Lakes and Rivers Grant Story Map

Ever wonder where DNR grants go? Wonder no longer! Ben Kort (GIS Specialist) and Ali Mikulyuk (Statewide Rivers, Lakes Grant Coordinator), of the Water Quality Program’s Lakes and Rivers Section, recently finished an online story map to provide detailed information to the public on the state’s Rivers and Lakes Grant Program. This story map tool is an interactive tool created with ArcGIS Online that displays projects funded by the department’s Surface Water Grant program in 2018. This story map is a great way for people to learn about projects funded statewide that protect and/or improve their favorite lake or river.

There are 211 projects located in 62 Wisconsin counties depicted on the map, representing $6.2 million dollars in local or regional funding to improve water quality, reduce runoff, create aquatic habitat, and target aquatic invasive species. This new interactive map, provides a visual representation of the work funded by the program’s grant dollars. You can filter the map by grant type, county, and legislative area and find information about the department’s grant funding programs and supported projects.

Explore the story map and learn more about the Surface Water Grants Program.

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Protecting Wisconsin’s Hunting Tradition

Post by Jeanne Scherer, AIS Outreach Specialist for UW-Extension and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; adapted by Sara Fox 

As summer winds down and a hint of color change is showing up in the leaves, Wisconsin’s hunters prepare to take to the waters for the 2018 waterfowl hunting season on opening weekend, September 29-30. This season marks the third year of Waterfowl Hunter Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Outreach efforts, where teams of DNR staff, statewide AIS Partners and volunteers station themselves at access points to talk to hunters about what they can do to stop the spread of AIS. You may have encountered AIS outreach at hunting sites before. This year, watch for volunteers and partners at the Mead Wildlife Area, Big Muskego, Horicon Marsh, along the Mississippi River, and in multiple counties across the state.

Waterfowl Hunter AIS outreach is modeled after the successful Clean Boats Clean Waters (CBCW) program that reaches boaters all summer long at boat landings in Wisconsin.  Waterfowl inspectors will conduct a hunting version of the CBCW survey and talk with them about specific aspects of duck hunting that risk AIS movement. Mud, for example, can hide seeds, the bulbils of starry stonewort, and the eggs or larvae of tiny invaders like spiny waterfleas. A threat of particular concern to the hunters is the faucet snail. These snails carry intestinal flukes that can kill thousands of ducks if they eat them.

AIS can get stuck in hunting gear, like this starry stonewort on a decoy. Credit- Brad Steckart.

Hunters who talk with inspectors are given a collectible bird band stamped with the Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers logo as a thank you for taking action to protect their favorite hunting sites. Since the hunters traditionally wear their duck bands as a collectible, the band also serves as a reminder to stop the spread of AIS.

Duck bands with the SAH! logo serve as a reminder to stop the spread of AIS.

Just a few minutes of preventative action can protect our hunting tradition for generations to come. Before launching into and leaving a waterbody, hunters must:

Inspect waders, boats, trailers, motors and hunting equipment, including boots, blinds and dogs.

Remove all plants, animals and mud.

Drain all water from decoys, boats, motors, livewells and other hunting equipment.

Never move plants or live fish away from a water body.

A special consideration for waterfowl hunters is to remove all seed heads and roots when using vegetation for your duck blinds. It is important to note that it is illegal to use phragmites in counties where the plant is listed as prohibited by NR40, in general these counties include the western half of Wisconsin.

For more information contact Jeanne Scherer, AIS Outreach Specialist, at jeanne.scherer@ces.uwex.edu.

For more information about aquatic invasive species, including where they are prohibited and restricted, in Wisconsin, visit this WDNR webpage.

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Protecting Wisconsin’s Water Resources for All a Top Priority

Guest Column by Daniel Meyer, Secretary, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

August is National Water Quality Month, providing an opportunity to highlight the ongoing work by Governor Walker’s administration to protect the precious water resources we have in Wisconsin. Under the Governor’s leadership, the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has good news to report.

More than 99 percent of the state’s public water systems provided water that met safe drinking water standards, according to our 2017 Annual Drinking Water Report. Monitoring is a critical part of the strategy. DNR and its partners conducted more than 2,600 inspections of public water systems to ensure compliance with construction, operation and maintenance requirements.

Daniel Meyer, Secretary, Wisconsin DNR

To address a critical health issue, the DNR, working with the EPA, initiated a funding plan that provided nearly $27 million to 42 Wisconsin communities over a 2-year period to assist them in replacing lead service lines at homes, schools and daycare facilities. More than $6 million went to Milwaukee alone to replace an estimated 1,000 lead service lines. This reflects a major investment by the state in the health and safety of residents across Wisconsin.

Water quality issues in northeast Wisconsin, particularly Kewaunee County, have been developing for decades. This administration, through the DNR, was the first to commission scientific research to get at the root of the problem in order to find solutions.

The DNR facilitated a Kewaunee Groundwater Work Group in 2016 that brought together interested parties from all sides of the issue. As a result of the group’s report, Wisconsin DNR revised the administrative rule known as N.R. 151 that will strengthen nonpoint source pollution performance standards. That revised rule was implemented July 1.

Additionally, the DNR samples rivers, lakes and streams every year. This information is used to identify which are healthy and need to be protected and which should be added to the biennial impaired waters list – most due to decades of pollution – so a restoration plan can be developed. According to the Water Quality Report we submitted to EPA on April 1, 2018- 82% of the assessed waters are healthy. Through a variety of pollution reduction and mitigation efforts, thirty-five (35) water bodies will be removed from the Impaired Waters list this year. That’s the most to be removed since 2010.

