By Dick Sampson

Grace Lake is a spring fed 900 acre lake with some of the best beaches in the area with a maximum depth of 42 feet. The lake is split by the county line between Hubbard and Beltrami County.

In 1954 the residents on the lake formed the Grace Lake Assn with the primary emphasis being on fishing. Since that time the DNR stocks the lake every year with Walleyes and conducts fish counts about every 5 years. Between then and 2005 the group was primarily a social organization.

In 2005 I was asked by a person that lived on the west side of the lake to see how the weeds were proliferating by the inlet. The President of our association, Keith Mooney, and I checked it out and found a mess. We set up a meeting with the DNR, Beltrami Soil and water Conservation Dept, the County environmental officer and Our Lake Assn Board of Directors to evaluate the situation. The aquatic vegetation included bushy pond weed, foxtail, northern milfoil, algae, and cabbage weed. The primary cause of which was due to too many nutrients in the lake primarily Phosphorus.

Potential sources for these nutrients were:

     *Septic tanks

     *Drainage from our watershed through a ditch that was installed

       in 1908 to drain farm lands. (judicial Ditch # 1)

     *Ditch drainage from pasturelands

     *Property owners illegally removing reeds from our lake

     *Property owners fertilizing their lawns with fertilizers

       containing phosphorus.

Since other lakes in our area were having similar problems an initiative called the “Healthy Lakes and Rivers Partnership” was established by the Northwest Minnesota Foundation. We set up a steering committee which I headed up and participated in a training session on how to prepare a Lake Management Plan.

In 2006 we kicked off our plan which included the following steps and the monetary award for their accomplishment:

     *Training                                                                                     $400

     *Facilitated session on visioning                                            $400

     *Drafting a Lake Management Plan                                       $800

     *Highest priority action plan                                                   $800                                          

     *Special Project Grant                                                            $4000

Sections of the plan:



     *Public water access

     *Septic systems


     *Invasive species

     *Land use and zoning (includes fertilization)

     *Water quality and measurements

Major Steps Taken


Hubbard County had a mandatory septic inspection for all septics located within 100 feet of a lake which resulted in 104 inspections. 51 of these septics were found to be non-compliant and were fixed.

I talked to the Beltrami County Administrator and tried to get a similar approach but wasn’t successful. So the following steps were taken.

     *Analyzed records in the county environmental office of all

       septics on properties within 100 feet of our lake in Beltrami County.

     *Identified about 30 systems that should be inspected.

     *Solicitated bids from 6 inspectors . The prices ranged from

       $150 to $250 per system.

     *Negotiated a flat rate of $100 per inspection.

     *If the system passed our Lake Association rebated $50 to the          homeowner.

       If it failed the homeowner had to upgrade his system.

     *Approximately 20 of the systems were voluntarily inspected.

       Most of which passed.

     *I had to put my money where my mouth was. I had two

       septics one passed and one failed for a cost of over $10,000.


Guess what the most prevalent invasive species affecting Minnesota lakes is?------------------------- Kentucky Bluegrass. Grass which has a very shallow root system planted next to a lake contributes both nitrogen and phosphorus to a lake. Compounding this was the practice of fertilizing with fertilizers which contain phosphorus. (10-10-10). Our message to membership was that it is best to use lake water which contains a lot of nutrients to water but if you do use fertilizer use one that contains no phosphorus. (10-0-10)

Water Sampling

Each month every summer we sample clarity (secchi dish), phosphorus, and chlorophyll a. In the spring of each year we check our 3 major sources of run off into our lake for coliforms, phosphorus and nitrogen. By checking flow rates through culverts we could calculate the quantity of each of these nutrients that enter our lake. One pound of phosphorus can generate up to 700 pounds of algae.

In 2007 a graduate student from Bemidji State University studied phosphorus contributions from ground water. He found that late summer increases in total phosphorus are due to internal loading as oxygen is decreased. As oxygen is reduced at lower levels of the lake iron changes it state and releases phosphorus.

In 2008 another BSU graduate student collected daily profiles of oxygen, temperature and phosphorus from deep to shallow waters. Her recommendations for improving our lake included septics, fertilization, shoreland restoration, aluminum precipitation, and/or artificial oxygenation.

