White Iron Chain Of Lakes Association

News & Updates Blog
Jul
15

WICOLA Annual Meeting on August 12

White Iron Chain of Lakes Association

Annual Meeting

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Grand Ely Lodge

Come and join us for our WICOLA Annual Meeting and dinner at the Grand Ely Lodge on Thursday August 12, 2021. Social hour and cash bar will be from 5 – 6 pm and dinner at 6 pm, followed by our program speaker, and business meeting. The cost of the dinner is $25 per person. Members are welcome to include guests.

We are lucky to have this year's program speaker, Dr. Jessica Hellmann.She is the Executive Director of the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment and the Ecolab Chair in Environmental Leadership. Jessica's research focuses on global change ecology, climate adaptation and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. She was among the first to propose and study ways to reduce the impact of climate change through new techniques in conservation management. She is on the board of directors of the National Audubon Society, the Science Museum of Minnesota, COMPASS, and the Great Plants Institute. Jessica is a WICOLA member and enjoys her time on White Iron Lake. It should be an exciting presentation.

During the business meeting, we will elect new board members for 2022-2023, vote on Bylaw changes, and review our accomplishments this past year. Members are welcomed to attend and participate in the program and business meeting if they do not wish to attend the dinner. We are also working to add a Zoom option for anyone wanting to attend via the internet. Please contact Jeff Pike at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you want to attend via the internet.

The WICOLA Nominating Committee will present a slate of nominations for the 2022-2023 board positions of Treasurer, Secretary, Birch Lake Representative, Farm Lake Representative, and East White Iron Representative. Nominations for all positions may also be submitted by any member at the Annual Meeting. We also have vacant positions for Vice President and West White Iron Representative positions for anyone wanting to apply. We need you to join the Board! If interested in being on the Board, please contact Jeff at the above email.

For reservations for dinner, please list the name of person attending, note if they are a WICOLA member or a guest, and dinner option for each attendee.  Dinner options include 1) Prime Rib, 2) Chicken, 3) Walleye, or 4) Vegetarian Ravioli.  Email this informaiton to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., by August 4 or mail to WICOLA at PO Box 493, Ely MN  55731.    Dinner is $25 per person. Payment can be mailed via check, paid as a donation through our webpage at wicola.org, paid at the door, or through PayPal.  

As an alternative to paying by check, you can pay electronically if you have a PayPal account. Use the "Send Money" option of the PayPal app and designate WICOLA's e-mail address using: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and include "For WICOLA Annual Meeting" in the Note section of the payment instructions.

If you have any questions about the Annual Meeting or WICOLA, please email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

WICOLA champions high water quality and a healthy lake ecosystem in the White Iron Chain of Lakes watershed through scientific and educational activities. 

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May
15

Free Online Workshop - Septic Systems and Wells

Free Online Workshop for Homeowners on Septic Systems and Wells on Tuesday May 18, 2021 at 6 pm

Join Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District for a free online workshop for homeowners on septic systems and private wells! Register on the Lake Coutny website (registration is not necessary for attendance, but will allow us to send a reminder): https://www.co.lake.mn.us/soil-and.../swcd-workshop-signup/ This two-hour class will be held via Zoom, and connection details are below. They will cover the basics of how septic systems function, well water testing, and how to help protect your well from contamination sources. It will also provide property owners information on chemicals of emerging concern (CEC), including pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and the potential impact on ground and surface water. Information on proper maintenance of both septic systems and private drinking water systems will be covered to help property owners protect their investments and the environment. 

This event is being held by Lake County SWCD, and presenters are from the UMN Onsite Sewage Treatment Program and the Minnesota Department of Health. 

Zoom Link: https://zoom.us/j/91731440758 Meeting ID: 917 3144 0758 

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Apr
15

White Iron Chain of Lakes Ice Out 2021

Ice is out on the White Iron Chain of Lakes

Ice out on White Iron happened on April 14, 2021 at 10:30 in the morning.This year it gradually disappeared. No ice pushed up on shorelines.The first canoers were observed paddling under the Silver Rapids bridge the same day, paddling hard against the current.The water is very high right now and the Kawishiwi Falls are roaring.Worth a trip to see all the water.

