The public is invited to comment on an updated management plan for Jackson County’s Heron Lake, a waterfowl haven that once was considered one of North America’s most productive lakes. The plan includes proposed changes to improve the lake’s degraded water quality.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will use a new online public input survey to facilitate plan review, rather than holding an in-person public meeting. A copy of the updated management plan and a link to the survey can be found on the DNR’s shallow lake program Web page. Comments will be accepted through Nov. 12.

The management plan identifies new triggers that will guide when specific actions, such as periodic drawdowns, will be used. The updated triggers are tied to water quality benchmarks, as well as aquatic plant and rough fish abundance.

Water level drawdowns act as a natural reset to a lake by mimicking drought conditions and primarily benefit waterfowl on Heron Lake. Low water levels allow aquatic plant growth and firm up the lake bottom. Drawdowns also reduce populations of rough fish like common carp and bullheads that degrade water quality through their feeding behavior.

“We’ve used nearly 50 years of documentation on this lake to update the plan,” said DNR shallow lakes specialist Maggie Gross. “We’re fortunate to have information from those previous planning documents to incorporate into this plan.”

Thousands of waterfowl use the lake during spring and fall migrations. Water quality in the nearly 8,000-acre shallow lake has been harmed by changes in climate patterns and land use, among other pressures. The practices outlined in the DNR’s management plan are aimed at mitigating some of the effects from these changes.

Anyone who would like to comment on the updated management plan should complete the survey or contact Maggie Gross, at (507) 832-6016 or margaret.gross@state.mn.us. Upon request, paper copies of the plan, the plan summary, and the public input survey will be provided.

Learn more on the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us/.

– Image courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Web site