Lake of the Month: Bony Lake

Bony Lake: Conserved and Restored

Drive and motivation are two key ingredients for success.  Residents around Bony Lake needed both when faced with declining water quality following years of erosion and shoreline decline.  But in 2006, lake residents decided to rehabilitate their lake and partnered with the Bayfield County Land and Water Conservation Department and the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute of Northland College.  In 2007, their efforts were rewarded when DNR awarded Bony Lake a $100,000 Lake Protection and Shoreline Restoration Grant for shoreline restoration and water quality management.

 Bony Lake, Wisconsin courtesy of the Bony Lake Association.

Bony Lake, Wisconsin courtesy of the Bony Lake Association.

The process began with a habitat survey of Bony Lake.   Critical habitat designations were assigned to 12 different sensitive areas including important beds of aquatic plants supporting fish and wildlife habitat, and a fish spawning area.  Once these areas were recognized and evaluated, protection and restoration work to improve the aquatic ecosystem began.

Many areas were amended to slow/no wake speed limits in order protect them from watercraft damage and improve water quality.  Boat props can damage rooted plants and stir up  lake sediments, which can release phosphorous, a nutrient that fuels algal blooms and reduces water quality.

Two lakefront properties were improved with plantings of native plants and no-mow grasses and one property removed seawall.  Shoreline vegetation acts as a protective buffer and captures run-off and its nutrients, including phosphorous.

Bony Lake residents worked with the department to implement Fish Sticks  projects, which create woody habitat in shallow, near shore waters.  More than 100 “fish sticks” were placed along the lake bottom to create habitats for fish and other wildlife.

Aerial view of Bony Lake showing Fish Sticks project to enhance fish habitat.  Photo courtesy of Bony Lake Association.

Aerial view of Bony Lake showing Fish Sticks to enhance fish habitat. Photo courtesy of Bony Lake Association.

Already the work has paid off for some Bony Lake residents, says Jim Johnson, former citizen water monitor for Bony Lake.  “We were able to have the cooperation of several landowners, and the restoration work that was done is extremely beneficial to the lake and the lake’s future clarity,” he says. “Another improvement to the lake that we noticed is the pan fishing is better.”  The Mans family proudly display a  small mouth bass caught off the end of their dock on the southeast shore mere months after the Fish Sticks were installed.

Mans family and their large catch courtesy of Bony Lake Association.

Mans family and their large catch courtesy of Bony Lake Association.

To ensure Bony Lake’s improvements and the health of nearby lakes, the Barnes Eau Claire Lakes Area Property Owners Association sought another smaller DNR grant for an education program.  In 2009, the association started a program with Drummond Areas School District to teach seventh graders lake ecology and management.  The program combines classroom sessions, with guest appearances by DNR staff, with two outdoor sessions on area lakes, including the fall outdoor session at Bony Lake.  Students canoe around the lake learning about shoreline restoration, reforestation, food webs, large aquatic invertebrates, and complete an educational scavenger hunt.  By fostering these youngsters, the lake community is prepping the next generation of lake stewards.

Bony Lake is a reflection of its community.  The restoration and conservation of its beauty reflects the efforts and dedication of its residents. Bony Lake’s clearing waters teach other lake residents that change is possible.

To see more photographs of the work and results at Bony Lake click here.

Entry written by Alyson Douglas, DNR program assistant.

About Alyson

I'm a fourth year student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and Life Sciences Communications. I work at the DNR in the lakes department, at the non-profit the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, and conduct research with UW Professor Tristan L'Ecuyer.
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