Volunteers reported the following ice out dates:

  • Birch Lake Finn Bay - April 9 
  • White Iron Lake – April 14
  • Garden Lake – April 13
  • Farm Lake – April 13


Previous ice dates for White Iron are

2020 – April 30

2019 – April 28

2018 – May 7

2017 – April 14

2016 – April 20

2015 – April 17

2014 – May 12

2013 – May 14

2012 – March 25

2011 – April 29

The following link provides additional from the MN DNR web site that reports the earliest, latest, and median ice out dates that you may find interesting.www.dnr.state.mn.us/ice_out/index.html

Enjoy the White Iron Chain of Lakes and if you go boating, please be safe and wear your person flotation device.

WICOLA champions high water quality and a healthy lake ecosystem in the White Iron Chain of Lakes through scientific and educational activities. 

Birch Lake Finn Bay on April 9, 2021
View of White Iron from near Ring Rock
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Mar
22

Getting the lead out. It only takes a piece of lead the size of a grain of rice to kill a bird.

Getting the lead out.

It only takes a piece of lead the size of a grain of rice to kill a bird.

By JIM WILLIAMS Contributing writer

Common loons swallow old lead pellets while searching for small stones they use to aid digestion.

A ban on lead used in fishing equipment — sinkers and jigs — is again being discussed at the MN Legislature.

Lead poisons any animal that ingests it. The impetus this year was discovery of dead trumpeter swans that were believed to have swallowed lost lead fishing gear while feeding.

Lead pellets, leftovers from the days when lead birdshot was legal for waterfowl hunting, also are a problem. Lead shot was banned nationwide in 1991. Lead remains on lake bottoms, however, and it never breaks down.

Loons swallow the old pellets while searching for small stones needed in their gizzards to aid digestion. Swans can ingest lead fishing tackle or shotgun pellets as they forage lake bottoms for food.

Eagles and other raptors eat deer killed but not found or guts left behind when a deer is field-dressed. They eat game birds that were killed or wounded but not recovered. All can contain fragments of lead.

I was curious about how lead causes injury to swans, loons, eagles and other raptors. My questions, addressed to the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota, were specific to eagles.

"Lead is one of the most frustrating things we treat here," said Dr. Victoria Hall, executive director of the center .

Over 85% of the eagles admitted to the center have a detectable level of lead in their bodies, she said. As many as 25 to 30% of those eagles will have a toxic lead level that kills them, she said.

It only takes a piece of lead the size of a grain of rice to kill a bird. There are several types of lead bullets. Some can break into dozens of fragments when entering a deer.

The fragments, sometimes too small to be seen, can penetrate as far as 18 inches from the path of the bullet, according to Minnesota DNR research. There is no known safe exposure level.

"We see eagles that come in with food still in their stomach, in excellent body condition, and the damage by lead to their nervous system is already too severe to save them, even when we try to treat them," Hall said.

The biology of this was explained by Dr. Dana Franzen-Klein , who is head clinical veterinarian at the Rap-tor Center.

"When birds eat lead, the soft metal enters the very acidic stomach where the metal dissolves and is absorbed into the bloodstream," she said.

The lead causes red blood cells to burst, making the bird anemic.

Lead damages the bird's nervous system, resulting in irreversible damage to the brain.

It causes permanent neurological damage. The bird will start to have seizures, appear extremely depressed, and be unable to walk or breathe normally; it will gasp.

The lead will travel to and damage the bird's kidneys and heart. Heart damage can be permanent, so even if clinic staff helps the bird through the toxicity, it will never have the endurance it needs to fly free again, Franzen-Klein said.

"If a bird comes in with a toxic lead level and is already showing severe outward signs of lead toxicity, then the most we can do is to humanely euthanize it," she said.

How long does it take an eagle with lead in its system, unfound and untreated, to die in the wild?

"It can be a period of hours to a day or two," Franzen-Klein said.

A very small lead fragment can produce symptoms within hours.

If exposed to a smaller amount of lead, it could take days or weeks for the bird to die, Franzen-Klein said.

"Eagles exposed to very high doses of lead often don't stand a chance of successful treatment no matter what we try; the damage is fast and permanent.

"For lower doses of lead, if the bird is found within a few hours or a day or two of exposure, we might stand a chance of saving them," Franzen-Klein said.

"Eagles are more sensitive to lead toxicity than swans and some other species," she said.

Swans are sometimes able to recover from a blood lead level that will kill an eagle. Treatment is slightly different for each of these species.

From 2010 to 2020, the Raptor Center admitted 202 eagles where lead was one of the health issues. When lead was the only issue, 24 birds recovered, and were released to the wild.

