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The History: In 1928, a 693-acre, relatively shallow Lake Mitchell was built for water supply and recreation purposes. Defining characteristic include the huge 350,000-acre watershed that extends west to White Lake, south of Stickney, north of Wessington Springs, and east to Mitchell. The Lake has a 500 to 1 watershed to lake size ratio. The Challenge: The yearly average of Phosphorus concentration in the Lake from 1991 to 2017 was 474 ppb (parts per billion). Last year’s average alone was over 900 ppb. Algae grows at 60+ ppb, making the Lake a rich environment for algae. A healthy lake is 60-80 ppb, or less.  It will take significant improvements in both the Firesteel Creek watershed and in Lake Mitchell to reduce the amount of nutrient loading that is currently causing the frequency and severity of the Lake algae problem.  Focusing only on on the upstream or the in-lake challenges will not have the wholistic impact that is required to restore the lake and its watershed to the vibrant recreational area, fishery, and ecosystem that has generated so many fond memories in the past.  Significant community efforts, volunteering, and donations will be needed to revitalized this cherished water asset of Firesteel Creek and Lake Mitchell.

Two Basic Phosphorous Issues

  • Internal loading –Phosphorus rising into the water column from the Lake bottom represents 47% of the annual phosphorous problem.* Since phosphorus does not evaporate, after 90 years this dissolved phosphorus remains available for plant life and algae growth.

  • External loading –Although there are some “Hot Spot” areas within the watershed, phosphorus runoff , on the average, is not exceptionally high per acre.* However because of the watershed’s size, upstream external loading represents 53% of the yearly average phosphorus problem; more concerning is that 66% of this phosphorus run-off is dissolved and readily available for algae use.

Lake Mitchell is currently listed by EPA as an Impaired Waterbody which does not support: 1) domestic water supply, 2) immersion recreation, 3) limited contact recreation, or 4) warm water permanent fish life.

*According to FYRA Engineering Technical Memorandum

Significant community efforts, volunteering, and donations will be needed to revitalized this cherished water asset of Firesteel Creek and Lake Mitchell.

Two Type of Problems, Two Types of Solutions

Internal Load Control (In Lake)

  • Potentially consisting of dredging, or a combination of dredging, capping sediments, and binding or neutralizing the sediments on the bottom of the Lake to prevent phosphorus availability for plant life. Theoretically this will return the lake to original 1928 water quality conditions or more likely improve upon the historical condition.
  • If mechanical dredging (drain, dig & haul) is selected over hydrologic dredging (churn and pump ashore), Game Fish & Parks has agreed to help restock the Lake and make it an even better fishery.
  • Refill: On the average, Lake Mitchell refills 3 - 4 times a year.
  • Prior dredging was not for water quality, but to create a larger water capacity.

External Load Control (Watershed)

  • Watershed improvements must continue in order to reduce and slow down the phosphorus accumulation cycle from recurring in Lake Mitchell
  • Potential watershed remedies include upstream retention pond(s), wetlands, and watershed improvements (with help from NRCS, James River Development District, FSA, GF&P, DENR, EPA, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, etc.)
  • A potential near Lake injection system of alum or similar additive to capture sediment-attached, and neutralize dissolved phosphorus that reaches the Lake from the watershed
  • Upstream external loading solutions may be eligible for cost sharing grants

What Work is in Progress

2019, October: City of Mitchell Purchased the Kelley Property West of Lake Mitchell on Firesteel Creek

2020, December: City of Mitchell signed and engineering agreement to start design on the shoreline stabilization and wetland creation for the west end of Lake Mitchell.

2020, December: City of Mitchell lists the Kelley home on the market to help pay for the land and watershed work in and around Firesteel Creek.

2021, January: Ducks Unlimited will design wetlands and settlement ponds on the Kelley Property. This design is to be completed by early summer of 2021 with wetland and pond work starting Summer of 2021

2021, January: City of Mitchell Received Proposals from Engineering Firms for the In-Lake Dredge design. Selection of the engineering firm to occur in February of 2021.

What Are The Next Steps and What Area The Time Frames for the Project

2021: Selected engineering firm to begin Lake Dredge Design and provide estimates of costs with their plan details.



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