Reclaiming Lake Redwood is not just about creating a recreation area for the region. The proposal to dredge the lake is about being environmentally and economically responsible.

That is the message Jim Doering, public works project coordinator for the City of Redwood Falls, shared with members of the Minnesota Senate capital investment committee. The committee has been touring sites across Minnesota, and Monday afternoon (Jan. 8) as part of a trip that also included stops in Willmar and Montevideo, the group stopped in Redwood Falls to learn more about a request for funding to reclaim Lake Redwood. 

Efforts to help improve the lake have been going on for decades, said Doering, adding best management practices have been implemented along the Redwood River, which is the source of the local lake, and those efforts, which have included millions of dollars of investment, are making a significant difference.

“The BMPs have helped to reduce the amount of sediment that is settling in Lake Redwood from 1.5 feet per year to .13 feet per year,” said Doering.

Streambank and overland efforts have helped to reduce the amount of sediment in the lake, said Doering, adding, however, the reality is that sediment will always come down river.

The lake serves as a collection point for that sediment, and as it settles in the lake that sediment is then prevented from continuing to the Minnesota River and Lake Pepin, said Doering.

The project goal is to remove up to 655,000 cubic yards of sediment from Lake Redwood, which would bring the lake from an average depth of 2.8 feet to the original depth of 20 feet or more.

Doering said trapping that sediment locally is the equivalent of spending $2 million annually over the next 70 years on additional conservation practices.

Doering recognized the reality that the lake would likely have to be reclaimed again in the future, but those best management practices now in place will extend the life of the lake allowing it to be more effective in trapping that sediment long past the anticipated 70 year life.

The City of Redwood Falls has also invested $3 million in its hydroelectric technology, as the dam originally built in 1902 to produce electricity for the city is still being used. Hydroelectric production began in 1926.Doering said the reclamation of the lake would allow for an even more efficient system that would meet peak electrical usage demands and save the city from having to purchase that electricity wholesale. The use of this form of what Doering called green power, would also prevent 1,342 tons of coal from being burned to generate the same amount of electricity generated by the dam and the hydro turbine that was installed.

The city is requesting $7.825 million from the state to help cover the costs of the project, with the city offering a 10 percent match, said Doering.

When asked why other surrounding areas have not helped to increase the amount of that match, Doering said the surrounding area has provided significant investment through the implementation of those conservation practices which are reducing the amount of sediment coming into Lake Redwood.

Doering added the lake would also offer recreational benefits to the city and the region, adding it is one of very few lakes in the area. In addition to being able to offer the lake as a place for fishing, boating and other recreational opportunities, there is a wellness piece that comes from the long-term goal of adding a walking trail around the entire lake with a footbridge crossing part of the lake.

More than 50 members of the community came to support the project during the visit by the Senate committee.

Mark Trefry, who grew up in Redwood Falls, recalled the days when people would be catching huge fish out of Lake Redwood, adding he would like to see those days again.

Craig LaBrie, who also grew up in Redwood Falls, said an event is taking place now on the lake each year that offers a chance for people to enjoy the lake in its frozen state.

Right now, he added, the only real benefits that exist on the lake are for things like snowmobiling and ice skating.

Reclaiming the lake would increase its usage and would add huge tourism benefits for the community and the region.

The request for funding at the state level has been ongoing as it relates to this project, and many at the meeting expressed their confidence that 2018 is the year when this proposal will be funded.

The Minnesota legislature is set to reconvene Feb. 20.