Getting rid of the green on Fleming Lake

September 1, 2016

Article exerpt from Adam Hoogenakker of

A pilot project in Aitkin County is underway on Fleming Lake near Palisade, in hopes of reducing the green tint in the water of the 300-acre lake. Professor Joe Magner planting contents of floating island. Photo courtesy of Enbridge.

Steve Hughes, Aitkin County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), described Fleming Lake as the perfect location for the project, as the body of water is shallow (15 feet at its deepest point) and is rich in nutrients. Those nutrients, however, are allowing for the algae in the lake to create a green-shaded water quality.

In partnership with the University of Minnesota, Midwest Floating Islands and an Enbridge Ecofootprint grant, Aitkin County SWCD launched 16 islands from the public access on Fleming Lake Aug. 23.

Floating islands, planted with aquatic vegetation which grow roots down below the islands, are now floating on the northern fringes of Fleming Lake. According to Autumn Boos, director of sales and marketing for Midwest Floating Islands, the plant roots and the matrix material create an ideal growing surface for microbes to attract pollutants, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, that cause serious odor and algae issues.

The matrix material is made of 100 percent recycled BPA-free PET plastic. The project will keep 25,000 water bottles out of the landfill.

Boos said the islands will create a floating ecosystem.

“The plants will attract pollinators, and fish will congregate under the islands in the root system,” explained Boos.

University’s help

Jake Duffner, a graduate student at the University of Minnesota next spring, worked with Hughes, Enbridge and Midwest Floating Islands to bring the parties together at Fleming Lake. Duffner contacted Hughes eight months ago with the project idea, and it’s being completed with a $100,000 grant from Enbridge. 

Joe Magner, professor in BioProducts and BioSystems Engineering at the university, had Duffner write the grant and contact Hughes to get the project started. Magner said three key results will come from the project: 1) improvement of water quality; 2) provide wetland habitat; and 3) provide a learning experience for university students. Dozens of volunteer students were at Fleming Lake preparing the islands.

Magner said many of the volunteer students are freshmen coming into the environmental and ecological program at the university.

Monitoring of the project will be done by the university for the following year, and plant growth will be monitored this fall, added Magner.

For more information on this project and what plants were used, click here.