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Black Hawk Lake restoration efforts receive national recognition

  • 12/6/2022 8:56:00 PM
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DES MOINES – Project partners behind a major restoration effort to improve water quality in Black Hawk Lake, located in Sac County, received national recognition for their achievements.

The Black Hawk Lake Watershed Project, The City of Lake View, and the Black Hawk Lake Protective Association (BHLPA) received the 2022 North American Lake Management Society’s Appreciation Award for a Lake Management Success Story. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Sac County Soil and Water Conservation District, and other agencies partnered with the award recipients on the project.

“Black Hawk Lake has a long history of water quality challenges,” said Michelle Balmer, with the DNR’s Lake Restoration Program. “But the collective efforts of the watershed project, the City of Lake View, and the LPA have helped to improve water quality in the lake and promote awareness throughout the watershed of what can be achieved when everyone works together.”

Partners began working together in 2008 to develop a long-term restoration plan for Black Hawk Lake, starting with a Diagnostic and Feasibility Study and culminating with a watershed and restoration action plan. The Black Hawk Lake Watershed Project, funded by a US EPA Section 319 grant administered by the Iowa DNR, began in 2012. Since the project’s inception, more than 211 practices have been installed in the watershed, resulting in a 4,369-ton reduction in the annual amount of sediment and a 9,390-pound reduction in the amount of phosphorus that entered the lake. Additionally, the City of Lake View has worked to reduce stormwater runoff to the lake by investing in numerous urban practices including bioswales, a wet detention pond, and rain gardens.

This reduction in nutrients represents more than 56 percent of the phosphorus reduction goals outlined in the watershed plan. Phosphorus is the key nutrient fueling algae blooms in lakes.

“The success of the Black Hawk Lake Watershed Project has been through building long term partnerships,” said Ethan Thies, project coordinator for the Black Hawk Lake Watershed Project. “Project support has come from federal, state, and local agencies, however, none of this would be possible without the participation of the LPA, the City of Lake View, and of course watershed residents. This watershed project is a fantastic example of groups coming together to improve a public resource.”

The City of Lake View and the BHLPA also invested in an ADA fishing pier and fish cleaning station to improve recreational opportunities at the lake in 2012. Since the project began, vegetation has returned to the lake, water clarity has improved, and fewer algae blooms have been observed. The sport fishery has also improved, with large communities of walleye, panfish, and muskellunge available for anglers. The lake is also drawing an average of 20,000 more visitors annually today than in 2014 (CARD study for 2014 and 2019), which bolsters the local economy.

As the lake has changed from a turbid water system dominated by cyanobacteria to one with an abundance of vegetation, the City and the BHLPA have been amazing partners to address excessive vegetation within the lake. The City operates and maintains a vegetation harvester as needed, and the BHLPA works with the local fisheries biologist to develop and fund a vegetation management plan for the lake that works for both recreational boaters and provides habitat for aquatic life. Together, these two partners have invested more than $50,000 in vegetation management efforts at Black Hawk Lake.

Today, the City and the BHLPA continue to work with the DNR to implement additional restoration practices in the lake. Dredging in the main body, which began in the summer of 2022, will remove 750,000 cubic yards of sediment, reducing internal loading significantly. The BHLPA raised significant funds to assist with dredging efforts and has led the way to support long term vegetation management at the lake. 

“It is great to be recognized,” said City of Lake View Mayor John Westergaard. “But the recognition really goes to the great partners and all who support Black Hawk Lake.” He went on to say, “When we met for the first time thirteen years ago, the DNR said that successful projects are locally driven, and our community really took that to heart. The Black Hawk Lake Project is now held as an example of how strong public support can make a large project happen.”

The North American Lake Management Society, whose mission is to forge partnerships among citizens, scientists, and professionals to foster the management and protection of lakes and reservoirs, presents the Lake Management Success Story Appreciation Award annually to a project or group nominated by its membership.