Aquatic Vegetation Survey

Was performed by the DNR in 2006. The objectives were;

     *Describe shoal sediments of the lake

     *Estimate maximum depth of rooted vegetation

     *Estimate % of lake occupied by “           “

     *Record the aquatic plant species in the lake

     *estimate abundance of common species

     *develop distribution maps for common species

No invasive species (Eurasian milfoil or curly leaf pond weed) were found. We should repeat this survey every 5 years using 2006 as a benchmark.

Shore Land Habitat Restoration Project

One of the ways to improve the quality of lake water is to try and re-instate natural shoreline vegetation in and around a lake. 

Pertinent facts relating to this are:

     *Bulrushes and reeds absorb nutrients from the water and

       provide good fish habitat. In Minnesota you can only clear

       a space wide enough to get access to the lake.

     *Beaches can’t be cleared of natural vegetation and sand

       brought in unless permission is granted by the DNR

     *The practice of clearing lots and planting grass to the water

       line should be avoided as it facilitates phosphorus and

       nitrogen going into the lake.

In 2008 we applied for and received a grant from the DNR for $25,000 for shoreland restoration. To qualify a participant must:

     *Develop a complete timeline for the project

     *Map the area. 75% of the area must be covered within 25 feet

       of the lake

     *List labor and plant requirements. Plants must be native

     *Maintain the project for 10 years.

Star Lakes Program

Many states including Minnesota have programs which give special designation to “Star Cities” A legislative proposal to encourage top notch lake management practices was adopted in Minnesota in 2008 for identification and recognition of “Star Lakes” Basic eligibility requirements include:

     *A Lake Management Plan

     *A baseline of current conditions based on scientific information

     *50% membership of the properties on your lake in lake

       Association.  Grace Lakes membership % was 66.2.

     *Active water quality monitoring program

     *Active management plan evaluation and update process

Lake associations which apply for the designation were rated on 10 different criterion.

We applied for the award and were one of only three lake associations in the state to be awarded the “Star Lakes” designation. We were awarded $1200 and improved our position to obtain future grants.

­Grace Lake Charitable Fund

Since we aren’t organized as a 501,c, non-profit organization, anyone wishing to contribute to our organization was not able to get a tax deduction. So, on October 16, 2009 we entered into a partnership arrangement with the Northwest Minnesota Foundation to set up the Grace Lake Charitable Fund.

A charitable fund accomplishes the following:

     *Donations are deductible. Charitable gifts include:

            **Outright gifts of cash or appreciated property (stocks)

            **Will requests

            **Gifts of insurance or gifts made through charitable


            **Gifts of real estate

     *Provides a tax friendly way for individuals and others to

       support our mission objectives of improving water quality

       and keeping out invasive species.

     *The fund is separate from and managed independently of the

       Grace Lake Water Shed Improvement Association.

     *The Fund is eligible for grants from other sources.

Our lake charitable fund consists of two types of funds:

     *Permanent endowment fund. This fund will only use a portion

       of the earnings annually to fund a variety of education and

       conservation projects benefiting Grace Lake. This is a

       tremendous opportunity for friends of Grace Lake to leave

       a permanent legacy and know that future generations will

       enjoy our lake.

     *Spendable project funds. Any contribution not designated

       for endowment will be placed in the project fund. This means

       the Grace Lake Watershed improvement Association

       board, as advisors to our fund, have the discretion to use

       these funds on critical current projects or place them in the

       endowment fund.

Our partner, the Northwest Minnesota Fund, is a public charitable foundation created in 1986 to provide full service management for IRS compliance, investment management, and administration.

Aerial Survey (Remote Sensing and Imagery)

In the fall of 2009 we accepted a proposal from A. W. Research Laboratories to perform an aerial survey of our lake and watershed. This survey consists of two overflights in two different temperature environments, i.e. one last fall and one this next summer. The purpose of conducting an overflight study is to detect and analyze nutrient sources and ordinance nonconformity. These sources include septic systems, springs, and runoff sources in the watershed that have an impact on our lake. No significant sources were discovered at those times.

The cost for this study was $11,772. We received a grant from the Northwest Minnesota Foundation to cover half the cost.

Since 2010 our efforts as well as those of most lake associations in Minnesota have changed the emphasis to prevent the spread of (AIS) aquatic invasive species. AIS are plants and animals that do not naturally occur in a state’s water which can cause harm (environmental or health).

Invasive Species- having them can result in lake property values declining in excess of 15%.

