Lake of the Month: Cedar Lake of Manitowoc County

Cedar Lake lies in the shadows of Lake Winnebago in the quiet town of Schleswig, Wisconsin. Although dwarfed by Lake Winnebago, at only 136 acres, it is the largest inland lake in Manitowoc County. Known for its clear waters and great fishing, the lake’s popularity has boomed since the early 1900s when the first European settlers arrived.

An article from "Manitowoc, the city of opportunities" pamphlet touting Cedar Lake as "the Largest and most beautiful inland lake."  Source:  Town of Schleswig.In 1900, the first log cabin was built on the south shore of the lake by a farming family. Soon afterwards, in 1905, an ice house and outdoor dance pavilion were built for the public to enjoy. As the lake’s popularity increased, starting in the 1910s and 20s, cottages sprang up around its shores.

To accommodate the growing population, in 1924 the Cedar Lake Resort was built by the resident Harmon and Livingston families and replaced the ice house and dance pavilion. According to the lake’s historian Phil Knauf, at its start, the Resort had multiple attractions: large dance hall, rental cottages, vendor stand, merry go round, high dive, log roll, and giant water wheel. The popularity of the resort attracted big name bands through the years including Guy Lombardo, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, and Sylvia.

On February 15, 2006 Cedar Lake Resort burned to the ground in a devastating fire. However, the remains of the Resort were bought by Ray and Debbie Brickner in 2007. By 2009, the pair had rebuilt and re-opened the renowned Cedar Lake Resort, bringing back the weekends of music and dancing. Like Cedar Lake Resort, when the lake needed rehabilitation, the residents stepped up to the job.

Residents Mitch Ashe and Erin Otterson showing off their catch of the day. Photo by Scott Otterson.

In 1950, the Cedar Lake Improvement Association was established with the purpose of weed cutting and lake management. However, by 1967 as the popularity of the lake boomed, and boating and industry increased around the lake, water quality declined. The Association needed help and so created a Sanitary District for the lake.

The Sanitary District’s duties included weed harvesting, lake monitoring, and setting boating and building regulations on the lake. One early management step was the creation of a 600 foot deep, 500 gallon per minute well, to pump water into the lake as needed and keep the lake water level constant to prevent shoreline erosion.

The Sanitary District has been successful at improving and maintaining water clarity. By the 1970s Cedar Lake had become eutrophic. But, the district’s management steps brought down phosphorous levels in the lake and nudged the lake’s trophic status to mesotrophic. Eutrophic lakes with high levels of phosphorous can experience frequent algae blooms and reduced water clarity. Today, Cedar Lake is mesotrophic, meaning it has medium levels of primary productivity, clearer water and supports a large array of aquatic life.

Although the Sanitary District and the Lake Association have been diligent at improving water quality, aquatic invasive species have spread to Cedar Lake through its public boat launch.

“We have a public boat landing and, as with most lakes that have one, this is where we notice our invasives first,” says lake resident Dick Jens. “In the recent past, we have had zebra mussels, Eurasian milfoil and the banded mystery snail introduced into Cedar Lake. The Sanitary District is in charge of attempting to control these and prevent other invasives that aren’t here yet.”

In 2004 the Town of Schleswig received a lake planning grant from DNR to help combat the spread of purple loosestrife, curly leaf pondweed, and other invasives in the lake,. With this grant, the Town outlined steps to combat the spread of invasive species. These steps included watercraft inspections, ongoing weed harvests, and outreach to lake residents and visitors.

Cedar Lake has long been a sanctuary for residents and visitors alike and will continue to be so into the future. With the Cedar Lake Improvement Association and the Sanitary District monitoring its waters, the quality of the lake will remain in good hands.

For more information on the efforts of the Sanitary District and Lake Association, contact Scott Otterson at For more history of Cedar Lake, contact the lake historian Phil Knauf at


 Entry written by Alyson Douglas, DNR aquatic invasive species outreach assistant.
Posted in Grants, Invasive Species, Lake News, Other, Water Quality | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Powerful Ally for Those Who Enjoy Lakes.

Some of the most popular lakes in Wisconsin result from the impoundment of large rivers by hydroelectric dams and produce artificial lakes or flowages that can be hundreds to thousands of acres in extent. The management plans for these water bodies can be of keen interest and importance to the landowners and recreationists who inhabit them. Yet, these water users have often been missing from the dam relicensing process and plan review. Now, Cheryl Laatsch of DNR’s Bureau of Watershed Management has in the works efforts to give these parties a stronger voice in the process.

