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Administrative Law Judge will decide Spring Valley Ponds case

Fri, Jul 21st, 2006
Posted in Commentary

The July 17 article by John Bondhus in the Fillmore County Journal, "Misinformation threatens Spring Valley Ponds" hardly is worth the effort to respond to. But a few points where he has committed slander against Jeff Broberg and me need to be corrected.

Bondhus said I was the secretary of the Minnesota Trout Association. That's wrong. Milton Hoberg was the first secretary of MTA, then Matt Quanrud (both of Preston) and Joe Tenley (Rochester) has been our secretary during the past two years. I have never been the secretary of the Minnesota Trout Association. My role has mainly been to write our newsletter and to provide professional advice on trout matters for MTA.

Bondhus accused Jeff of having too much influence over what DNR does because he used to be a member of the DNR Citizen's Trout Stamp Oversight Committee. How can Jeff do that when he hasn't been a committee member for more than two years? Chuck Prokop (White Bear Lake) is MTA's representative on that committee and all they are responsible for is to see that the trout stamp money is spent according to legislative intent. It has absolutely no influence over private fish hatchery licensing or permit violations like what Bondhus, rightfully, had to pay healthy fines for.

Bondhus accused me of providing faulty water temperature data on the outlet spring of Spring Valley Ponds because, in my 1987 biological survey report of Spring Valley Creek, I recorded outlet and source water temperatures at two locations from that spring when there was only one true source. The truth is that there were outlet flows from 4 ponds, minimal flows from two large warmwater ponds (.02 cfs & .01 cfs) and large flows from two trout ponds (2.40 cfs and 1.00 cfs). The two small flows were too little to even measure with an instrument and a pigmy current meter was used to measure the two flows from the trout ponds. Since the outlet temperatures of these ponds were very important to record, they were taken on about the hottest day of the year in late afternoon to see how much that water had warmed up while passing through those two ponds. We always did this with large beaver ponds also since ponded water causes water temperatures to increase. When water temperatures in a stream reach 80 degrees, that is the death of a trout stream in nutrient-rich SE MN streams. At any rate, recording the large trout farm spring in the survey report as 4 springs was a matter of procedure since the data from each flowage was different, except at the source.

Bondhus is right about water temperature at the source (48 degrees) wasn't measured in 1987. That was because it did not need to be. We knew this from the hatchery license. Furthermore, ground water temperature in SE MN springs is 48 degrees. I see by some of my old survey notes (unpublished data) that the two flowages from the two trout ponds also entered Spring Valley Creek 171 feet apart.

There also were two outlet flows from the same trout ponds in 1971 and the discharged water was slightly warmer then. DNR Fisheries outlet water temperature requirement for approval of the hatchery license then was set higher because there was so much trout habitat damage being done by other events taking place in the town that it didn't seem like it made much difference what took place at the trout farm. The trout population was just about nil in much of the stream with the sewage plant spilling out about the worst water quality in Minnesota, the creamery discharging 97 degree water, stuff from the large junkyard spewed into the creek and just about every kind of refuse being been dumped in the stream through town.

During my walking survey of the stream in 1971, at the stream source, two miles west of town, I interviewed the 70 year old landowner and he provided a ton of historical data on this stream. He had been a trout fisherman and seemed to be a well educated and conservation-minded man. He showed me where the permanent source of the creek was and said that, 40 years earlier, the small tributary stream that enters on his farm had brook trout (about 1930). His final statement was, "They ruined Spring Valley Creek with all of the practices in Spring Valley".

Finally, Bondhus said that the MTA president, Broberg, and I were not on the same page when describing the stream to various news media, web-sites and legislators. Please bear in mind that Broberg described Spring Valley Creek through the eyes of a trout angler when he said it was a blue-ribbon trout stream. To the angler, it is because in recent years this stream has probably yielded about as many large trout as any stream to those fishing there. But it is a fine line between getting the fastest growth that produces numerous large trout because of the warmer waters and falling over the edge of the trout temperature range. That is why a former fisheries biologist, like me, describes the stream as marginal for trout. Warming a large spring a few degrees, like at the Spring Valley Trout Farm, with their ponds, or allowing beaver to build many ponds, could easily turn the clock back to the stream conditions present in 1971 when water temperatures were warmer and there were very few resident trout in most of the stream. I would hate to see DNR do what I had to do until stream conditions improved. We discontinued stocking trout in all of Spring Valley Creek for 9 years (1975-1983).

Bondhus attacks me in the press but I will be holding my loads of incriminating evidence back for the unbiased Twin Cities judge who will decide this case affecting the state's public waters.

Mel Haugstad lives in Preston.

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