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Easter Lake watershed improvement efforts receive national recognition

  • 3/4/2021 3:11:00 PM
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DES MOINES -- A project behind a major renovation effort to improve water quality in Easter Lake, located on Des Moines’ south side, has received national recognition.

Des Moines Public Works received the 2021 National Environmental Achievement Award in the Watershed Collaboration category for the Restoring Easter Lake initiative. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Polk County Conservation and other agencies partnered with the city on the effort.

“Over the years, increased nutrient loads and sediment diminished the water quality of Easter Lake,” said Des Moines’ Clean Water Program Administrator Patrick Beane. “The water looked like chocolate milk due to poor water clarity, algal blooms, high sedimentation rates and low oxygen levels.”

While work in the lake included excavating 678,000 cubic yards of sediment, stabilizing 22,722 feet of shoreline and a fishery renovation that restocked more than 550,000 fish to the water, the project also focused on reducing pollution washing in from the 6,380 acres of land that drains into the lake. 

The effort identified pollutant sources and priority areas for improvement projects, and also worked to educate residents in the watershed on water quality issues and helped them incorporate practices in their homes and yards to improve water quality in the lake. 

“Since the beginning of the Easter Lake Restoration project, residents have always had high interest in doing their part to positively impact the lake. To date, more than 200 conservation practices have been installed by residents,” said Julie Perreault, Easter Lake Watershed Project Coordinator with the Polk County Soil and Water Conservation District. “Since the completion of lake renovations, interest is as high as ever to keep Easter Lake clean. People can see the positive change in Easter Lake, and are consistently reaching out and taking action to find ways they can help keep it that way.”

Monitoring of conservation practices used in a single drainage basin adjacent to Easter Lake showed a 19 percent reduction in runoff over four years. 

Amenities at the park received improvements as well, in order to help residents and visitors reconnect with the lake and park.

“This was truly a watershed approach,” said Kyle Ament, Watershed Basin Coordinator with the DNR. “Water quality improvements focused on solving problems on both public and private land, with residents, government agencies, businesses and other partners coming together to improve Easter Lake for the whole community.”

The national achievement award is presented by the National Association of Clean Water Agencies to public clean water utilities that have made outstanding contributions to environmental protection, their communities, ratepayers and the water sector.