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Big Pine Lake access closed until ice-out

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A sharp drop in lake level has produced unsafe ice conditions on Big Pine Lake in Crosslake, said Sgt. Scott Goddard, Crow Wing County Sheriff’s water deputy.

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He believes the lake dropped between 1 to 2 feet after the bank washed out at the edge of the rock dam, at the lake’s outlet.

“If the lake has gone down, the ice is going to follow suit,” Goddard said, adding there would be new cracks and air pockets under the ice making it unsafe.

The public access on Big Pine Trail was posted with access prohibited, and Goddard said all accesses to the lake are closed for the rest of the season, until the ice is out.

Rob Hall, assistant county engineer for Crow Wing County, said the bank washed out, but the dam’s integrity is still intact. The county owns the dam, though the lake association holds main responsibility over repairs.

“This is a pretty major problem,” said Nancy Rudberg, president of the Pine Lake homeowner’s association.

The dam has had numerous problems in the past year, mainly related to summer flooding last year. The flooding caused large portions of cattail bog to break loose and float down river where it was hung up on the dam, causing further flooding upriver.

The lake association cleared the dam, but another flood event occurred and the problem returned. The county received FEMA funds to repair the dam last fall, but it was decided to wait until spring to do repairs, Rudberg said.

Hall said that cattail bog pushed up against the dam could have built pressure and may have been a factor in the bank washing out. Rudberg expressed concern over the high flow of water from the Corps of Engineers dam this winter.

Rudberg said the dam was built around 1970 for the residents, who wanted a lake. She said it was a group effort of residents, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Crow Wing County; however, records aren’t entirely clear on this.

With the dam, the majority of the lake is between 6 and 8 feet deep, though some spots reach 17 feet, Rudberg said.

She said the association hopes for a temporary fix so the lake can be used this summer, but doubts a permanent solution will be reached this year.

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