Because of similar problems with condors, California banned all lead ammunition in 1993. Use of lead ammunition in federal wildlife refuges was banned during the Obama administration. That ban was overturned by the Trump administration.

The only restriction on lead ammunition in effect here is the federal law pertaining to waterfowl. Minnesota has no regulations on use of lead for hunting other animals. There are no rules regarding lead used in fishing.

There are nontoxic substitutes in all cases. Use is voluntary.

Lifelong birder Jim Williams can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Mar
02

Webinar: Non-native Invasive Earthworms 101: From the Nightcrawler to the Jumping Worm

Topic :Non-native Invasive Earthworms 101: From the Nightcrawler to the Jumping Worm

When:Mar 17, 2021 01:00 PM in Central Time (US and Canada)


Presented by Ryan Hueffmeier, Director of the Boulder Lake ELC at the University of Minnesota

Abstract: Through this presentation we will discuss what makes most earthworms invasive species in North America. We will start the discussion with European earthworms (Nightcrawlers are an example) and how they got here, what their impacts are and what we can do. We will then move to Asian earthworms (Jumping worms are an example) the latest invasive worm to arrive in the region. Found in garden beds, mulch and compost piles they represent a threat to the health of our managed and wild landscapes. We will learn how to identify the differences between the two groups and how you can participate in documenting them across the landscape.

Speaker Bio: Ryan Hueffmeier is a research, outreach, and education specialist with active projects in forest and landscape ecology and invasive species. He is the Program Director at Boulder Lake Environmental Learning Center in Duluth, MN (http://www.boulderlake.org/), which runs programs for over 4,000 people and has over 10,500 visitors annually. He works towards the transfer of scientific knowledge from evidence-based research to the public through creating accessible outreach programs; by delivering experiential based educational opportunities; and incorporating volunteer based public participatory projects. He works with diverse audiences such as teacher and natural resource professional development, preK-12 and the general public. For the past decade Ryan has been part of the Great Lakes Worm Watch (http://greatlakeswormwatch.org) and Jumping worm (https://jwp.cfans.umn.edu/jumping-worms-project) programs and has developed local projects looking at vernal pools, bird populations, invasive species and tree survival.

Register here.

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Jan
15

Winton Hydroelectric Project Annual Meeting

Winton Hydroelectric Project

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission License Settlement Agreement

On October 28, 2020 Minnesota Power hosted the annual meeting of the parties to the Winton Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) License Settlement Agreement, including Minnesota Power, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, U.S. Forest Service, White Iron Chain of Lakes Association (WICOLA), and Conservationists with Common Sense. The purpose of the annual meeting is to discuss the hydroelectric project operations and ensure compliance with the FERC License and associated Settlement Agreement.

Each year Minnesota Power contributes money to the funds held and managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Minnesota DNR to be used for biological, recreation, and erosion projects. Those agencies reported the following contributions for 2020:

· WICOLA received $2,000 from the Biological fund for water monitoring.

· The US Forest Service received $51,850 from the Recreation Fund for two new accessible outhouses at Birch Lake Campground and material and supplies for the South Kawishiwi Pavilion.

In addition to discussing the Settlement Agreement, the parties are also able to share information about recreation, historic properties, erosion, biological, and water quality projects in the area. Below are a few of the topics discussed:

· The National Park Service and the North Country Trail Association are considering routing the North Country Trail through the Winton area.

· Thin Ice signs were placed in 2020 and will be up again in 2021 for the snowmobile trail on White Iron Lake. St. Louis County Search and Rescue did some training there.

· Minnesota DNR reported that White Iron Lake had average walleye counts and some big northern pike. Birch Lake Reservoir had high walleye numbers but smaller in size. Cisco numbers were good. The reports will be published on the Minnesota DNR Lakefinder website.

Minnesota Power provided graphs of the 2020 water levels and discharges. Birch Lake Reservoir fell below the allowable operating band in September due to drought conditions. The group discussed the elevation of White Iron Lake which is not directly regulated by Minnesota Power. Some people commented that White Iron Lake was lower than normal in the late summer and fall. MN Power explained that this was in part due to the lower flow in the system because of the drought and that Garden Lake Reservoir is slowly drawn down from mid-June to mid-September each year. Birch Lake Reservoir returned to within the allowable operating band by November 10, 2020. The graphs below show the planned and actual lake elevations for Birch, Garden and White Iron Lakes during 2020. See https://www.mnpower.com/Environment/Hydro for more information on water levels and discharges. 

