Update from July Township Meeting – Water Levels on Lake Chain

After discussion and concern brought forth to the Town Board at the July Township Meeting, Bill Schuster, the Board Chairman, has drafted a request to Jason Boyle, State Dam Safety Engineer for the MN Department of Natural Resources. The request was as follows:

Please consider this a formal request from the Town of French, on behalf of the owners of lakeshore properties on the Sturgeon Lake Chain, to revisit the Sturgeon (69-939) / Side (69-933) Lakes St. Louis County Outlet Analysis from 2007.  
We are currently experiencing extremely dry conditions and water levels in the chain of lakes are subsequently very low.  The recommendations from the analysis in 2007 strongly suggested an incremental approach to modifying the control structure to ensure no ill effects to lakeshore properties.  It has been 13 years since the analysis and several years since six stop logs were placed as described below.  There have been no ill effects to lakeshore properties due to the placement of these stop logs.  
It seems prudent for the DNR to perform analysis of data collected over the past several years and consider placing two or more additional stop logs in the structure, as per the recommended incremental approach.  I am also requesting that the DNR continue the process of revisiting this project over the course of the next several years to either add or remove additional stop logs as appropriate, until the best balance for water levels in the Sturgeon Lake Chain is determined.
The summary from the analysis in 2007 is as follows:  

Summary / Recommendation
Precipitation is the overwhelming factor that influences lake levels on the Sturgeon / Side Lake chain of lakes. But the results of this investigation suggest that the Sturgeon / Side Lake outlet dam could be modified to provide a limited amount of relief during low water conditions, without adversely affecting high lake levels. Due to the documented concerns regarding high lake levels, a conservative, incremental approach is strongly recommended:

  • As a temporary measure, add six stop logs (each six inches high) to the Sturgeon / Side Lake outlet dam as illustrated in Figure 6. This action would raise lower lake levels by as much as two inches. High lake level conditions will not be affected.
  • Continue to collect lake level readings, as well as periodic tailwater readings at the outlet dam. It is particularly important to collect tailwater data as lake levels are rising in the days following heavy rainfall or snowmelt.
  • Revisit this study when sufficient additional data are collected to examine the impact of this temporary measure – say within three to five years. At that time, make a final determination as to the configuration of the dam.
  • Urge local residents to resist the temptation to tamper with the dam. Meaningful results can only be obtained if the proposed stop log configuration is maintained. 

The Town of French is willing to facilitate meetings and projects with the DNR, such as cleaning debris from the structure caused by beaver activity to ensure flow over the structure is not obstructed and subsequent high water levels does not cause property damage.  Please reply with a suggested plan of action so we can move forward with rectifying the current situation for the long-term benefit of the citizens of the Town of French.  
We have a scheduled Public Hearing set for 6:00pm on July 28, 2020 at the open-air pavilion at the Recreation Site in Side Lake.  The purpose of the Public Hearing is for a proposed No-Wake designation on the channel between Little Sturgeon Lake and Side Lake.  This would be a perfect opportunity for someone from the DNR to present a proposed plan of action for the control structure.  We could open the meeting with a report from the DNR to inform and update the attendees about the control structure, then follow with the Public Hearing.  Please let me know if someone from the DNR could attend to provide an update and we will plan accordingly. Thank you!

Bill Schuster, Chairman

Town of French Board of Supervisors


In further discussion, there was question as to when the last Sturgeon/Side Lakes Outlet Analysis had been done for the Sturgeon Lake Chain. The last analysis from the DNR was done in 2007, and the report from that study can be viewed here.

It was also brought to the Board’s attention that there could be further insight into our lake levels and watershed information for the surrounding area in the Water Quality Assessment of Select Lakes within the Little Fork River Watershed report. This report was published in 2010 by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. For more information on that report, you can click here.

We will continue to keep you updated on the latest information regarding this issue.

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