By Mark Fischenich
---- — LAKE CRYSTAL — When it comes to dam-building in Lake Crystal, Blue Earth County showed some clear favoritism Tuesday for a St. Cloud contractor (who was paid $95,000 for building a new lake outlet-control) compared to some busy Lake Crystal kids and some aquatic rodents ($3,000 to remove two dams built by those groups).
"We have a beaver dam and also some kids who created their own dam," Blue Earth County Ditch Manager Craig Austinson told the County Board Tuesday.
The $3,000 will be spent to remove both from the stream south of Lake Crystal, which is also known as County Ditch 56, and to relocate rocks and chunks of concrete used by the kids to create one of the dams.
"Remove rock from the area and maybe they won't come back," Austinson said of the strategy to deter the dam kids.
"You mean they're going to remove their fun?" Board Chairman Drew Campbell said.
"Our future engineers and construction workers ...," Commissioner Kip Bruender sighed.
At a time when many parents struggle to pull kids away from video screens and push them outdoors, Campbell seemed pleased that the long tradition continues of children trying to defy gravity by keeping water from flowing downhill.
"A lot of kids for the past couple of hundred years have been putting rocks across streams and this is no different," he said.
Austinson conceded that dam-building still has appeal for scattered kids across the county ditch system.
"It's not the first time we've had to remove these and it won't be the last," Austinson said.
While board members gave Austinson some good-natured grief for wrecking the Lake Crystal kids' creation, they recognized that ditch obstructions need to be removed to maintain the drainage that farmers have financed through ditch assessments.
Neither the Lake Crystal beavers nor the kids had built dams of such magnitude that any damage was being done yet, but Austinson worried that the structures were works in progress. Leaving them would serve as an invitation to both species to resume work next spring.
"Somebody might get the idea they can continue and make it even bigger," he said.
The culprits are unknown, so county officials weren't able to deal with the dam simply by warning the kids to knock it off. As for the ultimate solution for making sure dams don't return, there was no discussion Tuesday of setting traps for either group of would-be engineers.
The county, meanwhile, was more favorable toward another Lake Crystal dam. The new outlet control on Crystal Lake, which replaces a deteriorating decades-old weir, has been completed by Landwehr Construction of St. Cloud at a cost of $95,000.
That project — financed by the county, city of Lake Crystal and the state — is aimed at ensuring the lake's level doesn't drop by a foot or more and create large mud flats along the shore, which was the predicted result if the old dam was allowed to fail before the replacement was built.