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Jan
08

Webinar on Microplastics in Minnesota’s Inland Waters on January 21, 2021

Upcoming Webinar: Small Synthetics II - An update on a Study of Microplastics in Minnesota's Inland Waters, including White Iron Lake

Where: Comfort of own home, via Zoom

When: Thursday, January 21st from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Registration is required: https://umn.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_gHM8izL2Tqmnf6xulxMzjg

Presentation Summary: This webinar is the second in a series about microplastics research in Minnesota lakes. Dr. Kathryn Schreiner and master's candidate Peter Conowall will provide a research update on the project.

Microplastics are very small plastic particles, less than 5 millimeters (or 1/20th of an inch) in size. They come from common items such as degraded plastic bags, synthetic clothes and textiles, and some hygiene products. They are found across terrestrial, aquatic, and marine environments worldwide. These particles are speculated to negatively impact the aquatic environments and ecosystems; however, it is not known with certainty where these particles are in aquatic environments. Research is currently being done to learn how much and what kinds of microplastics are found in four Minnesota sentinel lakes: Peltier, Elk, White Iron, and Ten Mile. Additionally, the research project is designed to engage community members in part of the research process and communicate about microplastics and project results. So far, plastics have been found in the waters and on the bottom of the lake in the sediment of all four study lakes. In the fall of 2020, researchers will begin dissecting two types of fish to see if there are any plastics in their guts: 1) filter feeders (cisco) and 2) visual feeders (bluegill and perch). Fish will be collected by the research team and also by community members who are interested in collaborating on the project. Anglers can submit fish stomachs throughout the year for research staff to dissect and analyze for any microplastic consumption. More details, including how to join our citizen scientist team, can be found on our project website: www.mnplastics.org

More about the project: The Legislative Citizen-Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) funded the two year long microplastics project in 2019, and it concludes 2021. The microplastics project team is led by Dr. Kathryn Schreiner, a researcher from the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD), and comprises additional researchers from UMD, the Sentinel Lakes program coordinator from Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and an extension staff from Minnesota Sea Grant. Questions about the project can be directed to: Dr. Kathryn Schreiner, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Questions about outreach can be directed to Marte Kitson, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Did you miss the first webinar? You can find a link by visiting www.mnplastics.org and clicking on the "Small Synthetics" link on the web page.

Can't make it? No problem. The presentation will be recorded and available at www.mnplastics.org 

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Jan
05

Results of the 2020 Watercraft Inspections on the White Iron Chain of Lakes

Results of the 2020 Watercraft Inspections on the White Iron Chain of Lakes

  • Throughout 2020, North St. Louis and Lake County Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) conducted watercraft inspections at various public landings on the White Iron Chain of Lakes, and lakes that drain into or "feed" White Iron Chain of Lakes. Inspectors checked boats for attached organic matter and water and educated public access users of the risk Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) pose to our lakes and how to help prevent their spread.
  • Fall, Birch-South, Farm, and White Iron-North boat landings were the busier places on the Chain of Lakes and feeder lakes.
  • 0 to 2.6% of the boats inspected at Chain of Lakes and feeder lakes boat landings had plants or animal species attached. About 4-6% of the boats inspected at Kawishiwi River campground, Moose Lake, and northeast Bear Island boat ramps had plants or animal species attached.
  • Due to COVID-19, inspector trainings were moved to an online platform rather than in-person. This reduced the funds needed for training, and therefore North St. Louis SWCD was able to allocate an additional 100+ inspector hours to better cover the Birch-South boat ramp which was particularly busy. In total, between North St. Louis and Lake County SWCDs, 777 inspector hours were worked on White Iron Chain of Lakes, and 256 inspector hours were worked on feeder lakes.
  • Although traffic was low on the smaller lakes, inspectors found people on those lakes move from one lake to another lake more often than those who visit bigger lakes in the region. Lake hopping raises the risk of lakes acquiring a new infestation.
  • In June, North St. Louis County SWCD was able to acquire Decon Goal signs and these helped encourage complete decontaminations and helped visualize the social norm of receiving a decontamination. Decontaminations use hot water to kill attached AIS, and flush out water from live wells, so that a watercraft can enter a waterbody without introducing a new infestation.
  • White Iron Chain of Lake Association is working hard to maintain water quality and healthy lake ecosystems by preventing the spread of AIS.
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Nov
08

4TH BINATIONAL LAKE ASSOCIATION EVENT, November 24, 2020 9:00 to 12:00

You are invited to join the

4TH BINATIONAL LAKE ASSOCIATION EVENT

TUESDAY NOVEMBER 24, 2020 from

9:00AM to 12:00PM (VIRTUAL)

 

The Lake of the Woods Sustainability Foundation is coordinating a virtual gathering of the more than 40 lake associations in the Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed.  There is great value in gathering together to share successes and challenges, whether virtually or in person.  You will meet your watershed neighbors, discuss common issues and take home fresh, new ideas!

