Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Sturgeon Lake on the rise


October 24, 2019

Scott Quittem

Scott and Eileen Quittem have had water covering their lakeshore property on Sturgeon Lake after heavy rain events this summer.

High water levels have been encroaching on Sturgeon Lake lakeshore owners' property, eating away shoreline this year after two heavy rain events.

"A lot of people are affected," said Scott Quittem, a lakeshore resident. "I think that the high water has affected the fishing on the lake. The boat traffic is less during the week. A 'No Wake' zone near the shore was put into effect to keep wakes from boats from washing the shore away any more than it has been."

Sturgeon Lake is the largest lake in Pine County, a title that was once held by Pokegama Lake by Pine City, said Quittem.

"The lake has grown from 1,405 acres to 1,706 acres in the last few years," he explained. "That's over 20 percent."

The first rain event, where the area received many inches of rain, was just before the Fourth of July. Quittem's 270 feet of lakeshore, next to the covered bridge to Sturgeon Island, was one of the properties flooded.

"The lake had already been sitting high," he said. "We had 15 inches over the high-water mark that was set in 1986."

Water flooded Quittem's detached garage and property, despite having raised the level of his property.

"Three years ago, I had the whole yard raised," he said. "I put in all new soil and sod. Now it is being destroyed. I had taken the plantings out and replanted them after the new soil had been brought in. Now, it is not high enough."

But Quittem said that he hasn't been affected as badly as other people have.

"Lots of people have flooded basements," he explained. "One owner just had the basement finished off last summer. Our house sits high. There has been no water in the crawl space under the house. I just have the garage and a storage unit that has gotten flooded."

Another rain event at the beginning of October had Quittem out in his yard, pumping water off of his lot once again. This time, instead of using small pumps with garden hoses to drain the water and renting a heavier pump, Quittem invested $500 and bought a 7 horsepower, gasoline-powered pump and three-inch hoses.

"I have it all pumped out now," he said in the interview on Oct. 17. "It is dry in front of the garage. I hope it stays that way."

Meanwhile, his next-door neighbor's yard is flooded up to their garage and an old cabin. And water covers the Sturgeon Island Road adjoining the property.

"There is no place for the water to go," said Quittem. "The water on the other side of the road is within an inch of coming over the road by my place too."

The problem, Quittem pointed out, is that Sturgeon Lake has only one small outlet.

As one drives along the south shore of the lake, you can see a wetland full of water. That wetland stretches behind other properties. There is no place for the water to drain to.

Dago and Rush Lakes are located to the south of Sturgeon Lake. They also have no outlets.

Johnson Lake, located next to Sturgeon Lake on the southeast, drains into Sturgeon Lake.

"That takes on a ton of water and dumps into our lake through a 45-foot-wide channel," said Quittem. "We need another outlet."

State officials are aware of the problem.

"I saw papers on Governor Wendell Anderson's desk in 1982," said Quittem, who is retired from a career in real estate. "Those papers said that this lake will continue to have problems if something isn't done. Here we are, 47 years later. I have talked to Jill Caralier of Pine County Soil and Water Conservation and Heidi Lindgren, the state hydrologist, and said that something needs to be done. They said that it takes time. Windemere Township has spearheaded a project to drain the water from Island Lake. Now that is done."

Quittem said that he examined 60 years of data and saw that there was two feet of the lake level to work with before he and his wife, Eileen, bought their property 15 years ago.

Lois Johnson

Scott Quittem of Sturgeon Lake looks at his flooded property next to the covered bridge on Sturgeon Island Road. The bridge can be seen in the background.

"Our son is a pro bass fisherman and highly recommended buying property on Sturgeon Lake," he said. "It is one of the clearest lakes in the state.

"We love it here, and still like it, despite my having to fight the water. We love the quiet and the beauty of it. But we haven't been able to get out on the lake and enjoy it this year because of the high water level."

In 1986, when the lake level was high, human waste was floating in the lake from failed septic systems.

"Now, everyone has holding tanks," said Quittem. "We haven't seen a problem this year."

As Quittem finished the project to pump the excess water from his yard, he rolled up the hoses, put them and the pumps away, and added more sandbags to the shore. He hoped that his efforts would hold until the lake froze over for the winter.

"I hope that what I did with the sandbags will hold it off," he said. "A lot of other people are hurting. Something needs to be done."


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