FAIRMONT, Minn. (AP) — At least once per month during the summer, Nick Anderton rows a canoe out to the center of Amber Lake, then lowers a white disc to see how deep he can see under the surface.

The measurement he records helps the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency determine whether the lake is meeting Clean Water Act requirements, and scientists use long-term data to determine water-quality trends.

“With 10 or more years, you can really start to get a good picture of the health of a lake,” said Anderton.

A junior at Fairmont Area Schools, Anderton was about 13 when he began measuring Amber Lake’s water clarity for the Pollution Control Agency, after learning about the Citizen Lake Monitoring Program from a Minnesota Conservation Volunteer magazine.

“It was totally his idea to begin with,” said his mother, Amy Anderton. “… It’s been fun to see him develop it.”

Last summer, Nick Anderton recruited a team of volunteers to monitor the water transparency of Amber and Hall lakes. The effort was part of his Boy Scout service project to earn his Eagle Award.

He went a step further and gave presentations about the Citizen Lake Monitoring Program to Scouts throughout the area.

“There was definitely a positive response,” said Anderton, noting that the Pollution Control Agency has few volunteers in this part of the state in comparison to northern Minnesota.

For more information on the program, Anderton is available to answer questions at (507) 238-4287, or people can call the agency at (800) 657-3864.

There are potential drawbacks that could prevent people from volunteering: Measurements should be taken from April through September, and volunteers must have access to a boat to reach the monitoring site in the center of the lake. Volunteers also are asked to record the “ice on” and “ice off” dates, a subjective system to measure when the lakes freeze in the fall and thaw in the spring.

As for Anderton, he plans to continue monitoring Amber Lake through next summer, and if he comes home over the summers from college.

“That’s a while away though,” he said.

With the short-term data he has accumulated, Anderton has not been able to pick out any patterns except the obvious: In the spring, the water is clear; by later summer, it’s pretty green. Last May, he could see down into Hall Lake more than 7 feet, and 5 feet down into Amber Lake. By mid-August, the distance had shrunk to a foot on both lakes, as algae bloomed and clouded the water’s transparency.

“I’m not a scientist yet, but from what I’ve heard … that’s standard for this lake class,” Anderton said.

While some children may grow to appreciate nature through programs like the Scouts, Anderton joined the group partially because of his love for the outdoors.

Anderton was recently recognized as an Eagle Scout at a ceremony at Cedar Point Scout Camp south of Fairmont.

“From the time I was in Cub Scouts, I thought, `I want to be an Eagle,”‘ he said. “Just setting the goal and then achieving it feels good.”

According to Troop 57 Scout Master Scott Meadows, only 2 percent of all Boy Scouts attain the Eagle rank.

Anderton, who has served as senior patrol leader, also received the World Conservation Award in Scouting. This award is achieved by earning an Environmental Science merit badge; Soil and Water Conservation or Fish and Wildlife Management merit badge; and the Citizenship in the World merit badge.

Other activities that keep Anderton busy include football, tennis, band, Math League and his church, Bethel Evangelical Free.

Fairmont Sentinel

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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