A continued decline in wildlife use & habitat quality in Rice La - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

A continued decline in wildlife use & habitat quality in Rice Lake prompts the Department of Natural Resources to start lowering water levels in the lake


A drawdown is planned for Rice Lake in Steele and Dodge Counties, where the Department of Natural Resources will lower water levels with the goal of removing carp and rough fish.

DNR wildlife staff found common carp in the lake In April 2016, and subsequent surveys found a decline in water clarity and loss of wildlife plants. 
Common carp destroy aquatic plants through the way they feed; they also contribute to low water quality in nutrient-rich lakes. 

"We have a carp population that's built up over the last few years, and they're causing very deleterious effects of the lake itself and the water quality," said Area Wildlife Manager Jeanine Vorland.

Rice Lake is a shallow lake designated as a wildlife management lake in 1985. It is one of only 56 designated lakes in the state. 
This allows DNR managers to take steps like temporary drawdowns to help improve water and habitat quality.

They haven't started the drawdown process just yet, but the lake is a foot below normal levels - they say that's because it dried up in the summer. However, they say the lake should be a lot clearer than it currently is.

"The dam on this lake has stops, and we're able to go out and remove stops...that changes the height of the dam," said Vorland. "You'll see the water level recede over fall and hopefully have it down by winter, so then it can freeze over and freeze nearly to the bottom."

Drawdowns simulate drought conditions, which are the natural "reset" mechanism for shallow lakes.

'It's a natural process that would normally happen through drought or severe winters, and so the lake ecosystem is adapted to being able to adjust and respond well to it," she said.

After a successful drawdown the lake should begin to refill in the spring of 2018. 

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