Lake Orono Restoration and Enhancement (LORE)
Lake Orono Refill Planned for April 12
The Lake Orono Restoration and Enhancement (LORE) project is nearly complete, with just a few last items to be finalized in the next two weeks while the lake remains drawn down.
The city plans to begin refilling the lake on Monday, April 12. Once the dam is operating, we expect the lake to fill within a few days. Be sure your shoreline is ready for the water levels to return to normal.
Project Updates and Next Steps
The Lake Orono Restoration and Enhancement (LORE) project has been taking advantage of the current weather conditions by making significant dredging and hauling progress! New Look Contracting has finished removing material from the lakebed and is working to finalize the project in the coming weeks before the lake refills in early April. Later this spring they will complete shoreline work including adding upload plants at the transitional areas between the lake and upland, providing solid root structures to further stabilize the restoration areas and create natural shorelines.
Once the lake is back to its normal water level, a depth survey will be completed to accurately determine the amount of sediment that was removed during the dredging process. Based on this information, the final project expenditure will be determined including the assessment amount to lakeshore property owners. We expect this information and the assessment determination to be available sometime in late spring/early summer 2021.
Dredging in Lake Orono
Some may be curious why that material is being excavated – here’s that answer. Over time, sediment from development, litter, runoff, and other factors settles on the bottom of any water body. In Lake Orono, much of the accumulated sediment enters the lake from upstream via the Elk River and settles when it enters the lake. As that sediment builds, the aquatic and recreational health of the lake is threatened, making dredging a good solution to help restore its natural bottom.
Fortunately, the material does not contain harmful contaminants and is hauled to local sites within 5-7 miles of the lake. Because it is such fertile soil, it will be used for earthwork “filler material” to bring projects to final grade elevation in order to begin growing vegetation. New Look anticipates removing roughly 25,000 additional cubic yards of material over the next two weeks.
Thank you to the residents who have submitted these (and other images) to the city’s secure uploading site. For those who live on Lake Orono or can safely view the project site, we’d love to see your photos of the project progress for documentation and potential use on the city’s website and social media. Photos can be safely and securely uploaded here.
Resources for Shoreline Projects on Private Property
Shoreline Workshop Resources:
Want to learn more about lakeshore restoration and stewardship? Check out Anoka Conservation District’s video for helpful information.
LORE Open House - Virtual Meeting
Using an abundance of caution, the Lake Orono Restoration and Enhancement (LORE) Open House was hosted as a virtual meeting on Wednesday, March 25. View a recording of the Virtual Open House here.
Feel free to email city staff with specific questions about the LORE project.
History of Lake Orono
Lake Orono, located entirely within the City of Elk River, is a shallow 300-acre lake that captures runoff from a large 611-square-mile watershed, located within the counties of Sherburne, Benton, Mille Lacs and Morrison.
Over time, sediment from development, litter, runoff, and other factors begins to settle on the bottom of any water body. As this sediment continues to build upward, the aquatic health of the lake/pond can become threatened, thus requiring dredging to restore its natural bottom.
Lake Orono is a reservoir formed by a dam on the Elk River. The dam is located on the southeast side of the lake along Main Street. In 1998, the lake was drawn down and sediment was removed by dredging. It was predicted the lake would need to be dredged again in roughly 20 years - which brings us to 2020.
In 2015, city staff began working with a group of Lake Orono property owners to update the Lake Orono Management Plan. On March 5, 2019 Governor Tim Walz signed a bill (HF 80) which included $1.5 million in grant funding to assist with the cost of dredging Lake Orono. The overall project is estimated to cost is estimated about $3.25 million. Additionally, $1 million will be funded through a local sales tax as part of Active Elk River. The remaining portion will be paid for by adjacent lakeshore property owners.
City staff members worked with the Department of Natural Resources to ensure the proper permits were in place and the LORE project continues to meet all state and local regulations. The City contracted with WSB & Associates to manage the design, contracts and the 429 assessment process. You may see WSB staff out on the lake completing surveys or investigating current conditions. New Look Contracting completed the dredging and shoreline work within the lake.
Before dredging began, a temporary drawdown of the lake was necessary which requires a permit from the Department of Natural Resources. The city plans to return the lake to normal levels in early April of 2021. The lake will be lowered approximately four feet via the dam. Having the lake levels lowered during the winter months allowed for excavation when the ground is frozen. Additionally, this process may reduce invasive plant’s seed bank by freezing the exposed material.
The overall goal of the LORE project is to remove sediment build up and ultimately improve the navigational depth of Lake Orono. In doing so, invasive plants are reduced, the health of aquatic wildlife is improved, and crews will also be able to add fish habitats before refilling the lake.
For many years, the City of Elk River has had an award-winning water protection plan in place. To learn more, click here.