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January 11, 2018 06:11 PM

Lake Mitchell Restoration Will Take Years; Cost Millions

Mitchell, SD

Every summer, blue algae plagues Lake Mitchell.  

At times the levels are so high no one can swim in the lake.

Experts say the problem won't go away unless the city makes changes.

Restoration could cost millions, according to Fyra, the Omaha-based engineering company who did a study on the lake. 

Beneath the ice at Lake Mitchell, there's 90 years worth of phosphorus build-up, the nutrient that causes unwanted algae blooms.

The city says it's going to be costly to fix, and residents near the lake say it's worth the expense. 

Ice fishing, is one of the only reasons people use Lake Mitchell, according to City Counselor Steve Rice. 

"I've boated on the lake and swam in the lake in the last 10 years. But I haven't in the last three," Mitchell City Counselor Steve Rice said. 

Ice kills the blue algae that shows up every summer. The city counsel is looking for answers to keep blooms at bay. 

So is Joe Kippes. He's lived on the lake for the last 20 years. 

"We're at a point where our lake is in trouble. We've had to close our beaches several times through the summer," Lake Committee Member Joe Kippes said. 

The company looking into the problem says half of the phosphorus comes from the watershed, used by farmers and ranchers from miles around.  

"If we try to fix our problem in the watershed, then our improvement is a long way down the road. Not in my lifetime. Not in my children's lifetime," Kippes said. 

The other half of the phosphorus is stuck to the lake's bottom. 

"We'd scoop all that material out, and let the lake fill back up," Rice said. 

With dredging, improvements would take just a few years. 

That's just one option.   

"That's where the city has to make up it's mind. Do they want a lake that's unnapealing, and a lake that's potentially a liability to the community, or do they want a lake that's an asset" Kippes said. 

The decision comes down to how much the project would cost. 

No matter what they choose, the options will all cost millions of dollars. 
City leaders say it would ultimately come down to a citywide vote to raise taxes. 

Other options to pay for the restoration include federal grant money. 

"As a community, if it's something we would like people to come to the city and enjoy and be a drawing card, then we better do something with it," Kippes said. 

Fyra's study on the lake can be found here. 

Watch the Mitchell Community Meeting about the findings here. 

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