RICE, Minn. (AP) — More than 70 volunteers put in time earlier this month to help restore Little Rock Lake at Benton Beach.

Since the drawdown started this month, residents, Boy Scouts, volunteers and state Department of Natural Resources employees have been working to get 45,000 plants in the exposed mud flats.

The new vegetation will improve shoreland stability, water quality and fish and wildlife habitat in Little Rock Lake, according to the DNR.

Of the 330 lots around the lake, about a third of the homeowners are planting in front of their homes.

Steve Seviola has had a cabin on Little Rock Lake his entire life. He sees the drawdown as the perfect opportunity to give back to the community.

After planting at the bay in front of his cabin earlier this month, Seviola took another 1,800 plants to the area around Little Rock Creek, on the lake's north end. Much of the high phosphorus levels driving algae blooms and creating the murky, green water in the lake are attributed to farmland runoff by the creek.

Seviola and his team organized the plants to spell out LRA as a tribute to the Little Rock Association for making the project come to life.

But he is concerned there still might not be enough volunteers to get the rest of the plants in the ground before the soil and plants dry up.

"This is a historical event, and it's unfortunate we don't have enough people to do it right now," he said.

While he was planting by the creek, he invited a group of passers-by to come down to Benton Beach and help with the project. Without hesitation, they were ready to get their hands dirty.

"Everyone you talk to wants to help," Seviola told the St. Cloud Times . "We just aren't getting the word out."

While there may be a large number of plants to get in the soil, the process doesn't take long.

Eric Altena, the area DNR fisheries manager, said it only takes about 30 seconds per plant when digging the holes by hand.

As the water level continues to drop and more land is exposed, volunteers admit nothing too exciting has emerged. Mostly, only a few beer cans, a couple tires and a toy truck have been uncovered.

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Although, one finding does have the people around the lake asking questions.

A large jaw was brought to the Lakeview Center at Benton Beach, but no one is quite sure if it's from a horse or a cow.

"This is my favorite artifact," Mary Kivi, the Little Rock Lake Association vice president, said earlier this month as she made guesses to what it might be.

Kivi and a number of other volunteers have been serving lunch all weekend to the helping hands.

The association is still looking for more volunteers to help plant and clean up the shoreline in the coming weeks. Kivi can be contacted at (507) 208-1053 for volunteer inquiries.

The drawdown, which has been in the works for years, will keep the lake about 3 feet below its average level through Sept. 15. It's implemented through the Sartell dam on the Mississippi River, which is connected to Little Rock. The river between the Rice and Sartell dams is seeing a similar drop in its levels.


Information from: St. Cloud Times, http://www.sctimes.com

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