Water levels in Chain of Lakes lowest since 1989

The lack of rain this summer has brought the Chain of Lakes to water levels not seen this time of year since 1989.

Currently, the water stands at levels more commonly found in October, said Tim Brown, environmental operations manager with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. The side effects have been both positive and negative.

The good: Because of the lack of rain, less bacteria-infested runoff has poured into the lakes. That’s left the lakes with unprecedented clarity.

It also has allowed underwater wildlife to flourish. From personal observations, Brown said, it seems there are more fish than usual.

People have benefited, too.

“It’s been an excellent year for swimming in the lakes,” Brown said. Save for more weeds, “they’ve been very clean, very clear.”

The bad: Neighbors to Lake of the Isles probably have noticed the negative impact more than anyone. Because water levels are so low, both channels leading into the lake are about a foot too low for machines that harvest milfoil to pass through. And because there also are no good launching points into the lake for such machines, there hasn’t been any removal of milfoil at Lake of the Isles this year.

“That has been an interesting — I’d call it an experiment,” Brown said. “Although it wasn’t deliberate.”

He said the impacts could last a while. Even if the city gets more rainfall over the coming months, it’s possible that levels won’t rise enough. Just a few inches won’t cut it for the harvesters to get access, he said.

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Calhoun-based mast falls victim to age

The top third of a memorial mast honoring sailors and Marines who died during World War I had to be removed in July because of deterioration.

The mast, 80 feet tall, originated from the USS Minneapolis and was installed in 1930. After the portion was removed on July 17, Lakes District Manager Paul Hokeness said he could stick a screwdriver straight through it.

“It’s amazing it didn’t snap off,” he said.

Replacement options are being considered, Hokeness said. The Park Board could partner with a local VFW to install a flag pole or ask other organizations to make improvements to the site, he said.

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Independence initiative on track, supporters say

Supporters of an initiative to make the Park Board financially independent say they’re on their way to collecting enough signatures to place a referendum on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Justin Fay, who is managing the grassroots campaign to collect 10,500 signatures, said Aug. 3 that a hard number was not yet available. But, he added, “at this point I see no reason to believe we won’t reach our goal.”

The deadline is Aug. 11.

The full Park Board is supporting the referendum, which would transfer its taxing authority to the state from the Board of Estimate and Taxation. The effort grew from the Park Board’s concerns that the City Council will be given the taxation board’s powers this fall through a referendum already on the ballot. Commissioners have argued that that would put the Park Board too much at the financial mercy of the City Council.

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Grand Rounds project gets $500,000 boost

The Park Board is getting a federal jump-start in its efforts to fill a longtime hole in its Grand Rounds byway system.

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison reported in July that he had secured a $500,000 appropriation for the Missing Link, which the Park Board last year approved plans for. It comes almost a century after the first plans to fill the link were proposed.

Park Board President Tom Nordyke said in a news release that the federal funds will help set work in motion.

The Missing Link is located between St. Anthony Parkway and East River Parkway in Northeast.

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New peace bridge under construction

Construction is under way on a new peace bridge at the Lyndale Park Peace Garden. Footings for the Yatsu-Hashi-style bridge already have been installed, and completion of the project is expected in the first week of September.

The bridge replaces a 12-year-old bridge removed in 2007. A group of citizens raised much of the $65,000 cost, with the Park Board covering about $16,500.

A dedication is expected Sept. 20.