Featured speakers include:

  • Tiffany Sprague and Jesse Schomberg, Minnesota Sea Grant: Green Infrastructure for the Cottage: Rain Gardens, Buffers and More
  • Debra Japp and Jeff Bineham, St. Cloud State: Let’s Chat About Good Communication.  This session will be interactive. We want to make it as practical and relevant as possible for you, so we are inviting you to submit your questions ahead of time.  Think about your challenges communicating science to members, engaging your members in a program, or using the most effective communication tools.  What are your questions?  Send them to our team (via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) and we will address them during this session.

Please register by November 19 by sending an email to Kelli Saunders, International Watershed Coordinator, Lake of the Woods Water Sustainability Foundation at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  An agenda and details to join will be provided closer to the date.  For more information, see www.lowwsf.com.

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Nov
01

Septic and Well Homeowner Education Class Thursday, November 5, 2020 from 6 to 8 pm.

The Minnesota Department of Health and the University of Minnesota will present this Septic and Well Homeowner Education Class online. This free class will cover the basic functions of septic systems, well water testing, and how to protect your well from contamination sources. Attendees will receive valuable information on Chemicals of Emerging Concern (CEC) including the impact of drugs and chemicals on ground and surface water.

Homeowners will also receive information on maintaining their septic systems and wells.

Register here online (space is limited). After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

This is a great opportunity to learn how to keep your septic system running properly and protect water quality.

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Aug
30

WICOLA President to present plans, priorities and water quality program to Ely Tuesday Group on Sept. 1st

Tuesday Group Zoom Meeting; 12 Noon to 1PM

Sept 1 - Jeff Pike, President of WICOLA - White Iron Chain of Lakes Association

Jeff plans to cover background on WICOLA, their priorities, and talk about the water quality program on the White Iron Chain.

To Join the Tuesday Group Meeting;

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89631918520?pwd=UHRYMkRCMnN2aUR2M3NnbFNsS3pLdz09  

The meeting ID is 896 3191 8520

Pass Code is 497 568

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Aug
19

Paul Schurke – The History of the White Iron Chain of Lakes

Paul Schurke is an Outdoor Educator, an Arctic Explorer, a Disability Rights Advocate, Environmental Advocate with Save the Boundary Waters, Proprietor of Wintergreen Dog Sledding Lodge, and a WICOLA Member.

The following History Notes of our area were collected by Paul Schurke.

Tales-of-the-White-Iron-Lake-Chain--8-18-20

An-Insurance-Salesman-and-a-Doctor-Walk-Into-a-Bar-8-18-20

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Aug
12

Lead and Loons – Get the Lead Out

Found in most fishing jigs and sinkers, lead poisons wildlife including loons, eagles, and other waterfowl. Switching from lead weights and sinkers to those made from tin, steel, bismuth, and other materials protects our state bird when they inadvertently swallow lost tackle while scooping up pebbles to help grind their food. Research around the nation has found that poisoning from lead fishing tackle is responsible for 12 to 50 percent of adult loon deaths.

Help our Loons by checking out this important 2020 program.....

GET THE LEAD OUT!

A sweepstakes project from the MPCA- MN Pollution Control Agency

www.pca.state.mn.us/featured/get-lead-out-and-win-prizes

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Aug
05

2020 WICOLA Annual Meeting Material

The WICOLA Annual Meeting will be held online at 4:00 pm, Thursday August 6th.  You will be able to either call in or participate online with Zoom if you have preregistered to receive the call/log-in information.

The following are meeting handouts that can be downloaded;

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Jul
27

Anglers Needed on White Iron Lake

Microplastics are very small plastic particles, less than 5 millimeters (or 1/20th of an inch) in size. They come from common items such as degraded plastic bags, synthetic clothes and textiles, some hygiene products, and cigarette filters. Research is currently being done to learn how much and what kinds of microplastics are found in four Minnesota sentinel lakes: Peltier, Elk, White Iron, and Ten Mile. So far, plastics have been found in the waters and on the bottom of the lake in the sediment of all four study lakes.

