Save Our Lakes Program is Successful
“Our goal is simple – to make the fishery better for fish, and people,” said Scott Elstad, SOL coordinator.
Altogether, crews have tackled 42 separate projects. Some of the work entails creating dry dams used to collect sediment, low-level draw downs, and planting trees and native grasses on cultivated property. “Our bigger projects include repairing eroded shorelines and removing sediment so fish have habitat and people have access,” Elstad said.
The program is entirely funded by angler dollars, with a budget of slightly more than $1 million per biennium. Elstad said more than $4 million has been invested in SOL projects.
“We are looking at spending $350,000 this year,” Elstad said, while noting lakes tentatively scheduled for projects are Cottonwood Park Pond, Gaebe Pond, Spiritwood Lake, Lake Ilo, Red Willow Lake, Lake Hoskins and McVille Dam. In addition, Harmon Lake and Pipestem Dam watersheds are scheduled for evaluation this summer.
District fisheries biologists make recommendations of waters best suited for rehabilitation. In addition, various public entities request assistance in lake or watershed improvements.
Even though SOL is designed to improve lakes and reservoirs, Elstad said the program is now including urban fisheries. “This is targeted toward kids,” he added. “We want to provide them with the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, and hopefully establish a lifelong commitment to fishing.”
Work on urban fisheries has occurred at Dickinson, Watford City, Williston, Beach, New Salem and Bismarck. Other possibilities in the immediate future include Wahpeton, Grand Forks and New Rockford.
While the SOL program is successful, Elstad reminds anglers that a blue-ribbon fishery doesn’t happen overnight. “It takes a few years for a lake or reservoir to recover. But the SOL program certainly can facilitate recovery,” he said.