     Banded Mystery Snails- more of a nuisance than a threat. We found them in our lake about 10 years ago. Found out that they probably came from Indiana. They die out and wash up on  beaches and have to be hauled out. Their quantity varies significantly from year to year.

     Zebra Mussels

          Fresh water bivalve mollusks i.e. 2 shells

          First introduced into the great lakes via ballast water of ocean           going ships found 1989                                     

          Transferred to the United States from Eastern Europe in the late  1980’s

          Start as microscopic (veligers) can grow to 2 inches. Can live up to 27 days in wet or damp portions of a boat.

          A single female can produce up to 1 million eggs in 1 year

          They consume large amounts of microscopic plants & animals, reduce food for fish

          Attach themselves to docks, boats, motors, lifts, rocks

          Sharp shells can cut the feet of swimmers

          Increases maintenance to power plants, water treatment plants- adds $billions to costs

          In 2014 they were found in 66 lakes out of 10,000+ and 150 lake connections

     Eurasian Milfoil

          Submerged aquatic plant

          Came from Eastern Europe in the 1940’s

          Grows about 1 foot per week up to 33 feet

          A 1” piece can propagate and cover an entire lake

          Can form mats up to 35 feet thick- a Lake Minnetonka swimmer got tangled in a mat and drowned

     Spiny Water Fleas

          Found in 1980 in the Snake River

          Attach to fishing lines

          Threatens fishing by competing for zooplankton

     Big Head & Silver Carp

          Imported from China in 70’s to control plankton in ponds

          Escaped in early 80’s into southern lakes

          Also compete for plankton

          Big Head can get up to 110 lbs.- Silver can get up to 60 lbs.

          Can jump 10 feet out of the water

          Caused injuries & death to boaters and personal watercraft operators. In one tournament on the Illinois River a team of three people brought in 5,500 Silver Carp to the dock in 12 hours –20% were shot and the balance just jumped in their boat.

     Curly Leaf Pondweed

          Grows in lake water 3 to 10 feet deep

          Accidentally introduced when common carp were stocked in North America

          Shades out native plants and forms dense mats

          Dies in mid-summer and releases nutrients causing algae blooms

          Easily spread by boats and trailers

Starry Stonewort

          The latest and quite possibly one of the worst AIS is starry stonewort. It has been found as close as Turtle River Lake just north of Bemidji. It can literally over grow the entire lake and make it useless on many fronts.

Grace Lake Access Inspections

Grace Lake is located in 2 counties (Half in Beltrami and half in Hubbard).  The Hubbard county DNR (Dept. of Natural Resources) is very active in trying to keep invasives out of their lakes. In 2013 they conducted training sessions for volunteer and paid inspectors to work at public landings. We at Grace Lake had 8 people trained as volunteers. They also gave us $1500 to cover 100 hours of paid inspectors. Inspections involve checking for weeds and zebra mussels on the boat and trailer and the live well. We also check to see if the boat came from an infected lake. The following information was recorded for each launch time, date, vehicle license no, Watercraft license no., drain plug in, water in boat, last lake, next lake. One of the main benefits of the inspectors is the education of the people using the public landings. There are civil penalties transporting or placing AIS’S as well as the failure to remove plugs and draining water from boats. The penalties for which range from $100 to $500.

In 2014 with support from the Frohn and Farden townships we were able to raise $7500 which gave us 500 hours of inspection. The majority of the funds were supplied by our lake association.

To help us determine when to man the inspections we imbedded a car counter in the driveway leading to the launching point. The result was we had daily and hourly data from the years 2013, 2014, 2015 to compare to the data generated by the inspectors.

After comparing the two sources of data we felt we needed additional assurance to make sure people comply with the regulations. We decided to set up a faux camera on a telephone pole to look like a real camera along with signage that suggested that observations were happening. Some people complained to the DNR. The DNR told us we had to take it down. We wrote a letter to the DNR requesting our continued use of the faux camera but they denied it.  They did, however, say that two lakes in their region had installed real camera systems with their approval. Two of our board members went to one of the lakes and saw how it worked. The system is called (I-LIDS) i.e. Internet landing Installed Device System.

I-LIDS System includes a pedestal which contains a motion detecting video camera and audio system and electronics that connects via Verizon to the web browser. It also includes a solar panel which provides power to the system.

