Water control structure, fish barrier project nearing completion on Lake Maria

February 17, 2021

Contractors will soon complete work to install a new water control structure and pump system at Lake Maria in northeastern Murray County. The project on the 425-acre shallow lake will provide a number of benefits to outdoor recreation, wildlife and property owners. It also includes features that will improve efficiency and safety for staff operating the control structure.

The new water control structure is located at the lake’s south end near Murray County Road 30. It features new water pumps and a remodeled utility building to house electronic controls and equipment. The project also includes upgrades to an electric fish barrier that is designed to prevent common carp migration upstream into Lake Maria.

This winter’s construction will provide a number of significant benefits in three key areas: wildlife habitat, water quality and water storage.

Historically, Lake Maria has been a feeding and resting area for migratory waterfowl.  The water control structure will allow DNR managers to lower water levels as needed to reduce common carp populations. Common carp degrade water quality and habitat for fish and waterfowl through their feeding actions. Occasional drawdowns also consolidate sediments and allow vegetation to become established, which improves water clarity. In clearer water, aquatic vegetation can re-establish, which improves habitat for migratory waterfowl. Improved habitat should benefit duck and goose hunters as soon as the fall of 2021, depending on precipitation.

The new water control structure, pump and electric fish barrier will improve water quality not only in Lake Maria, but also downstream into two of the region’s best walleye fisheries in Lake Sarah and Lake Shetek. The water control structure and pump will help DNR wildlife managers better implement the water level changes and other operational adjustments called for by the lake management plan. The electric fish barrier, coupled with the water control structure, will help prevent common carp from populating Lake Maria.

This project, coupled with some new land acquisitions and subsequent wetland restorations in the Lake Maria watershed being pursued in 2021, are intended to improve groundwater absorption, surface water storage, and improved water quality in Lake Maria, Lake Sarah and Lake Shetek.

This project, made possible by a state appropriation to Ducks Unlimited from Minnesota’s Outdoor Heritage Fund as well as Ducks Unlimited supporters, underscores the importance that partnerships play into protecting natural resources.

“Partnerships like this are key to getting quality projects like this one accomplished,” said Bill Schuna, Slayton-area wildlife manager. “Collaborations help all of us reach better decisions and simply get more work — and better quality work — finished.”