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Watershed Management

The Sportsmen's Club's guest speaker, Chester Wilson of the Minnesota Conservation Department, in August 1946, encouraged the club members to work for watershed control and management, in order to maintain adequate water levels in Spicer area lakes during wet and dry cycles: "Water is a prime conservation problem in Kandiyohi County because it lies on top of the world, sending its water in every direction and getting only a trickle from beyond its borders."

Wilson's report (1946) explained the problem:

"For the first 50 years (beginning in 1894) the average annual precipitation was 23.01 inches. In that period there are two definite cycles. The present wet cycle, 1935 to 1945 inclusive, shows an accumulated surplus of 42.38 inches for the 11 years. Immediately preceding it we had the 1917 to 1934 inclusive dry cycle showing an accumulated deficit of 67.20 inches for 18 years.

"Green Lake held its own pretty well, in spite of the fact that every lake in the upper headwaters was drained in the first years of the dry cycle and in spite of the lack of water control at the New London dam, which left the whole reservoir dry. For 11 years of the dry cycle, water continued to flow over the dam. The top of Green Lake dam was dry for only about eight years. Since that time you Sportsmen have helped to get water control at the New London dam. That was a real insurance policy for Green Lake."

Completion of dams near Lake Calhoun (1938 and 1940) coincided with the end of the drought of the 1930's. The waters of Green Lake, which had stopped flowing over the outlet dam on July 29, 1932, and had dropped to a record of 52 inches below the crest by August 20, 1936, returned to normal, reaching the control elevation of 100, or 1155.27 feet above sea level, on or about April 25, 1939. This level, set by the County Board in 1908, was verified in 1935.

With the purchase of the New London mill dam and construction of the Calhoun dams, the Department of Conservation (forerunner of the Department of Natural Resources) began regulating the level of Green Lake. The operation, as carried out during the 1940's by state game warden, Ed Erickson, was to open the New London dam when higher waters in the Crow River were anticipated, notify Oscar Hillman or, later, Elmer Carlson, at the Old Mill that he should anticipate additional water, and then drive over to Calhoun and open the dams, permitting a like amount of water to be discharged from Green and Calhoun Lakes. This relatively simple mode of operation during the 1940's stabilized the level of Green Lake for several years.

When a bill passed by the state legislature transferred some of the power to control lake levels to the counties, the Department apparently stopped reading the gauges. Unusually high precipitation the fall of 1946 and the spring of 1947 caused Green Lake to reach the highest level recorded until that time, 1156.85, at which time the Department's record ends.

In 1949 Kandiyohi County started reading water level elevations on county lakes ‑ a program that continues to this day.

When low precipitation in the mid‑1970's and illegal tampering with the stoplogs at the Calhoun dams caused unusually low lake levels, the Green Lake Property Owners' Association asked the Department of Natural Resources for some more permanent method of raising the lake level. In 1978 a tamper‑proof concrete dam with an 18‑inch valve was installed in the artificial outlet.

Beginning in 1977 abnormally high amounts of precipitation fell in the Crow River watershed, culminating in 1986 with the highest precipitation ever recorded at the New London weather station. As a result, the water levels in Green Lake exceeded elevation 1157 in seven of those 10 years and reached a peak of 1158.79 on July 30, 1986. Although Green Lake had reached elevations of 115 8 on numerous occasions since the Department stopped operating the stoplogs in 1950, this represented a new record. In the past five years, the lake level has continued to fluctuate, depending primarily on the amount of precipitation the area receives.

In 1991 the Kandiyohi County Commissioners are again working for watershed management, the primary problem now being pollution of the lakes.