Lake Orono Restoration and Enhancement (LORE)
The Lake Orono Restoration and Enhancement (LORE) project will improve the outdoor recreational experience for those who live in, or visit Elk River in a variety of ways. The goal of the LORE project is to remove sediment and improve navigational depth in the lake.
The city has obtained the necessary permits from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for the LORE project.
Lake Orono looks different these days! Since September 8, staff have been working to closely monitor the lake as the water level was drawn down as part of the LORE project. Lowering the water level sets the stage for sediment removal (dredging) this winter, which will ultimately improve the navigational depth of Lake Orono.
The city was issued a permit from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to lower the lake levels and have worked closely with DNR staff to ensure the drawdown stays within the permit guidelines. This process of lowering the water level is subject to how the dam operates and has required some modifications over the last week. The drawdown has proven to be trying at times because the water levels react differently from the upper lake compared to the lake area near the dam.
The drawdown ends on Tuesday, September 15, at which point staff will work to maintain the lake at the DNR permitted level. Keep in mind, uncertainties like precipitation, dam operations, and other factors may cause the water level to fluctuate over the coming months. Look for activity to pick up on Lake Orono following the winter deep freeze at which time dredging can begin.
Resources for Shoreline Projects on private property
The City of Elk River, Sherburne Soil and Water Conservation District and the Department of Natural Resources hosted a virtual workshop to discuss private property shoreline improvements during the LORE project.
On June 1, City Council approved plans to move the Lake Orono Restoration and Enhancement (LORE) project forward, which will draw down the lake this fall through early spring 2021 at which time dredging will occur.
The timeframe when the water level will be down offers the perfect opportunity for property owners to do their own shoreline improvements. The Lake Orono Shoreline Workshop provided tips on shoreline enhancements, permit requirements and other valuable information to help plan your projects.
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.
LORE Open House Presentation March 25, 2020
Feel free to email city staff with specific questions about the LORE project.
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.
Currently, city staff members are working with the Department of Natural Resources to ensure the proper permits are in place and the LORE meets all state and local regulations. The City has 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 in the coming weeks or months.
Before dredging can begin, a temporary drawdown of the lake is necessary which requires a permit from the Department of Natural Resources. The city proposes to complete the drawdown process by mid-September of 2020 and return the lake to normal levels by the spring of 2021. The lake will be lowered approximately four feet via the dam. Having the lake levels lowered during the winter months will allow 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.