Aerial view of hydroelectric dam on the Wisconsin River in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin that forms Lake Wisconsin (at bottom). (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Paul Gorman/Released)

Aerial view of hydroelectric dam on the Wisconsin River in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin that forms Lake Wisconsin (at bottom). (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Paul Gorman/Released)

With oversight of hydroelectric licensing, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is the federal agency responsible for issuing and renewing hydroelectric dam licenses which are valid for 30 to 50 years. In addition, the license holder, often an electric company, must create a management plan for the dam and resulting impoundment. Increasingly, many impoundment management plans include provisions for managing aquatic invasive species (AIS).

Further, Cheryl’s handiwork should reduce paperwork and redundancy through teamwork and partnerships. For example, the license holder’s management plan might call for AIS monitoring within the impoundment. Instead of hiring a staffer or consultant, the license holder could instead help fund the efforts of county AIS coordinators who are already monitoring invasive species. Likewise, the license holder might support lake groups that are monitoring water quality.

Turtle Flambeau Flowage (Photo by S. R. Streck)

Turtle Flambeau Flowage (Photo by S. R. Streck)

Three to five decades is a long time in which to accurately anticipate the management needs of a water body. Consequently, lake groups and AIS coordinators might want to be actively engage with the management of these water bodies, and participate in the public process for FERC licensed hydroelectric dams in order to offer their perspectives and expertise.

Further, lake groups will want to be familiar with the project boundary of the hydroelectric dam because the license holder is responsible for various management actions within the project boundary. This boundary commonly extends beyond the waterline. Lakefront property owners would benefit from knowing where project boundaries lie and the FERC requirements therein. Further, the FERC license addresses issues important to lake enthusiasts such as water levels, dam operations, repairs and maintenance, recreation, timber management, wildlife, land management, fisheries and the management of both aquatic and terrestrial invasive species. In addition, FERC deals with the management of drawdowns and fish kills.

Sunset on the flowage (Photo by Adam K.)

Sunset on the flowage (Photo by Adam K.)

To get a sense of the scale of the lake and AIS management opportunities, consider that some 206,000 acres of surface waters occur at 147 dam sites monitored by DNR and 135 of them have management plans.

The ultimate goal of Cheryl’s efforts is to use better data sharing to increase efficiency and improve the science guiding management of these important water resources.

If you are interested in becoming a FERC ally, Cheryl invites you to contact her to learn more, get involved and be part of the FERC network. She can be reached at or (920) 387-7869.

 Entry written by Michael S. Putnam, Water Resources Management Specialist.
Posted in Citizen Lake Monitoring, Contain and Control Invasive Species, Invasive Species, Lake News, Monitoring, Other, Water Quality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Half Moon Lake: A History

Half Moon Lake is an idyllic landmark in Polk County, Wisconsin. Situated just outside of Milltown, this 550-acre lake has been a home away from home for many Midwest vacationers since the early 1900s. Known for the lake’s clear waters and good fishing, residents made strategic efforts in the past years to fight the spread of aquatic invasive species through its Weed Rangers.

Aerial View of Half Moon Lake, Polk County, Wisconsin

Aerial View of Half Moon Lake, Polk County, Wisconsin


Half Moon Lake’s first European settlers arrived in the 1850s. By the early 1900s, the Midwest knew this northern Wisconsin lake as the “go to” place for swimming, fishing, and boating. In the 1920s, a small beach was opened on the northeast shoreline by Herman Gutzmer. Beachgoers could rent boats, swim, and play on the waterslide, a fairly new concept in the 1920s. Sandy Beach was opened to the public in 1944 as Milltown Beach.

When not swimming, vacationers put on their dancing shoes and visited the popular Half Moon Lake Dance Hall, considered by Martha McHanon in her book “Memories of Half Moon Lake” to be “the best dance pavilion in the country.” The dance hall burned down in the 1940s, but its large stone fireplace still stands as a monument to the happy times of yesteryear.

The lake is home to cranberry bogs and a sugar bush, which was visited by local Native Americans into the late 1900s. Residents remember watching as many as 500 Native Americans camp out on the shoreline as they collected sap to make maple syrup in the spring and cranberries in the fall.

In 2010, Half Moon Lake received a three year aquatic invasive species grant from the DNR. The grant gave the Weed Rangers program, established a year earlier by six volunteer lake residents, the help they needed to combat the spread of aquatic invasive species to their lake.  The youngest weed ranger, Sarah Miller, created a book of 25 dried aquatic plant samples still used today to identify different species.  She included Eurasian watermilfoil and curly-leaf pondweed to help volunteers spot the “bad weeds.” By catching these “bad weeds” early, the Weed Rangers work to contain and treat the problem areas and stop the spread of aquatic invasive species.

