Mitchell City Council Hears Proposed $20 Million Lake Cleanup Plan

MITCHELL, S.D. – Lake Mitchell has seen better days. After three years of research, the Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee presented its findings to the Mitchell City Council Monday night. It’s proposing a major cleanup operation that comes with a nearly $20 million dollar price tag.

Would you let your family swim in this thick green algae? The lack of people here on a warm summer day begs the question.

“The worst part of it is it looks like pea soup,” said Mayor Bob Everson. “I mean, it just doesn’t look good and uh, there’s a smell associated with that.”

Green shorelines aren’t just hard to look at. According to the Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee, they also hurt the environment and property values.

“We were using Lake Mitchell as a backup water source,” said Everson. “Those days are probably gone.”

The problem can all be traced back to phosphorous. According to a report from the committee, the lake’s phosphorous concentration has nearly tripled in the past 15 years.

About half of that phosphorhus has accumulated here at Lake Mitchell over the past 90 years and then the other half is watershed runoff from nearby Firesteel creek.

According to Nathan Powell, the Mitchell Parks and Recreation director, this blue-green algae feeds on phosphorous. The algae can create toxins which sometimes make it unsafe to swim in the water.

According to the committee’s findings, an engineering firm from Omaha recommends dredging the lake, then using a water retention system that would proactively slow the flow of runoff.

Now, city council is brainstorming how they would potentially fund the project. Council members hope grant money would cover all of the watershed improvements and more than half of the clean up efforts near the lake. However, it’s uncertain if they’ll find grant money to cover the $11 million clean up portion of the project in the lake.

The city periodically tests the water throughout the summer. If they find something concerning, officials will sometimes close the lake and issue warnings.  Everson says the city is considering an economic impact study to see how much revenue the lake already brings to the town.

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