foundation’s 11 board members. Other members are Tim Anderton, Brody Bents, Sherm Kumba, Jerome Niss, Mari Phelan, Jane Reiman and Marlin Wrucke.

The foundation is also welcoming public input at its monthly meetings. The board meets at 5:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month in room 112 at Southern Minnesota Educational Campus.