In the fall of 2020, researchers will begin dissecting two types of fish to see if there are any plastics in their guts: 1) filter feeders (cisco) and 2) visual feeders (bluegill and perch). Anglers can submit fish stomachs throughout the year for research staff to dissect and analyze for any microplastic consumption.

White Iron Lake Angler Volunteers Urgently Needed

The Research Team is ready to receive fish stomachs from anglers who want to contribute to the project! They are looking for anglers who can commit to sending 10 fish gut samples from White Iron Lake in 2020. Additional information on how to process, including stomach & intestine removal noting how to keep the organs intact, how to prepare and package for shipment, and where to ship samples is located at www.mnplastics.org in an easy how to video.

If people want a fish gut collection kit, they can inquire with Dr. Schreiner at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Someone from her lab will reply and send volunteers a postage paid envelope and collection materials if samples are still needed.

Samples are mailed to: Large Lakes Observatory, 2205 E 5th St., Duluth MN 55812. 

More about the project: The Legislative Citizen-Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) funded the two yearlong microplastics project in 2019, and it concludes 2021. The microplastics project team is led by Dr. Kathryn Schreiner, a researcher from the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD), and comprised of additional researchers from UMD, the Sentinel Lakes program coordinator from Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and an extension staff from Minnesota Sea Grant. Questions about the project can be directed to: Dr. Kathryn SchreinerThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Questions about outreach can be directed to Marte KitsonThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Jul
24

Starry Trek 2020: Volunteers Needed to Protect White Iron Lake & Minnesota Waters

Volunteers from across Minnesota are needed on Saturday, August 15, 2020 to participate in a statewide search for starry stonewort, one of Minnesota’s newest aquatic invasive species. Hundreds of volunteers will gather at local training sites to learn how to identify starry stonewort and other aquatic invasive species and search for them in area lakes.

Starry stonewort is an invasive algae that was first found in Minnesota at Lake Koronis in 2015 and has since spread to fourteen Minnesota lakes. Early detection of this species is critical for control. Starry Trek volunteers have found starry stonewort in three lakes – Grand Lake in Stearns County, Wolf Lake at the Hubbard/Beltrami County border, and Lake Beltrami in Beltrami County – as well as other aquatic invasive species like Eurasian watermilfoil and zebra mussels during this event.

The 2017 discovery of starry stonewort in Grand Lake led to the lake association and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources rapidly mobilizing to hand-pull the infestation. This early intervention has widely been considered a success, with starry stonewort continuing to be limited to the small area near the public access where it was initially discovered.

“This event is a terrific way for people to get outdoors, get educated about aquatic invasive species, and help protect their area lakes,” said Megan Weber, Extension Educator with the University of Minnesota and Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center. “The information we gain at this event helps researchers and managers understand its current distribution and potentially take action if new infestations are found.”

No experience or equipment is necessary to participate in Starry Trek. Expert training on monitoring protocols and starry stonewort identification will be provided on-site. This event is free, but registration is required. Children under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. The event’s protocols have been modified to accommodate COIVD-19 precautions. To view all safety measures, visit the event’s website (www.starrytrek.org).

There are currently 24 local training sites committed around the state, including one at White Iron Lake in Lake County.

“We’re excited to be partnering with the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center on this event for our third year,” said Liz Anderson, AIS Program Coordinator with Lake County SWCD. “Protecting our lakes for future generations is really important to us all, and we want to do make sure we’re doing the best we can to prevent the introduction and spread of AIS.” “We’ll start the day with a socially distant, outdoor plant ID training and then disperse to area pubic water accesses for surveying.”

Please register early as Covid-19 protocols require us to close registration after August 6. You can register at www.starrytrek.org

The Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center works across the state to develop research-based solutions that can reduce the impacts of aquatic invasive. A portion of the funding for this program is provided by the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. Learn more at www.maisrc.umn.edu.

For statewide information, contact:

Megan Weber, Extension Educator Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

763-767-3874

For local information, contact:

Liz Anderson Lake County Soil & Water Conservation District

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

612-232-1306

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Jul
08

What would you let come between you and your lake?

By Kelli Saunders (with minor editing for style)

For many, the answer to this is “nothing” because there is often a very deep connection to water for those who have waterfront property.  But, the question is really about what you should allow to come between you and your lake – literally.