The benefits are:

     Eliminates gaps in coverage by inspectors

     Provides a solution to round the clock coverage

     Educates and instructs boaters on cleaning habits with signage and audio

     Captures all launch activities with alerts and web browser playback

     Documents usage statistics and can capture evidence identifying violations

     Motion activated video and audio system

     Captured videos are viewable on the web by those who have the password.

We were told the system would cost $8,000 to $9,000 and would cost about $200 a month to operate. We didn’t have the money to buy it we started looking for a way to pay for it.

Since our 10,000+ lakes in the state of Minnesota are very important to our economy, in 2008 a .375% tax was passed by the voters which resulted in the Legacy Fund for AIS pilot projects. Grace Lake applied for 500 hours of inspection to start on 5/2/14 and end on 9/14/14 from that fund but we weren’t successful.

In 2014 a significant event occurred which made it clear that we had to do more than just having inspectors at our public landing. Adult zebra mussels were discovered in Cass Lake which is only 10 miles from Grace Lake. The Mississippi River flows from its source in Lake Itasca through Lake Bemidji, Wolf Lake, Lake Andrusia and Cass Lake. In theory zebra mussels can’t spread upstream. However, they attach themselves to boats which travel from Cass to Wolf Lake. So all of a sudden we were exposed on our lake to boats which came from any of these lakes.  At this point our lake Board of Directors felt we had to think outside of the box and supplement our boat inspections with a camera system- I-LIDS.

The 2nd phase of the Legacy funds included $10 Million. – Since we didn’t have sufficient funds, we approached Beltrami Soil & Water Conservation office and the Northwest Minnesota Foundation for any possible grant money that might be available. In discussing our request with them they thought we would have a better chance for success if our request was increased in scope to include more lakes and that it should be requested by the Beltrami County Chief Executive. The result was a request for 15 ILIDS systems covering 14 public landings, 2 decontamination stations, education & training for a total of $230,000.   Again we were not successful.

The state of Minnesota starting in 2015 is providing the state counties $10 Million for 10 years to combat AIS. The funds were allocated to the counties based on number of lakes, public accesses, and parking places. Our county, Beltrami, will receive $187,000/year for 10 years. Since our lake association has been aggressively working with the county, we received enough funds to have 8 hours of inspection daily between Memorial Day and Labor Day for the next three years. In addition we were given funding to purchase and operate an I-LIDS system.

The Grace Lake I-LIDS system was installed on 5/22/15 and operated until 10/27/15 at which time it was stored for the season. It ran from 5 a.m. through 12 midnight each day. As part of the contract ESP, the company that sold us the I-LIDS system, reviewed the majority of the video clips.  A total of 11624 videos were captured and 10345 are shown as reviewed.  Our Board of Directors also have access to review the videos and see what is happening at the public landing. There were no suspect AIS violations identified. People demonstrated recognition of the I-LIDS, reacted to the audio message, read the sign, and inspected their boats. People were aware of the I-LIDS as seen on the videos due to the audio message, sign, and illuminated green LED on the camera.

In addition to monitoring the activity at our public landing with the I-LIDS unit we check for the presence of zebra mussels by:

     Placing cinder blocks in 5 to 8 ft. of water near the public landing and other heavily used

          Areas of the lake and checking them from June to mid September.

     Encouraging everyone on the lake to check docks, boats, and lifts when removed in the fall 


 Our next project concerns managing the west side inlet to our lake.  Judicial Ditch #1 was constructed in the early 1900’s to drain farmlands. It drains into Grace Lake and introduces nitrogen and phosphorous into our lake during the spring runoff and after major rain storms. Prior to entering our lake it flows through a swampy area. This parcel was offered for sale a couple of years ago. The DNR was initially interested in acquiring the property in order to divert the water so that more would be absorbed before entering into the lake to minimize our problem with nutrients. The property owner and DNR were unable to come to terms and the property was purchased by another party.

The board has met with the new owner and the DNR and the thinking is that a portion of the property could be obtained by the DNR through an easement. The DNR would then build a larger Water Retention Holding Area in the swampy area, so that during Spring Runoffs the water containing high levels of Nitrogen and Phosphorous flowing over the frozen area would have time to be filtered, prior to going into Grace Lake.

This would require permits and hopefully a County/State Grant to complete. But, it is the opinion of our Grace Lake Association, the DNR and other State Organizations a step in the right direction to control the unwanted nutrients in the runoff waters.

Website Builder