'Without It, The City Wouldn't Exist': Community Committed To Improving Water Quality In Madison Lake

In our "Eye on Earth" series ,Jennifer Mayerle looks at vibrant Madison Lake and how it's vital to the town bearing its name (3:43). WCCO 4 News At 5 - April 22, 2021

Video Transcript

- This Earth Day, climate change and pollution threaten one of our greatest natural resources.

- We're talking about Minnesota's 10,000 lakes. In the Twin Cities and central region along, the pollution control agency says 50% of lakes do not meet water quality standards for recreation. And WCCO discovered the farther south you travel, the more lakes there are with poor or impaired health. In our Eye on Earth series, Jennifer Mayerle looks at vibrant Madison Lake and how it's vital to the town bearing its name.

JENNIFER MAYERLE: Approach the city of Madison Lake near Mankato, and one thing becomes clear.

JEFF SHOOBRIDGE: We have beautiful lake here. Madison Lake. Without it, the city probably wouldn't exist.

JENNIFER MAYERLE: With a population hovering around 1,000, the lake is the draw, says the city administrator. For recreation swimming boating, fishing.

JEFF SHOOBRIDGE: It's the core of what draws people to the region.

JENNIFER MAYERLE: Business is tied to the medium sized lake, too. It's one where the most popular in the South Central region of the state, also known for its walleye population.

NATE GREEN: It's a real fun lake.

JENNIFER MAYERLE: Nate Greene owns corner bait shop.

NATE GREEN: Here's where we keep all of our minnows.

JENNIFER MAYERLE: A one stop shop for all things fishing.

NATE GREEN: About the only thing that we-- we don't offer is any type of a guarantee for catching fish.

JENNIFER MAYERLE: Beyond bait, they offer a guide service and boat repairs for anglers. He's serious about checking for invasive species and respecting the lake. Aware the health of it can directly impact the community's livelihood.

NATE GREEN: Instill into them, letting them know that, hey, if you're out there whatever you bring out there with you needs to come back with you.

JENNIFER MAYERLE: In 2010, the Minnesota pollution control agency listed the lake as impaired for recreational use. A reassessment 10 years later confirmed earlier findings. Phosphorus levels are too high to meet the standard for activities like swimming.

Phosphorus levels that fuel algae and chlorophyll can be higher in wetter years. And PCA notes the water clarity is generally poor, but data shows it's been relatively stable for 40 years. And the deep water remains a diverse and healthy fishery. Madison Lake is part of the Le Sueur watershed with more than 11,000 acres draining into the lake.

JEFF SHOOBRIDGE: Lakes in southern Minnesota have some problems with phosphates, with pollutions. A lot of it's just-- you can't do anything about it.

JENNIFER MAYERLE: But the community so connected to the lake is aware the DNR and MPCA are actively tracking the water quality to figure out what can be done to improve it. Like better controlling invasive species, fixing malfunctioning septic systems, and reducing cropland runoff.

SHELBY SABATKA: People want to enjoy a lake that is clear.

JENNIFER MAYERLE: Shelby Sabatka owns The Landing on Madison.

SHELBY SABATKA: Have a great day.

JENNIFER MAYERLE: A bar and restaurant combined with vacation and boat rentals.

SHELBY SABATKA: We do 3/4 of our business from May until September. The quality is absolutely important to us so that people can enjoy their time out here.

JENNIFER MAYERLE: The DNR says Madison Lake faces many of the nutrient loading and watershed development issues that affect a large number of lakes in southern Minnesota. And the community is committed to its future.

JEFF SHOOBRIDGE: The goal is, is to make sure that the lake is available for everyone for generations.

JENNIFER MAYERLE: In Madison Lake, Jennifer Mayerle, WCCO4 News.

- Madison Lake is part of a long term DNR monitoring program to detect and understand the changes occurring in our lakes. And you can check what's in lakes and streams near you online. Just head to wcco.com/links.