(Not) The Same Old McDill – Improvements for Our Lakes and Rivers
By Krista Olson
On June 16 2011, Jack Negaard, Lake District President made the call late in the afternoon to notify all residents to immediately pull their boats out of the water as McDill was going under emergency draw-down. The water was removed at close to 1 foot a day, leaving McDill empty for the next 20 months. This spring as the frog chorus welcomes the return of warm weather, residents can welcome back the sight of McDill again as refill starts. Thanks to some very busy homeowners and community members, McDill will have some new improvements to show once the water returns.
During the winter of 2011-12, the McDill board decided to address an issue found in the North and South Channels from a study completed two years prior. Over time the channels had built up a sediment load at the mouth of the South channel, which slowed the flow rate. Stuczyinski Excavating donated at cost the excavating of the South Channel opening and the pond area across from Riverwoods Park. After the snow melted many homeowners felt the dredge had stopped too short on the channel, but unfortunately funds were out with an impending dam repair bill. A group of homeowners formed a committee, and started soliciting bids and areas to dredge once it was determined that McDill would be down over another winter. A land survey was also completed around the channels of the islands to see where the channels were too shallow for navigation. Funds of over $30,000 were secured, and a dredging of the channels was completed in January 2013.
The dredging opens up flow throughout the channel, removing sediment deposits that have built up over the 60+ years since the channels were originally widened. It improves navigation in other areas that were blocked, and in some areas springs were hit and fresh groundwater is now filling the dredged areas, providing a source of cold fresh water for the fishery. Areas in front of both sides of the Heffron Street culverts were also dug out to improve flow through the culvert. The dredges removed over 200 dump truck loads of material. Ice fisherman may want to take note of the dredged locations on the channels, as they may find their old fishing areas may now having thin ice due to the springs next winter.
On the main body homeowners on the east side of McDill near the high power lines also banded together to complete a dredge project. The area north of Spring Slough was scraped to deepen an area that previously was too shallow for navigation. The removed soil was placed on a private homeowner’s land under the power lines, and will be replanted in the spring. Another private homeowner also dredged the curve around the point where the power lines run on the west side, adjacent to the Erickson Natural area, providing boating access into the area that was previously not navigable.
Dredged areas of McDill Channels completed over 2 years, darker bold print is major dredge completed in Jan 2013courtesy of McDill Dredge Committee
McDill was previously the largest water body in Portage County without a public beach area, but has over 40 acres of parks that have frontage, so another homeowner set out to change it. With a donation from the family and another private donor, and a study fee paid for by the Lake District, a beach permit was approved by the DNR and City of Stevens Point. The retaining wall bench area in Koziczikowski Park was cleared at the shoreline, and sand was pushed over from a nearby sandbar to create a beach. Volunteers from the Lake District raked out the sand, making the beach ready for the return of water.
After two years of trees growing on the lake bed, some of the trees were beyond 4- 6 feet tall, creating a navigation hazard if left when the water returns. While the plant material that grew on the lake bed would break down, the sapling trees could stay in the water for several years without breaking down. It was determined that cutting them with the weed harvesters would not be effective due to the damp wood could wrap around the cutting blades. Zblewski Brothers was hired to cut the lake bed by the Lake District, with a donation of reduced costs on the cutting project by Zblewski Brothers. Through late fall and winter the majority of the lake bed was cut, except for certain areas where it was too wet or mucky to get in to cut. The area north of the Patch St harvester landing was also left uncut, creating spawning grounds for the returning fish. Boaters should be aware that the stands of uncut trees will be there for several years which will benefit the fishery, but boaters should proceed with caution if not traveling through the current riverbed channel area. Several homeowners are also participating in putting in tree drops along with several planned for city owned parkland, creating more wildlife habitat with wood in the water.
Keep your ears listening for the frogs, and eyes open for the turtles, and if you spot either creature around McDill in early spring please send your sighting into McDillPond@charter.net. Sightings will help us determine when refill can begin.