Many thanks to Robert "Bob" Bjork, long-time BSLA Board Member, for contributing this article for our website!
Big Sauk Lake, approximately 6 miles in length, has been described by the 1,700 acre NE bay and the 400 acre SW bay. The average depth in the SW bay is about 7', whereas the NE bay is much deeper with a 60' depression in the extreme NE corner of the lake. The major sources continue to be one river (the Sauk River) and three smaller creeks.
Whatever clarity historically existed in the lake began to diminish as the human population increased. Extensive farming coupled with the population growth around the lake began to cause increasing deposition of sediment. As nutrient levels increased, so did aquatic plant growth of both native plants and intrusive types, such as curly leaf pondweed.
Investigations of water quality in Big Sauk Lake have spanned many years, resulting in numerous recommendations for improvement. A major one was conducted in the late 1980's by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACE). The results were compiled in a 1" thick publication. As a result, the ACE acquired a federal grant as part of a Clean Lake Demonstration Project. Seventh District Congressman Arlan Stangeland sponsored the bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.
This project involved many public meetings, resulting in formation of the Sauk Lake Improvement Association. In late 1990, discussion ensued to create a more formal lake association in compliance with legal state requirements. In 1991, the Big Sauk Lake Association (BSLA) came into formal existence. Complete with elected officers, by-laws, sub-committees, and dues, plans were developed for the first annual meeting held on May 25th of 1991.
During the past 25 years, the BSLA has continued to carry out the vision of its founders. One of the most significant collaboration efforts has been with the Sauk River Watershed District (SRWD). The funding from the Clean Lake Demonstration Project was used to purchase a mechanical weed harvester, a transport "barge" and a pickup truck. For many years, this equipment was used to cut aquatic plants which were in the littoral zone around the lake. (The littoral zone extends outward from the lakeshore, usually to a water depth of 15').
In the years from 2,000 to 2010, the concentration of invasive weeds would vary but remained a navigational nuisance. Eventually, the concentration diminished to the degree that the SRWD stopped using mechanical control methods and shifted to targeted chemical treatment. It was then that the SRWD requested that the BSLA, in collaboration with the City Council, develop a work plan to manage future invasive growth. This collaboration has continued to the present. The plan is also reviewed by a regional DNR Aquatic Specialist, and is subject to revision.
Other past, present, and on-going activities of the BSLA include development of a Vegetative Management Plan prior to chemical weed control, financial support for a specialized SRWD project (it raised about $20K), annual contributions to SRWD water festivals for all area 4th-graders, sponsored a bow-hunters tournament to harvest carp, printing of 3 yearly newsletters (THE INFORMER), yearly participation with an interactive booth at the Stearns County Fair, offering financial incentives for shoreline restoration projects, and acquiring a 501-C(3) status. We also conducted a fundraiser to initiate a winter carp harvest. Lastly, we maintain regular communication with the local Conservation Club, the DNR Area Fisheries Supervisor, and the Stearns County Coalition of Lake Associations (Stearns COLA).
Readers are encouraged to contact us with any other questions concerning our history.