Aerial View of Half Moon Lake, Polk County

Aerial View of Half Moon Lake, Polk County. From

Also in 2010, a DNR lake protection grant helped protect 31.5 acres of the lake’s watershed through direct purchase and another eight acres with a conservation easement. Protecting the watershed reduces run-off into the lake and maintains water quality.

The Half Moon Lake District installed a video camera at the main boat launch to measure launch activity and watch for proper “clean boats, clean waters” behaviors like removing weeds before launching a boat.  Half Moon Lake also introduced a new “slow-no wake” ordinance within 100 feet of the shoreline to reduce erosion problems and increase water clarity. When propellers disturb the bottom of the lake, phosphorous in lake sediment is stirred up and can cause algae blooms to form.  Later, decay of the algae reduces oxygen levels at the lake’s bottom.

Half Moon Lake is loved by its residents, as proven through their dedication to its well-being. With its clear waters and diverse wild life, Half Moon Lake is the center of its own world in Northwest Wisconsin.

For more information on Half Moon Lake, visit the Half Moon Lake Protection and Rehabilitation District’s website at or contact Rick Miller at For more information about the Weed Rangers and to see the dried aquatic plant samples, visit their website at

Entry written by Alyson Douglas, DNR program assistant.
Posted in Clean Boats, Clean Waters, Contain and Control Invasive Species, Grants, Invasive Species, Water Quality | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Leaner, Clean Boats Clean Waters Grants Program

Last year was a pivotal one for Wisconsin’s efforts to keep lakes, rivers and fish healthy and to slow the spread of aquatic invasive species.  DNR’s Clean Boats, Clean Waters (CBCW) program that provides small grants to partner organizations for boat inspection and boater education efforts on their lakes, became the first DNR grants program to undergo the steam-lining efforts.

Clean Boats Clean Water participant Brian Hewlett in action.  Photo by Ann Hruska.

Clean Boats Clean Water participant Brian Hewlett in action. Photo by Ann Hruska.

The review used the Lean Six Sigma process, which combines the methods of Lean manufacturing and Six Sigma to streamline business operations and increase efficiency.  Practitioners of LSS are often assigned different colored “belts,” as in karate, based on their level of experience.  Pamela Toshner, DNR water resources management specialist and Jane Malischke natural resource financial assistance specialist donned their belts and went to work.  In broad strokes, the Lean Six Sigma process identifies each step in a process and determines if value is added or not.  Then, as many non-value adding steps as possible are removed.  The resulting shortened process is tested for workability.

For the Clean Boats Clean Waters grant programs — a process that took at least 15 steps — was karate-chopped to a mere six steps.  The streamlining reduced by 92% the time needed for the DNR to handle and review grant applications, process final reports and make final payments.  Similarly, there was an 87 percent reduction in the time it takes grant recipients to administer the grants they receive.

Clean Boats Clean Waters' Gary Harper inspecting a boat.  Photo courtesy of Dane County Land and Water Resources Department.

Clean Boats Clean Waters’ Gary Harper inspecting a boat. Photo courtesy of Dane County Land and Water Resources Department.

The slimmed-down process was rolled out in 2013 and put to a real-world test during two rounds of grant applications.  Last year, 55 applications were awarded a total of $298,000 across the state.  Afterward, 20 percent of the applicants were polled on their experiences with the streamlined application process.  Every one of them expressed satisfaction.  Bill Wilcox of Nelson Lake said, “I really like the new process.  Thank you very much for the time you spent making it easier for me.”  Similarly, Less Schramm of Lake Metonga reported, “Receiving the grant award this soon helps us plan and budget [for the] extremely important program to prevent the spread of AIS into Lake Metonga.”

Customer satisfaction isn’t the only positive outcome.  Environmental protection outcomes were impressive as well.  For example, the demand for Clean Boats Clean Waters grants grew by 100 percent.  The increased participation resulted in new coverage for lakes in the southern part of Wisconsin and added important coverage for Lake Superior and the Mississippi River, a “super-spreader” with many invasive species and high boat traffic.  This year, 60 CBCW grants have been awarded through the stream-lined process.

Not resting on its laurels, DNR has identified additional improvements that might improve the CBCW process and is working to implement them.  Stay tuned.

The impressive gains for the CBCW program are summed up by John Richter of Town of Plum Lake, “The lakes people [who] have taken on this AIS responsibility have been feeling like they came to a gun fight with a knife.  This program is sent from Heaven for us.  Your north woods stewards are so thankful for this effort.”

Entry written by Pamela Toshner (Water Resources Management Specialist) and Michael Putnam (Natural Resources Management Specialist)
Posted in Clean Boats, Clean Waters, Education and Outreach, Grants, Invasive Species, Other | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment