ALBERT LEA, MN — The Shell Rock River Watershed District has been working hard to get area lakes cleaner.
They took one step towards doing that when they purchased a dredge last fall. Now they are hoping to get some help from the state to keep moving forward.
Roy Springborg lives on FountainLake. He used to do some fishing pretty often.
“It was good fishing for a while, but this is going to get really good now,” Springborg said.
Now he spends most of his time looking at the wildlife.
“Now the wood ducks are down there and you see some canvas backs down there so you see all this stuff going all of the time, it’s like paradise to me,” Springborg said.
When Governor Dayton’s bonding proposal bill came out on Monday, the Fountain Lake restoration project was not on it.
But the mood in Albert Lea changed the next day when it showed up on the House’s version of the bill.
“The energy came back, we were ready to go, we were excited and happy to be moving forward and we only had a day in between the bills being released so that helped with some of the tension,” said Shell Rock River Watershed District Administrator Brett Behnke.
The project to clean sediment out of the lake and improve the water quality is budgeted for $15 million, with the state being asked to pay $7.5 million. But the House’s bill only covers $1.5 million.
“The one and a half million’s going to get us started, it’s going to get us our foothold and obviously they respect our project and appreciate our project and are in support of our project by putting 1.5 in there,” Behnke said.
But why are the lakes in Albert Lea important enough for the state to contribute?
“Overall, tourism contributes just basically at 11.9 billion dollars in gross sales in the state of Minnesota. In FreebornCounty, it’s over 41 million dollars annually,” said Randy Kehr, Executive Director of the Albert Lea Chamber of Commerce.
Those in Albert Lea want to make a good first impression.
“We are the first lake that you see when you come in from Iowa so our lakes are a big deal to us and a big deal to our community and we’re kind of centered around our lakes so to us our lakes are our convention centers,” Behnke said.
Those like Springborg, who look out on it every day, are pleased to see the progress.
“I’m glad they’re doing it now so I can see it when it’s finished before I get too old to go out there,” Springborg said.
Kehr said this will not only help bring people to Albert Lea as tourists, but he says businesses use the lakes as a recruiting tool for employees.