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Big Hollow Lake Floatilla Raises Water Quality Concerns

It was a picture perfect summer afternoon at Big Hollow Lake's beach. There were blue skies, warm temperatures, and a small crowd on the beach.

Swimmers cut through the thick moss along the water's surface to take a quick dip -- one man emerged looking like Swamp Thing. And that's why people were gathered at Big Hollow in rural Des Moines County for the "Floatilla" -- to bring awareness to decreasing quality of water in the lake.

Des Moines County Conservation's Director Chris Lee said the excessive amount of topwater moss and algae will probably cut down on the number of people using the lake to swim and boat over the summer.

"A lot of folks just will not swim in this kind of stuff, and the boaters don't like it either because it gets sucked up in their motors. This lake was built for recreation and so it's impacting that significantly," Lee said.

Around 40-50 paddlers with Canoes and Kayaks were on hand to take part in the Floatilla drone photo that afternoon. Des Moines County Conservation had extras to loan out for the event as well.

Lee said they need to complete a study to determine the origin of the nutrients that contribute to the algae bloom.  He says they also need to figure out the best places in the watershed to treat the water before it reaches Big Hollow Lake.

“There’s no one thing to do. It’s going to be a comprehensive effort and it’s going to take a long time. This is not something that just in a couple years period you’re going to fix. It’s a long-term process.”

Lee said the effort could include studying the effects of buffer strips, terraces, sediment basins, and bioreactors, as well as planting cover crops in the watershed outside of Big Hollow Park. Inside the park he said they may need to look into more sediment basins and improving tributaries that feed into the lake. He also said making sure surrounding properties don't have septic systems leaking into the ground could help to improve the water.

Lee says he wants people to see the need for a plan to address water quality issues before the lake would have to be drained, like Lake Geode was five years ago.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

David Hightower is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.