High water closes beach, necessitates plant removal at Snail Lake

According to Ramsey County, the beach at Snail Lake Regional Park was swamped and officially closed on July 21, though as the heat index topped 100 degrees, many took to the beach regardless of the mass of plants. (Mike Munzenrider/Bulletin)

“Bog” removal costs estimated at $50,000

High water levels on Shoreview’s Snail Lake have recently created a number of problems for lakeshore residents and visitors alike, prompting the city to remove a great deal of vegetation from the lake and Ramsey County to close the beach at Snail Lake Regional Park.

As discussed at Shoreview’s July 21 city council meeting, continued high water levels have resulted in the uprooting of cattails, leading to large, floating vegetative mats on the lake.

The Snail Lake Improvement District, which advises the city council on matters related to the management of Snail Lake, held an emergency meeting regarding the aquatic plant mass, and approached the city regarding the removal of what some have called the “Snail Lake Bog.”

Residents who live on the lakeshore reported at the July 21 meeting seeing mats on the lake that were more than 100 feet long, and said they were a danger to boats, water skiers, docks and other things along the shoreline.

One resident said a mat had untied his boat, which fortunately, had only drifted to a neighbor’s house, though it could have gone much further, potentially causing property damage or worse.

Mark Maloney, Shoreview public works director, while presenting SLID’s request to the council, echoed residents’ concerns, as well as those expressed by council member Emy Johnson.

“At some point...somebody might hit one of these with a jet ski,” Maloney said, agreeing that the mats pose a risk.

Work to remove the vegetation began July 23, with the beach and nearby boat launch closed until further notice due to the use of heavy machinery nearby, per a Ramsey County release.

Maroney said the removal was being handled by Shoreview city staff working with a contractor, and was going “quicker” than he expected. The process involves corralling the vegetative mats towards a backhoe in the water, which then removes them.

The process was expected to be completed by the weekend of July 26, Maroney said, adding that residents have been helping out, wrangling mats with their pontoon boats and guiding them towards the backhoe.

At the July 21 meeting, Maloney said the cost of removal is estimated at $50,000, with Ramsey County picking up about 15 percent of the bill and the rest being split between the city and SLID.

Shoreview will pay about $20,000, and SLID will contribute about $23,000.

With water levels on the lake persistently high—Snail Lake has an augmentation system to pump water into the lake, though it’s barely been used this year—money normally used to pay for augmentation will be used to remove the plant masses.

Maloney explained that a small amount of removal had been done in previous weeks; the vegetation was dried out at a Ramsey County public works station and would most likely end up in the city’s compost site; a similar plan was to be followed for the larger scale removal that began July 23.

The city already had the necessary Department of Natural Resources permitting in place for the removal.

“Apparently this is a problem statewide and the DNR is pretty sympathetic to it,” Maloney said.

The council approved the request 5-0.

Ramsey County closed the guarded beach at Snail Lake Regional Park July 21, coincidentally one of the hottest days of the year.

However, that afternoon, some 25 people were using the beach and swimming, including mothers with children and couples. One beach-goer said it wasn’t obvious to her that the beach was closed, and, once she was there, it was too hot to go somewhere else.

Snail Lake has been plagued with high water problems this year. In June, Shoreview declared Snail Lake a “no wake” zone for 30 days. The policy expired July 20.

According to the DNR website, Snail Lake achieved its highest-ever water level June 20 with an elevation of 884.52 feet above sea level.

Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7824. Follow him on Twitter @mmunzenrider.


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