Lake Orono Restoration and Enhancement (LORE)

Winter Lake OronoUpdate: January 11, 2021

Lake Orono Dredging Preparation Underway

Lake Orono looks different these days! Since September, the lake was closely monitored as the water levels were drawn down in preparation for dredging over the winter months. Now that the weather is colder, the city’s contractor, New Look Contracting, Inc., is preparing for the dredging. 

Residents may notice movement on the lake as they begin to create haul routes, construct temporary bridges and divert water from the areas to be dredged and allowing efficient removal of material from the project site. The week of January 11, shoreline restoration and habitat improvements began in the lower lake. In the weeks to come, they will begin dredging and hauling material out of the lake. 

Winter Recreation on Lake Orono

Many residents utilize Lake Orono over the winter months for recreation, but please be aware of different conditions this year. Using snowmobiles and ATVs on the frozen lake is permitted under state law. However, with the dam gates open, water is flowing similar to a river. Please be sure the waterway you are recreating on is completely frozen as many areas within the lake basin has open, flowing water and variable conditions that charge by the hour. 

Also, be sure to avoid the project areas where New Look Contracting, Inc. will be actively working (LORE Project Area Map). These areas need to be maintained and undisturbed by the community for the safety and success of the project.

Lake Orono Restoration and Enhancement (LORE) project will improve the outdoor recreational experience for those who live in, or visit Elk River in a variety of ways. The goal of the LORE project is to remove sediment and improve navigational depth in the lake.
The city has obtained the necessary permits from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for the LORE project.

Resources for Shoreline Projects on Private Property

The City of Elk River, Sherburne Soil and Water Conservation District and the Department of Natural Resources hosted a virtual workshop to discuss private property shoreline improvements during the LORE project. 

On June 1, City Council approved plans to move the Lake Orono Restoration and Enhancement (LORE) project forward, which will draw down the lake this fall through early spring 2021 at which time dredging will occur. 

The timeframe when the water level will be down offers the perfect opportunity for property owners to do their own shoreline improvements. The Lake Orono Shoreline Workshop provided tips on shoreline enhancements, permit requirements and other valuable information to help plan your projects.

Shoreline Workshop Resources:

Want to learn more about lakeshore restoration and stewardship? Check out Anoka Conservation District’s video for helpful information. 

LORE Open House - Virtual Meeting

Using an abundance of caution, the Lake Orono Restoration and Enhancement (LORE) Open House was hosted as a virtual meeting on Wednesday, March 25. View a recording of the Virtual Open House here. 

Meeting Materials:

LORE Open House Presentation March 25, 2020

LORE Feasibility Summary May 15, 2020

Feel free to email city staff with specific questions about the LORE project.

History of Lake Orono

Lake Orono, located entirely within the City of Elk River, is a shallow 300-acre lake that captures runoff from a large 611-square-mile watershed, located within the counties of Sherburne, Benton, Mille Lacs and Morrison. 

Over time, sediment from development, litter, runoff, and other factors begins to settle on the bottom of any water body. As this sediment continues to build upward, the aquatic health of the lake/pond can become threatened, thus requiring dredging to restore its natural bottom.

Lake Orono is a reservoir formed by a dam on the Elk River. The dam is located on the southeast side of the lake along Main Street. In 1998, the lake was drawn down and sediment was removed by dredging. It was predicted the lake would need to be dredged again in roughly 20 years - which brings us to 2020.

Project TimelineLake Orono Dam

In 2015, city staff began working with a group of Lake Orono property owners to update the Lake Orono Management Plan. On March 5, 2019 Governor Tim Walz signed a bill (HF 80) which included $1.5 million in grant funding to assist with the cost of dredging Lake Orono. The overall project is estimated to cost is estimated about $3.25 million. Additionally, $1 million will be funded through a local sales tax as part of Active Elk River. The remaining portion will be paid for by adjacent lakeshore property owners. 

Currently, city staff members are working with the Department of Natural Resources to ensure the proper permits are in place and the LORE meets all state and local regulations. The City has contracted with WSB & Associates to manage the design, contracts and the 429 assessment process. You may see WSB staff out on the lake completing surveys or investigating current conditions in the coming weeks or months. 

Before dredging can begin, a temporary drawdown of the lake is necessary which requires a permit from the Department of Natural Resources. The city proposes to complete the drawdown process by mid-September of 2020 and return the lake to normal levels by the spring of 2021. The lake will be lowered approximately four feet via the dam. Having the lake levels lowered during the winter months will allow for excavation when the ground is frozen. Additionally, this process may reduce invasive plant’s seed bank by freezing the exposed material. 

Community Impact

The overall goal of the LORE project is to remove sediment build up and ultimately improve the navigational depth of Lake Orono. In doing so, invasive plants are reduced, the health of aquatic wildlife is improved, and crews will also be able to add fish habitats before refilling the lake. 

For many years, the City of Elk River has had an award-winning water protection plan in place. To learn more, click here.