FAIRMONT - When a Fairmont man was reportedly seen dumping construction debris down the side of his lakebank property, a neighbor spoke up and called the authorities.
Before the day was out, officials with the city of Fairmont, the Department of Natural Resources and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency were well aware of the situation, as was the board of directors at Fairmont Lakes Foundation.
"It easily could have washed into the lake," said Fairmont Public Works director Troy Nemmers, describing the dirt, concrete, hard foam insulation, sheet rock and gravel he saw on the bank of Hall Lake last week.
Before: In this photo taken by city staff, construction debris is shown where it was recently dumped on the bank of Hall Lake in Fairmont.
After: Contractors hired by the city work on restoring the lake bank where the debris was dumped.
Had the debris fallen below Hall Lake's high water mark, the Department of Natural Resources and Pollution Control Agency would be involved. As it is, city administrator Mike Humpal anticipates the party will be charged with a misdemeanor for violating Fairmont's shoreline management ordinance, as well as the cleanup costs for the contractor that spent several hours removing the construction debris, regrading and reseeding the lake bank, and putting down a filter blanket. The case is currently under review by Fairmont's city attorney.
"The neighbors and the public really jumped on this, which is a really good thing," said DNR conservation officer Eric Schettler. "Hopefully people keep an eye open in the future for things they think aren't allowed."
That's what Mike Katzenmeyer, chairman of Fairmont Lakes Foundation, is hoping will come of the incident.
"There doesn't need to be a face-to-face confrontation," he said. "Simply confront the issue and turn it over to people who can do something about it. ... We're not living in elementary school and tattling on each other. This is advocacy."
Katzenmeyer urges local lakeshore property owners to contact the DNR whenever they are planning a change that could impact lake banks.
"[The DNR is] willing to work with people," he said.
As Katzenmeyer has toured the lakes, he has observed multiple instances of property mismanagement, and it isn't limited to the more obvious infringements, such as garbage violations. Practices like clear-cutting lake banks and dumping old tree stumps onto beaches can cause problems for a lake's ecosystem.
From city administration's perspective, one of the biggest concerns with the alleged violation of Fairmont's shoreline management ordinance is the damage it could have caused to the lake bank, particularly during this rainy season, if the incident hadn't been promptly reported and addressed.
When a bank erodes, explained Nemmers, the dirt and sediment that wash into a lake are nutrient-rich. A little extra mud might not seem like a big deal, but over time it can degrade the quality of a lake.
"We spent 30 years dredging that mud out of the bottom of our lakes," Humpal said.
To get involved with Fairmont Lakes Foundation's mission to improve stewardship of local lakes, email email@example.com or contact Katzenmeyer at (507) 235-9534.
The group meets at 5:30 p.m. the first Tuesday of the month in room 112 of Southern Minnesota Educational Campus. Meetings are open to the public.