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Hoeven and area leaders address Patterson Lake water quality

Senator John Hoeven met with state and local officials in Dickinson on Tuesday to discuss issues related to algae and the alarmingly low water quality at Patterson Lake.

Hoeven
North Dakota Senator John Hoeven speaks during an Oct. 11 meeting.
Ashley Koffler / The Dickinson Press
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DICKINSON — Patterson Lake has been the center of many fond memories for southwest North Dakota residents for decades. In recent years, algal blooms have rendered the once destination location for Western Edge residents into a location devoid of visitors.

North Dakota Senator John Hoeven, R-ND, met with state and local officials on Oct. 11, at the Public Safety Center in Dickinson to discuss plans to improve Patterson Lake's water quality and usher in a return to the lake's yesteryear fun.

“I just think this is a really good project, the kind of project your citizens want you to be pursuing,” Hoeven said.

Decker, who attended the meeting virtually due to illness, said his primary concern was ensuring Dickinson has a viable secondary source of water.

“One of the most important things the city can have or needs is a fresh water supply,” Decker said. “As long as Southwest Water is providing us with that, with the water we need we don't, you know, think about it. But it's always good to have a backup plan and to do that we’d really like to improve the water quality out at Patterson.”

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He added that cleaning the lake up would also help restore its recreational draw.

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Hoeven said he began working to transfer ownership of the land around the lake to homeowners in 2018, adding this project would build on that effort.

“For the homeowners it seems to be very important that we have the lake in a good condition so you don't have the algae blooms,” he said. “Then like you say, the recreation seems incredibly important.”

Dave Glatt, director of the N.D. Department of Environmental Quality, said many other lakes in North Dakota have similar problems.

“The thing to realize when you go into this is that it's a problem that's developed over many, many years; and it takes time for it to come back around,” Glatt said. “It's not a band-aid or a silver bullet that takes care of it. It's time and commitment. And what we've seen is that there's a lot of different facets to this.”

Decker suggested dredging the lake to help remedy its issues. He said the city could use dredged sediments as landfill cover. Yet, Deputy Director of the N.D. Game and Fish Department Scott Peterson said dredging can be expensive.

Patterson meeting
Local and state leaders discussed improving water quality at Paterson Lake Oct. 11.
Ashley Koffler / The Dickinson Press

“That helps at least temporarily with the siltation and the sedimentation that's happened over the years,” Peterson said. “It should be done as part of a comprehensive plan to clean up the watershed. You know, otherwise it's temporary. It's going to be temporary anyway, but it really should be looked at as a band aid.”
Joe Hall, Bureau of Reclamation area manager, said one of the limiting factors in reconditioning the lake is inflows.

“As we get later in the summer, it's a small drainage and the Heart River pretty much dries up,” Hall said.

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Decker said dumping treated water that already goes into the Heart River upstream from Patterson, rather than downstream, as is currently taking place, would help flush the lake. However, the nutrient content of the water would have to be taken into account, so it doesn’t add to the problem.
Hoeven suggested securing funding from the Great American Outdoors Act.

“It's legislation we passed last year that relates to a whole lot of things in terms of outdoor recreation and wildlife and those kinds of things, to try to enhance, you know, outdoor activities for people, whether it's hunting, fishing, tourism, all those kinds of things,” Hoeven said. “And so I think that this project could fit in very well with that funding source because, you know, this is fishing. This is tourism. This is recreation. You got the park out there, as well as for the homeowners and for the city. There's a lot of benefits. So that's what the legislation was designed for. And as we're trying to identify funding sources and have a partnership - federal, state and local - that will be one of the tools we could use.”

Two pelicans were the only ones fishing at Patterson lake in Dickinson on May 18. (Photo by Ryan Mitchel Collins)
Two pelicans fishing at Patterson lake in Dickinson.
Dickinson Press file photo
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Ashley Koffler is a Killdeer, North Dakota native and Dickinson State University graduate, with a Bachelor’s Degree in writing, and minors in journalism and psychology. Formerly working in Community Affairs for Roosevelt Custer Regional Council for Development, her reporting focuses on Stark County and other rural municipality governments, community features, business and agriculture — among others.
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