The population of Western Wisconsin has been exploding for some time now. St. Croix County is the fastest growing county in Wisconsin with a population growth rate of 36%. Other counties growing fast are 4th place Chippewa at 14%, 11th Pierce 12%, while Polk County is growing at 6% rate. Good farm land that once held family farms are quickly becoming housing developments as the Twin Cities Metropolitan area grows and spreads because that is where the jobs and money is today.
There will be problems as the population grows and one revolving around water has raised its ugly head in St. Croix County around a couple of lakes. Twin Lakes is located between the fast growing, once sleepy little town called Roberts and I-94 just a couple miles south. My parents retired to Roberts in 1967 when it had a population of around 500, a small grocery store and a single bar. In the last few years its population has exploded, closing in on 2000. It’s a fast 10 minute drive to get into Minnesota. Twin Lakes, like so many watersheds were incorporated in the city’s sewage system and can’t keep up with demands of the growing community today.
Like the population has exploded so has the size of Twin Lakes. The road that used to separate the two lakes in under 5 to 10 feet of water. Roads going to homes around the lake have been raised 5 feet to meet the rising water levels. One home has been lost to high water and several others are experiencing damage from rising waters and no one has an answer to stop the problem. Rising water that has been attributed to the wastewater effluent from the growing village is creating the high water according to published information from the Friends of Twin Lakes.
I know the lake well and have spent a lot of time on the lake back in the 1960’s and ‘70s East Twin was a cattail marsh that was a popular duck hunting location that got a lot of hunting pressure. Today Twin Lakes and some surrounding land have been turned into a refuge. There was at one time a resort with a few cabin on West Twin and was known as an excellent fishing lake. Today the lakes are listed as impaired by the Wisconsin DNR and are generally listed a hostile environment for fish other to carp, bullheads and goldfish which are prolific in the lakes. The DNR also qualifies the lakes as among the most polluted lakes in the DNR inventory. But not long ago someone illegally released crappies into the west lake and the population exploded with some crappies growing up to 17” long. I heard about as the lake was just about fished out but we did catch crappies well over a foot long.
The DNR was to have implemented a new sewage plan called CLEARAS to reduce the phosphorus problem that is expected to solve phosphorous problems in 600 other water treatment plants around the state. The Roberts sewage plant was to be the first in the state.
I took a drive around the lake to see the situation first hand and found ponds northwest of Twin Lakes that used to hold migrating waterfowl now connected to the lake that was once nearly a half mile away. I saw the threatened homes and I saw lots of ducks happily feeding in flooded barnyards and the water is still rising fast!
Jim Bennett is an outdoorsman who lives and worked in the St. Croix River Valley and can be reached at email@example.com