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Whitefish levels high as ice goes in

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With the ice forming on area lakes, some residents on the Whitefish Chain are concerned for their shorelines as ice expands. The chain is on a slower drawdown schedule than in earlier years.

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Victor Kreuziger, a resident of Clamshell Lake on the Whitefish Chain, has been in contact with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE), which controls the flow of the dam in Crosslake.

Kreuziger said water levels are higher this year than in the past, and that when the ice forms and expands, it will damage his shoreline by creating rifts, pushing up soil and damaging the rock walls he’s built.

In a news release dated Nov. 1, the COE announced it would hold precipitation in its reservoirs (including the Whitefish Chain) in order to prepare for any future drought.

The intent of holding the water, the release stated, was to maintain the nine-foot navigation channel of the Mississippi River south of St. Louis.

On Nov. 16 the COE announced it would begin releasing the water it had stored. Since then, the COE has begun drawdown, but Kreuziger said that as cold temperatures bring the ice in, he and his neighbors risk damage to shoreline.

“It’s too little too late,” he said of the drawdown.

He referenced last winter, when the COE stopped drawdown in mid-December. Kreuziger said that caused ice to damage the rock walls he’s built to stop erosion.

Generally, the water is below the level of the wall, so when ice comes in it doesn’t reach the rocks. Last winter, that was not the case. The boulders, some of which are 50-60 pounds, were uprooted.

A staff member with the COE St. Paul Division said drawdown did stop last December. However, he met with Kreuziger and did not agree with the extent of the damage, saying, “There was very much a difference of opinion in what shoreline damage is.”

Patrick Moes, public affairs for the COE, said that this year water levels will reach what residents normally see, only two weeks later than in recent years.

Moes said that drawdown will bring the lake to standard levels by the middle of December.

Outflow at the dam on Tuesday, Nov. 27, was around 600 cubic feet per second.

Kreuziger calls the high water levels an “emergency situation,” and he’s asking the COE to release water at the same rate it was released during flooding over the summer, which he says was around 2,600 cubic feet per second.

Moes said that drawing the water down too quickly can cause environmental problems and disturb wildlife.

As of Tuesday, Kreuziger saw around three inches of ice on Clamshell Lake. He was breaking it up to try to reduce damage until water levels go down.

He planned to meet with Dave Fischer, president of the Whitefish Area Property Owners Association, on Tuesday in hopes of finding a solution with the COE.

Moes said that the Corps’ responsibility lies on a large scale, not simply regional.

“We’re looking at the entire (Mississippi River) system as opposed to individual locations,” Moes said. “The intent is for the betterment of navigation across the entire Mississippi River.”

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