RICE -- It's been nearly a year since the drawdown began on Little Rock Lake. The lake was lowered from early August through the middle of September in 2019.

Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Manager Eric Altena says the early signs were encouraging with a five-foot clarity right after the drawdown ended last September and an eight-foot clarity on the north end of the lake in June. He says our hot dry summer has been tough on the lake, but the algae is still not as bad as it has been in previous years.

Altena says all those plants that were planted during the drawdown will continue to do their job.

A lot of the private plantings have done very well, the public sector plantings have done pretty well in portions of it others have gotten eaten a bit, but the beautiful thing about plants is they are pretty tough overall, and as long as they have light and oxygen and nutrients, which we know that's not a problem, they'll continue to grow.

Altena says it may be difficult to tell just by looking at the water, but they are seeing improvements.

The good news is that our microcystin algae is not nearly as high as what it used to be.  It used to be on a scale well above what is normally measured, I mean like 100 times more than what's normally measured.  Now it's within the scale that's normal.

Altena says, with the help of St. Cloud State University, they'll continue to monitor the phosphorus levels on the lake.

He says it's going to take a few years to see the full results of the drawdown come to fruition.

This lake has been basically punched in the gut for 170 years but the reservoir and the changes to the watershed and we were expecting an instantaneous turnaround and really Mother Nature doesn't work on that same time scale.  We have to understand that and it's going to be a multi-year process.

The cost for the project last summer was about $235,000. Altena says based on dollars spent per acre on restoration projects it was actually a relatively low budget project.

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