This month’s Lake of the Month, Big Green Lake (also known as Green Lake), is in the spotlight not only for its vast size and depth, but also for its tremendous success in forming partnerships to undertake large-scale watershed protection and restoration efforts. The almost 8,000 acre lake has over 25 miles of shoreline and its watershed covers approximately 57,000 acres. With a maximum depth of 236 feet, Big Green Lake is the state’s deepest inland lake. To protect and restore this sizable lake and watershed, citizens, scientists, water resource professionals, community organizations, county governments, federal agencies and DNR are working together to tackle emerging threats to water quality and lake health and guide future management efforts.
The health of Big Green Lake is challenged by elevated phosphorus levels and resulting low oxygen conditions, which can be detrimental to aquatic life. To address these issues as well as others, the Big Green Lake Planning Team recently completed a 10 year Lake Management Plan that was approved by the DNR in February 2013. The Plan, a dynamic and evolving document, outlines numerous short, mid and long-range goals for watershed protection and restoration and incorporates feedback from residents, lake users, community members and organizations. A number of federal, state, and local organizations contributed to the Plan including the City of Green Lake, Green Lake Sanitary District, Green Lake Conservancy, Green Lake Association, Green Lake County Land Conservation, Fond du Lac County Land Conservation, City of Ripon, Public Advisory Groups, National Resource Conservation Service, United States Geological Survey and DNR.
Since February 2013, the Lake Management Plan has allowed Big Green Lake to tap into eight different grants, which represents over $1.5 million in funding, to initiate watershed management efforts. Current projects include the design and installation of Best Management Practices, mechanical harvesting of nuisance aquatic plants, estuary and shoreline restoration projects, aquatic invasive species prevention and control, and ongoing watershed education efforts – just to name a few. Big Green also contains a unique lake trout fishery; through cooperative fish rearing and stocking efforts, lake trout are stocked each spring, resulting in a high quality coldwater fishery.
In addition to the tremendous support of local, state, and federal governmental agencies, interested citizens and community-based organizations are making Big Green Lake restoration and protection dreams a reality. The oldest lake organization, the Green Lake Association, was established in the 1950’s and continues to promote the conservation of Big Green Lake; join them for Science Saturdays or Green Team Outings, or learn about their other projects such as the Virtual Watershed Tour. The Green Lake Sanitary District is working on a number of projects as well; check out their website to learn more about their Fish Rearing Facility (responsible for the great coldwater fishery), aquatic invasive species activities, recycling services and more. The Green Lake Conservancy works to protect and preserve the Big Green Lake watershed by acquiring natural areas and establishing conservation easements – see several of their properties and Big Green yourself by paddling the Silver Creek Water Trail.
Big Green Lake serves as an excellent example of successful collaborative planning and action by incorporating numerous organizations and agencies throughout the watershed to support effective and synergistic watershed management. According to DNR Lake Coordinator, Ted Johnson, “Big Green Lake is a major success story. A large number of diverse stakeholder groups came together to chart the course for Big Green Lake management efforts. We have been successful in securing funding for watershed protection and restoration plans are moving forward at an unprecedented speed.” Cheers to Big Green for illustrating real collaboration in action – may we all learn from your endeavors!
Entry written by Charlie Marks, Green Lake Sanitary District Administrator, and Heather Smith, DNR Water Resources Specialist