More than 159,000 lake acres were removed from the fish consumption advisory for PCBs. This is one of the largest fish consumption de-listings since 2008.

Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) studies are one tool we use to identify pollution reductions needed to meet water quality standards and restore the health of our valued waterbodies. TMDL studies have been established for several large river basins already: the Rock, the St. Croix/Red Cedar, the Lower Fox and the Milwaukee River basins. New restoration plans are in the works for the Wisconsin River and Upper Fox/Wolf River basins.

Everyone wants clean, safe water. Water is essential to our health and well-being. It can be taken for granted as we go about our daily lives. Fortunately, Governor Walker’s administration, through the DNR, has worked proactively to ensure Wisconsin has clean, safe water now and in the future.

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Shipwreck Preservation in the Great Lakes Faces Threat of Aquatic Invasive Species

Post by Ryan Smazal, Maritime Preservation Intern at the Wisconsin Historical Society, and Sara Fox, Aquatic Invasive Species Outreach Assistant at UW-Extension. Also on Wisconsin Sea Grant’s Great Lakes Takes.

As many people might know, the Great Lakes house about a fifth of the freshwater supply for the entire world. A less commonly known fact is that the Great Lakes contain more than 700 shipwrecks. Among those shipwrecks live over 3,500 plant and animal species who generally coexist with the shipwrecks in peace. However, the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species might threaten existing ecosystems and the preservation of shipwrecks in the Great Lakes.

The Great Lakes were once a massively important trading region because of their connection to inland rivers and lakes which helped transport goods. The shipping industry took advantage of this connection, as well as the Great Lakes’ many natural ports. For various reasons, including gales, scuttling, and fires, some of the same ships from this era remain at the bottom of the Great Lakes today. Fortunately, the cold water and low salinity of the Great Lakes create an ideal environment for preserving these shipwrecks. Historians have interest in uncovering new shipwrecks as a way to investigate old trade routes, discover cargo, and study differences in ship design. Additionally, fish tend to make their homes near shipwrecks, so divers enjoy the opportunity to explore freshwater ecosystems.

The La Salle has been preserved at the bottom of Lake Michigan since 1874. Photo credit: Tamara Thomsen

Although new wrecks are being discovered every year, there’s concern to preserve the ones we’ve already found. An example historians look to is that of The Alvin Clark, a ship that began to deteriorate as soon as it was removed from its cold and wet home in Lake Michigan. Apart from the natural preservation system the lakes provide, there are intervention-related options for conservation such as polyethylene glycol treatment or designating a wreck as a National Historic Place. Unfortunately, options like these tend to be expensive and time consuming.

Despite efforts being undertaken to preserve the shipwrecks, they face a new potential threat: aquatic invasive species.  Today over 180 nonnative species, both plant and animal, inhabit the ecosystems of the Great Lakes. The vessel most likely responsible for the introduction of many of these invaders are cargo ships that enter through the St. Lawrence Seaway. Large cargo ships uptake water at the beginning of their journey to provide stability on the high seas. When the ships arrive to their destination and it’s time to make room for cargo, they release the necessary amount of ballast water, along with aquatic animals and plants that may have hitched a ride. Some of these foreign species die immediately, but those that survive can thrive due to their reproductive capabilities or lack of native predators.

Aquatic invasive species that might pose a threat to the preservation of shipwrecks include mussel species like the zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) and quagga mussel (Dreissena rostriformis bugensis). Here’s why:

  • Zebra and quagga mussels begin their lives as microscopic veligers, slowly taking in nutrients and growing until they become heavy enough to sink. Once they begin to sink, they use feet-like assemblages called byssal threads to stick on to the first hard substance they encounter whether it be a boat propellor, a dock, or a shipwreck. Many mussels on the same structure could cause a heavy pile up, and sometimes can corrode certain metals.  
  • Both zebra and quagga mussels are filter feeders. Did you know a single zebra mussel can filter up to a liter of water a day? Mussel respiration also produces carbon dioxide. Both of these characteristics can affect water quality and alter waterbodies in a way that may not be favorable to shipwreck preservation.
  • Zebra and Quagga mussels reproduce quickly and in large quantities. A female zebra mussel can produce as many as one million eggs in a season! Once introduced to an area, invasive mussels can take over and continue to affect water quality and damage underwater structures for decades.

Zebra mussels piled up on an old tennis ball. Photo credit: Paul Skawinski

Even though there are over 180 kinds of nonnative species on the Great Lakes, we shouldn’t be discouraged. It’s important to still be conscious of the cleanliness of our watercraft vehicles.  Not every patch of every Great Lake has a zebra mussel presence and shipwrecks could exist in an acre of water not yet infested. Aquatic invasive species can be accidentally transported in boat motors, livewells, and on fishing and diving gear. Individual lake users can help stop the spread of invasive species by following the WDNR recommended prevention steps:

INSPECT boats, trailers, and equipment

REMOVE all visible plants, animals, and debris

DRAIN water from boats, motors, bilges, and live wells before transporting away from a water or entering Wisconsin

NEVER MOVE live fish away from a waterbody

If every boater were conscious of their ability to spread invasive species and took actions to prevent the spread, existing populations could be easily contained. If populations were contained forever, shipwrecks in uninfested areas could be preserved and studied for decades to come.

For more information about aquatic invasive species, consult the NAS database: https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/default.aspx

For more information about shipwrecks in the Great Lakes, consult: http://www.wisconsinshipwrecks.org/

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