A crucial step in maintaining or improving the quality of Wisconsin lakes, especially those with heavy development pressure or high nutrient inputs, is the creation of a lake management plan. These many-faceted plans vary with the issues facing each lake. In general, a lake plan begins with an assessment of lake water quality and habitat conditions, defines problems, and then creates steps to address them. Plan creation can be a multi-year process with many steps along the way.
The Department of Natural Resources is a partner in the lake planning process and provides technical support through its lake biologists, and reviews and approves management plans. To help its partners develop these plans, which require considerable expertise in limnology and hydrology, the Department awards planning grants on a competitive basis. Often, participants work with consultants in developing their proposals and then employ consultants to conduct the studies and prepare the plan.
Recently, Department lake biologists and grants specialists met in central Wisconsin for two days to rank applications for lake planning and aquatic invasive species grants and awarded as many as funds allowed.
When the dust cleared, over $400,000 had been awarded to 35 projects in 19 counties throughout the State. The recipients were as varied as their projects. Twenty-two grants went to lake associations and districts. Eight grants were awarded to counties, two to cities and one to a town. Finally, a resource conservation district and a sanitary district each secured a grant. One-third of the cost of the projects is matched by the recipient’s funds and services.
The funded projects exemplify some steps in creating a lake management plan. Often, the process starts with assessing water quality. Part of that assessment determines dissolved oxygen levels in lake water and grants to three sponsors provide meters so each can monitor their lake’s oxygen levels.
Grants fund assessments of shoreline conditions, critical habitats, public access, and aquatic plant communities. One fascinating study involves taking a sediment core from the lake’s deepest hole and analyzing it chemically and for the silica remains of diatoms (algae). The core samples go back thousands of years and radio- isotopes help date the upper portions formed during Cold War above-ground nuclear testing. Changes in the chemical composition and diatom communities show how lake conditions changed through history while lower layers can describe pre-settlement water quality conditions that help set plan goals.
Problems with aquatic invasive plants or excessive growth call for an aquatic plant management plan. Excessive plant growth is often results from excess nutrients in lake water and sediments. One grant funds a study of whether an alum treatment might be helpful and cost effective. Alum treatment chemically binds phosphorous and creates a precipitate that covers the lake bottom and reduces the release of more phosphorous. Another grantee received funds to create a watershed plan to reduce the amount of phosphorous entering the lake from surrounding lands as an overabundance of phosphorus will trigger algae blooms.
This last set of grants demonstrates some advances in understanding the problems facing our lakes and steps for addressing them, while reviewing the proposals affords biologists a view of lake situations statewide.
The next deadline for lake planning grant applications is August 1, 2013. If interested, please contact your regional lake biologist http://dnr.wi.gov/Aid/LakeMgmtPlanning.html.