Beefing up Brawner

DNR replacing failing culvert, control structure at Camden State Park lake

Submitted photo The Minnesota Department of Resources plans to replace the Brawner Lake culvert.

CAMDEN STATE PARK — The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources hopes to have Brawner Lake at Camden State Park ready for recreation in the near future.

Hydrologists have plans to replace the existing clay culvert and control structure, which failed this spring. The lake is almost completely dry, and the control structure stands tilted to its side.

The situation first caught the attention of park staff in 2015. They noticed a gradual draw down in the lake’s water level. It substantially reduced water levels to the point of making the fishing pier and boat launch less useful.

Then last year the lake surprisingly refilled and had a normal depth. This spring’s draw down was much more rapid than in 2015, leaving Brawner Lake almost completely dry within several days.

“We think sediment temporarily plugged the leak in the culvert,” said DNR hydrologist Lucas Youngsma. “Eventually it washed out and the culvert failed completely.”

He said the Russell Sportsmen’s Club organized the original construction when they established the Brawner Lake Recreation Area about 60 years ago. He added that it was built with state of the art technology for the time period.

It will now be replaced with a concrete culvert, one that’s more in keeping with 21st century technical knowledge.

Youngsma said funding is already in place for construction. Planners still need to finalize details with parts of the project, such as whether or not upgrades are needed for the embankment on the northwest side of the lake near to the access road.

“We’ll take the time to do everything right,” he said. “It wouldn’t make sense to install a new culvert and then have to come back in a few years for other repairs. When it’s completed, it should last for many years.”

If construction extends into 2018, it’s not certain whether the lake will completely refill until the following year. Any seasonal snow melt and rainfall would immediately drain into the Redwood River.

Camden State Park Manager Bill Dinesen said a fish restocking will be planned after DNR fisheries specialists determine if there’s enough of a water level. He said there was no major fish kill this year since almost all of the fish escaped during the outflow.

Brawner Lake has been closed to the public since the culvert failure. It will remain closed until construction is complete.

“There’s no reason to have it open,” Dinesen said. “The only thing it could be used for now is picnics. We have good, larger picnic grounds in the rest of the park.”

He said the lake drainage hasn’t affected the amount of camping, hiking, swimming beach activity, or other recreation in the main park area. The beach was given a one-foot layer of sand above the sediment, which has led to a large decrease in late summer aquatic weeds.

“It’s been a good season,” he said. “We especially noticed larger weekend crowds at the beach.”