Petenwell and Castle Rock Lakes are impoundments (man-made lakes) created by damming the Wisconsin River. The lakes are well known for their size and recreational activities. Petenwell Lake spans three different counties and covers 23,173 acres while Castle Rock covers 12,981 acres and touches two counties. In 2008, Petenwell and Castle Rock Stewards or PACRS applied for a DNR to grant to strengthen their organization in order to improve water quality and better protect their lakes from invasive species. Stewards are concerned citizens who love lakes and work to protect their lakes from threats.
With the grant PACRS:
1) reached out to organizations and businesses to garner support for improving lake conditions;
2) produced articles and bylaws by which to run the PACRS organization; and
3) applied for non-profit status from the Internal Revenue Service.
Since receiving their grant, PACRS worked with conservation groups, property associations, area legislators and DNR to address algal blooms, monitor water quality and establish baseline water quality requirements for the lake. For example, in 2009 and 2010, PACRS hosted sessions of Pontoon and Politics where area politicians took pontoon rides to see firsthand the water quality issues and algal blooms impeding enjoyment of the lakes. Also in 2010 PACRS led tours of farms and manufacturers to learn about water quality problems and share their concern and willingness to address them.
A result of PACRS team building is the start of a study with DNR to measure of Petenwell and Castle Rock’s total maximum daily load, known as TMDL. TMDL is the maximum amount of organic and inorganic pollutants a body of water can safely receive and still meet water quality standards. A TMDL incorporates the pollution sources– point or nonpoint – and a margin of safety reflecting the level of uncertainty in the analysis in setting the standard. For Petenwell and Castle Rock Lakes, the TMDL incorporate upstream pollutants deposited into the Wisconsin River and its tributaries. The scale of the effort can be appreciated by watching a video “Flyover of the Wisconsin River” on the PACRS website.
Although the TMDL study is not slated to finish until 2017, PACRS has already worked, with DNR and a paper plant, to implement stricter limits on phosphorus discharge. Phosphorus promotes algal blooms and can impede water quality. Similarly PACRS has reached out to local farmers in collaboration with watershed and river groups to lower the amount of farmland runoff.
The non-profit status obtained by PACRS helped them win a DNR River Planning Grant to help their organization to continue to grow and improve. The grant also allowed PACRS to install a mechanical “profiler” which automatically collects water quality data and sends them to DNR.
More recently, PACRS joined the Clean Boats Clean Waters effort and began boat inspections on both lakes to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.
PACRS have been successful in taking control of their lakes’ water issues. So successful that the Wisconsin River Alliance awarded PACRS their River Champion Award in 2011. With the support of legislators and DNR, these Stewards will continue to protect their lakes and work for a positive change through collaboration and cooperation and a common cause to protect the natural resource they value dearly.