Phosphorus levels in Sibley Lake slightly exceed acceptable levels, but the Sibley Lake Association is tackling the issue with a comprehensive approach and an ultimate goal to improve the lake's water quality.

Lake association members Mark Jurchen and Dave Lind, along with Jeff Walden and Maury Graham, are spearheading a water quality committee to identify the source of phosphorus. The challenge is to determine the source (or sources), and then coordinate the numerous agencies involved to work together to address the problem, Jurchen said.

Sibley Lake's water quality has deteriorated in the last few years, and in 2014 the lake was added to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's list of impaired lakes. Jurchen said the lake's phosphorus readings "just barely" exceed standard levels, causing both an ecological and an economic issue.

"Clean water is a real important issue," he said, noting lakes are a main attraction for both permanent and seasonal homeowners in the lakes area. "The No. 1 thing that drew them here is water quality."

The lake association is taking three steps to determine the source of phosphorus:

• Checking properties' septic systems.

• Checking properties for sediment runoff.

• Testing water quality on the lake and in the Crow Wing Watershed.

One source of sediment runoff is Sibley Lake Park. The lake association received a $22,000 mini runoff grant through the Crow Wing County Soil and Water Conservation District to restore the buffer zone and shoreline at the park.

The project will include the restoration of eroded areas along the shoreline and planting of native grasses, shrubs and trees. The deteriorating steps at the park will be repaired, and the fishing pier will be moved just north of its current location.

Another task is to specifically look at the effect the watershed has on the lake. The 433-acre Sibley Lake has about 35,000 acres of watershed. There's 81 acres of watershed for every 1 acre of lake, Jurchen said.

The association tests water once a month by pulling samples in three locations on the lake and three locations in the watershed. They test for phosphorus, chlorophyll and E. coli. By the end of the year, they'll have two years of water quality testing data. AW Research is doing the water analysis.

Jurchen has nothing but praise for the lake association. Sibley Lake is home to more than 220 property owners, and more than 100 are association members.

"We have a very supportive citizenry around the lake," he said, as well as an active lake association board of directors.

For several years the association has been treating the lake for curly leaf pondweed - first with voluntary contributions and since 2008 with funds from a lake improvement district, which is a taxing district formed around the lake to provide a more consistent source of funding for water quality issues.