I was lucky enough to spend this last week out on Lake of the Woods in a favorite cabin, surrounded by trees, wildlife and, of course…water.  I instantly felt a sense of calm and relaxation when I got there and as each day passed, a greater sense of respect and gratitude for this lake and its surroundings.  For the most part, as I kayaked and canoed along the shoreline, I noticed many properties have kept a buffer of vegetation at the shoreline.  They’ve kept things wild by letting the grass grow, letting the trees and shrubs stabilize their shoreline, minimizing the artificial structures and reducing disturbance.  But, our lakes need everyone to do this, collectively, in order to have the biggest impact. Those who own waterfront property really do have a unique responsibility. 

The zone from the water’s edge out to a depth of 7 feet is the most productive part of a lake and what happens upland of the shoreline can play a significant role in the health of that zone.  One of the best lines of defence for property owners to consider are “buffers”, which are zones of natural vegetation at the shoreline that can help to keep the lake healthy.  There are many benefits to maintaining a healthy buffer.  Native plant buffers provide habitat for wildlife, including much needed pollinators, and supply shade for fish in that nearshore zone.  The roots of trees and shrubs bind the soil and provide protection from erosion; if removed, the soil can easily be washed away with wave action and with that comes excess nutrients entering the lake.  Buffers act as a sponge, soaking up nutrients in the runoff from upland areas – the roots utilizing the nutrients before they hit the water.  Reducing nutrients in the first place can be done by eliminating the use of fertilizers and, if you do have areas where you cut the grass, ensure the clippings don’t end up in the lake. There are a few other great options to reduce the amount of runoff entering the lake, including installing rain barrels, creating rain gardens, minimizing pavement or other hard surfaces, making your path to the lake meandering instead of straight, and adding habitat islands (islands of trees and shrubs if you have a landscaped yard).

Research has shown that increased water clarity/quality can positively impact property value.  While this shouldn’t be the sole reason for contributing to the health of the lake, it can be an important one.  Being able to swim and fish and utilize the water from the lake are very good reasons for every shoreline property owner to be a good water steward and respect the connection between what they do on the land and how the water will respond to those decisions.

This series is provided as part of the International Watershed Coordination Program of the Lake of the Woods Water Sustainability Foundation (www.lowwsf.com).

Kelli Saunders, M.Sc., is the International Watershed Coordinator with the Lake of the Woods Water Sustainability Foundation

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Jul
01

Webinar July 13th – Microplastics Update & Fish Sample Collection

Microplastics are very small plastic particles, less than 5 millimeters (or 1/20th of an inch) in size. They come from common items such as degraded plastic bags, synthetic clothes and textiles, some hygiene products, and cigarette filters. They are found across terrestrial, aquatic, and marine environments worldwide. These particles are speculated to negatively impact the aquatic environments and ecosystems, however, it is not known with certainty where these particles are in aquatic environments. Research is currently being done to learn how much and what kinds of microplastics are found in four Minnesota sentinel lakes: Peltier, Elk, White Iron, and Ten Mile. Additionally, the research project is designed to engage community members in part of the research process, and communicate about microplastics and project results. So far, plastics have been found in the waters and on the bottom of the lake in the sediment of all four study lakes. In the fall of 2020, researchers will begin dissecting two types of fish to see if there are any plastics in their guts: 1) filter feeders (cisco) and 2) visual feeders (bluegill and perch). Fish will be collected by the research team and also by community members who are interested in collaborating on the project. Anglers can submit fish stomachs throughout the year for research staff to dissect and analyze for any microplastic consumption. More details, including how to join the citizen scientist team, can be found on the project website: www.mnplastics.org

Webinar scheduled for July 13th at 9 a.m.  The research team will be hosting a webinar to provide updates and talk about the opportunity for anglers to participate in sample collection. Anyone who is interested in learning more about microplastics in Minnesota lakes is welcome to attend. Again, White Iron will be one of the featured lakes.

Title: Small Synthetics - A Study of Microplastics in Minnesota’s Inland Waters

Where: Comfort of own home, via Zoom

When: Monday, July 13th from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Registration is required: https://umn.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_3LfTRmHmRbG1h0OKNLcGEA

Can't make it? The presentation will be recorded and available at www.mnplastics.org

Community (citizen) science: The Research Team is ready to receive fish stomachs from anglers who want to contribute to the project! They are looking for anglers who can commit to sending 10 fish gut samples from one of the four project lakes (White Iron, Elk, Ten Mile, and Peltier) in 2020. Additional information on how to process and where to ship samples is located at www.mnplastics.org. If people want a fish gut collection kit, they can inquire with Dr. Schreiner at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Someone from her lab will reply and send volunteers a postage paid envelope and collection materials if samples are still needed. Samples are mailed to: Large Lakes Observatory, 2205 E 5th St., Duluth MN 55812. 

