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MCWD Receives State Funding to Restore Fish and Waterfowl Habitat in Lake Minnetonka’s Headwaters

Project is part of a ten-year effort to improve wildlife habitat and water quality
Thursday, May 31, 2018

Eric holding a common carpThe Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD) has received a state grant to restore 2,488 acres of in-lake habitat in Lake Minnetonka’s headwaters by controlling common carp. The $567,000 grant, from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council (LSOHC), approved by the Minnesota Legislature this spring, will fund a carp management plan that is part of a multi-pronged, ten-year effort to improve water quality and wildlife habitat in the Six Mile Creek – Halsted Bay Subwatershed.

By managing the overabundance of invasive common carp that are in the system, the MCWD aims to restore the in-lake habitat across 14 deep and shallow lakes, improving conditions for gamefish and waterfowl while improving water clarity. Future strategies will work to create and restore corridors of wetlands and uplands throughout the area. The effort is part of a multi-jurisdictional partnership among the MCWD; Carver and Hennepin Counties; Laketown Township; the cities of Minnetrista, St. Bonifacius, Victoria and Waconia; and Three Rivers Park District.

“We are grateful for the LSOHC’s support of this effort, which will lay the foundation for our future work to restore habitat and improve water quality in the Six Mile Creek – Halsted Bay Subwatershed,” said Bill Olson, MCWD Board of Managers member. “By partnering with the LSHOC to reduce the population of common carp, we will improve the health of the Six Mile Creek chain of lakes and downstream water bodies including Halsted Bay.”

The MCWD is focusing on carp first because of the damage they cause to our lakes. Common carp uproot plants and stir up lake bottoms, which degrades habitat and releases nutrients that feed algae blooms. The carp management plan is based on data from a three-year study by the University of Minnesota’s Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center. The research team led by Dr. Peter Sorensen assessed the number of carp in the Six Mile Creek chain of lakes, identified their spawning locations, and determined their migration patterns. The findings helped shape a management strategy that includes removing adult carp, installing carp barriers, and aerating lakes to ensure the winter survival of bluegill sunfish (which feed on carp eggs).

“I was very impressed by this innovative approach to restoring fisheries and waterfowl habitat in the headwaters of Lake Minnetonka,” said Ron Schara, LSOHC member. “The plan to finally control carp in the Lake Minnetonka watershed is so important. I can’t wait to see the outcome."

This summer, the MCWD will begin removing carp in the Six Mile Creek – Halsted Bay Subwatershed by using baited box-net trapping, stream trapping, winter seining and open water seining. It will also be implanting radio tags in carp to monitor their movement, which will help with future removal efforts.

Monitoring will be done throughout this project to track carp populations as removal occurs, to evaluate the potential for carp reproduction in the carp nursery lakes, and to assess the ecological impact of the carp removal.

By this fall, MCWD hopes to have electricity installed for aeration units in Marsh, Sunny, North Lundsten, South Lundsten, and Mud Lakes. These units will be operated during the winter to keep those lakes’ oxygen levels suitable for the survival of bluegill sunfish, so they can feed on carp eggs in the spring.

Rounding out the management strategy, the MCWD will also be installing carp barriers this fall. The barriers will stop carp from moving into and out of Wassermann Lake, Crown College Pond, and Mud Lake, containing the invasive fish and blocking their access to spawning locations.

This strategy tackles the carp problem on multiple fronts, increasing the chances of a sustainable management effort. The ultimate goal is to provide long-term protection from invasive common carp across the subwatershed.

“We appreciate the LSOHC recognizing the value of this project, and the MCWD’s long term vision and leadership in the Six Mile Creek - Halsted Bay area,” said Randy Maluchnik, Carver County Commissioner. “Carver County prides itself on being an effective partner, and looks forward to working collectively to restore our valuable natural resources and to enhance our residents’ enjoyment of our lakes and streams.”

Other activities currently underway in the Six Mile Creek – Halsted Bay Subwatershed include restoring a wetland and woodland on the western shore of Wassermann Lake. The project, which is a partnership with the City of Victoria, will also provide a park and public access on the lake, fulfilling a goal in the City of Victoria’s 2008 comprehensive plan.

Learn more about the MCWD’s work to improve the quality of water and quality of life in Lake Minnetonka’s headwaters.