No wake on Long Lake


Signs have been posted at the Long Lake boat launch to warn boaters of the no-wake ordinance. (Bridget Kranz photos)

While high water has been a recurring problem on the lake and fluctuates often, the past few years on average have seen higher levels. (courtesy of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources)

Longtime resident Leon Kline’s fire pit used to be surrounded by dry land, but persistent high water levels, coupled with larger wakes, have increased erosion on his property.

Residents deal with annual high waters

Long Lake in New Brighton is under a no-wake restriction due to high water, which can worsen shoreline erosion when coupled with large wakes. 

All watercraft are required to travel at minimum operating speed, not to exceed five miles per hour. 

The decision was made by the City of New Brighton, working in partnership with its public safety department and homeowners along the lake. While no-wake restrictions are always in place 100 feet from most shoreline, as soon as the lake elevation exceeds 866.22 feet above sea level, almost 1.5 feet higher than its average elevation, the ordinance is put into effect for the entire body of water.

High water is a recurring issue at Long Lake, which sits downstream from most of the Rice Creek watershed. While this spring marks the third wettest to date in recorded Minnesota history, according to the National Weather Service, an increase in precipitation is only part of the problem. 

“Without all of the spring rain, we still would have had high water levels. But, eventually they would have subsided,” said Matthew Kocian, lakes and streams specialist with the Rice Creek Watershed District. “Every time they start to go down we get another one- or two-inch rainfall and they bounce right back up again.”

While Long Lake water levels have fluctuated in the past decade, the past few years have been consistently higher than the preceeding years, according to data from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 

 

High water 

and erosion

In addition to high water, longtime lake homeowner Leon Kline has noticed significant shoreline erosion on his property in the past couple of years. Large wakes, coupled with excess water, can send larger and more powerful waves beating against the shore.

“Has the water been this high before? Yes. Has it been higher? Yes,” said Kline, who has lived on the lake for 35 years. “The thing that makes this year different is the ground is so wet, the shoreline can’t hold anything back.”

Kline has tried using rock walls as a barrier between his yard and the lake with varying amounts of success. If waves get high enough to reach over the wall, they can easily pull the rocks down into the water.

Kline’s yard also ends in a peninsula, which juts out into a narrow part of the lake, making his situation especially challenging. He shows the remains of a fire pit, now half submerged at the tip of the point. A few years ago, there was enough room for people to sit around it.  

“Just as slow as they’re going, you can see a wake behind the boat. That’ll come in and just eat at the shoreline,” said Kline of a passing pontoon. While he observes people breaking the no-wake restriction every day, he also acknowledges that there are a variety of factors that play into the erosion.

 

Many factors, some solutions

“High water certainly attributes to it, wakes attribute to it, all these things. There are just a lot of factors; it’s very complex,” said Kline. “The types of boats we have are different.”

John Broghammer, president of the Long Lake Improvement Association, also noted a rise in the popularity of wake sports, lake activities where the point is to generate waves large enough to surf on. 

“Part of why I moved here was to enjoy wake and water sports,” said Broghammer. “But, I think the popularity of wake surfing has increased the wave size.”

Still, he emphasizes that high water, which exacerbates the effects of wakes, is an annual problem given the lake’s position. While the no-wake restriction will hopefully curb some of the accompanying shoreline erosion, Broghammer encourages homeowners on the lake to fortify their shorelines if possible.

“[High water] happened last year, it’s going to happen this year and it’s going to happen next year. We know this, you have to invest in your infrastructure,” he said. “Some people don’t have a choice. Some people, the water is literally over their shoreline and it’s up into their yard.”

Kline has looked into getting his shoreline rehabilitated with the help of a grant from the watershed district, but for some areas of his property, it’s too late.

For homeowners along the lake, the Rice Creek Watershed District can help cover up to 50% of shoreline rehabilitation projects costing up to $5,000. In addition to rock walls, other solutions like native plants can be put in place to help curb erosion. 

“The way the program works is that interested homeowners contact one of our partners at the soil and water conservation division, in this case of Ramsey County, and somebody would come out and look at the site and come up with some designs based on what tools would fit right for that shoreline,” said Kocian.

 

Looking forward

While a large section of the Long Lake shoreline is privately owned, much of the eastern side of the lake is county land. 

“I have noticed the high water, obviously, and I have noticed it impacting some trees,” said Michael Goodnature, natural resources manager for Ramsey County Parks and Recreation. “On the [county’s] side of things, I haven’t seen too much of a major concern of shoreline erosion.”

He added that the county has left native plants along the shoreline and lets nature take its course when there’s no major recreational impact.

The watershed district’s recent project in New Brighton’s Hansen Park has helped retain some of the water that flows into Long Lake from the south, by dredging and reconstructing the park’s pond to increase its capacity. 

“It holds more stormwater runoff and decreases flood elevations downstream. But, for Long Lake, Rice Creek is still the primary driver for water levels,” said Kocian of the watershed to the north. He said the district is looking into more opportunities for long-term flood control.

 

–Bridget Kranz can be reached at bkranz@lillienews.com or 651-748-7825.

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