More about the project: The Legislative Citizen-Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) funded the two yearlong microplastics project in 2019, and it concludes 2021. The microplastics project team is led by Dr. Kathryn Schreiner, a researcher from the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD), and comprised of additional researchers from UMD, the Sentinel Lakes program coordinator from Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and an extension staff from Minnesota Sea Grant. Questions about the project can be directed to: Dr. Kathryn SchreinerThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Questions about outreach can be directed to Marte KitsonThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Jun
21

Spring Turnover – Mixing it Up!

By Kelli Saunders (with minor editing for style)

Last November, I talked about “fall turnover”, a phenomenon that happens on our lakes here in northwestern Ontario when things cool off and the temperature and density of water changes, resulting in the mixing of top and bottom water layers that have developed over the summer (thermal stratification).  As soon as the ice goes out, “spring turnover” takes place, once again mixing the waters of the lake from top to bottom.

During the winter, ice cover on a lake eliminates the impact wind has on the water’s surface. This essentially puts a lid on the chances for any further oxygen to be mixed into the water, which is critical for living organisms.  So, all winter, organisms have a set amount of oxygen to survive on under the ice. Spring turnover is a welcome relief! Once the ice is gone, wind can blow across the water surface again and start to reoxygenate the lake.  After ice out, the water will reach a point where the temperature (and, therefore density) is the exact same throughout the entire lake. Because of this, a persistent wind can mix oxygen into the whole lake – right down to the bottom and this is a crucial mechanism for replenishing dissolved oxygen levels in the lake.  When the lakes are a uniform temperature and density, it takes relatively little wind energy to mix water deep into the lake. As new life emerges in our lakes in the spring, there is an increased need for oxygen and this process really does provide what is needed to support that new life and rejuvenate the organisms that survived over winter.

As the season progresses and surface waters warm, thermal stratification sets in with warm, less dense waters floating on top of the deep cold waters, with little mixing between the layers.   Whatever dissolved oxygen there is in the deepest parts of the lake is all that is available until lake turnover once again, in the fall.  Nature is truly amazing.

This series is provided as part of the International Watershed Coordination Program of the Lake of the Woods Water Sustainability Foundation (www.lowwsf.com).

Kelli Saunders, M.Sc., is the International Watershed Coordinator with the Lake of the Woods Water Sustainability Foundation. 

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Jun
11

WICOLA Annual Meeting

Like every organization, WICOLA must make changes dealing with the COVID-19 situation.  The annual meeting and elections are one of those changes.  The WICOLA board sent out a poll to our members outlining five options ranging from business as usual, abbreviation meetings, to no meeting.  Many of you responded and provided our board with your thoughts.  We appreciate your input. 

Your WICOLA board decided we will hold our August 6th Annual Meeting using an online or phone call-in format.  You can call in by phone or log in on-line.  Handouts will be available to download before the meeting.  Our speaker, Dr. Euan Reavie, Senior Research Associate, will be providing a program online for the meeting.  Elections will be held by mail.  The following form is like what we will used for elections.  We will soon be providing more information on how to log on by phone, internet, and to download exhibits and handouts.  We will send out more information closer to the August 6th date.   Voting Proxies will be sent out by U.S. Mail.

Sample Proxy and if you have not paid your membership do so now so you can vote.

WICOLA Proxy – one vote per membership (household).

President 

___ Jeff Pike      ___ Other (write-in):

Vice President

___ Other (write-in): 

Garden Lake Representative

___ Sarah Kingston   ___ Other (write-in):

West White Iron Lake Representative

___ Other (write-in): 

I am a current WICOLA member with paid for membership for 2020 and have the authority to vote.

 

Signature ______________________________     Date _________________

Email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Mail to WICOLA P.O. Box 493; Ely, MN  55731

 

Nominations – Want to be more involved in WICOLA?

We are always looking for help with the many things at WICOLA.  We Nominating Committee is looking for members to fill the Vice President and one of the White Iron Lake Representative positions.  If you think you may be interested, please contact any of our board members and they will be happy to discuss the position and their experiences.  Also, if you want to be involved in other positions let us know.

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PO Box 493
Ely, MN 55731

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