Volunteers Defend Silver Lake

Paul Skawinski, UW-Extension Lakes

In, on, and around Silver Lake near Oconomowoc in the Village of Summit, Waukesha County, volunteers from the Silver Lake Management District are making a big difference. Through statewide programs like Clean Boats, Clean Waters and the Citizen Lake Monitoring Network, volunteers are collecting water samples, watching for aquatic invasive species, helping visitors check their boats for AIS before and after using Silver Lake, and removing Eurasian watermilfoil (EWM) through coordinated and carefully executed hand-pulling  events using snorkelers and SCUBA divers.

Silver Lake uses snorkelers and SCUBA divers in a coordinated effort to remove Eurasian watermilfoil from the lake. Credit – Paul Skawinski

Nearly 120 total hours were spent by eight volunteers staffing the boat landing on Silver Lake in 2017. The District also received a Clean Boats, Clean Waters (CBCW)  grant from the Wisconsin DNR, which provided 210 paid hours of watercraft inspectors at the landing. Invasive Species Committee Chair  Jessica Rice coordinates lake monitoring activities and enters the data into the state’s Surface Water Integrated Monitoring System (SWIMS) database. Her husband Nate Rice, Secretary of the Silver Lake Management District, discovered an unwelcome visitor at the lake’s boat landing in 2016 while conducting CBCW watercraft inspection and boater education. Nate discovered a fragment of a suspicious plant hanging from a boat trailer that was about to launch into Silver Lake. He removed this fragment, photographed it, and sent it for identification to Brad Steckart, Waukesha County Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator, and Paul Skawinski, Statewide Coordinator of the Wisconsin Citizen Lake Monitoring Network. Brad and Paul agreed that the plant was starry stonewort, a prohibited invasive species impacting other lakes in the area, but NOT Silver Lake. Thanks to Nate being present at the landing, the imminent introduction of starry stonewort into Silver Lake was blocked. Frequent monitoring of the lake in 2017 discovered no evidence of starry stonewort established near the boat landing or elsewhere.

The District also collects information on water clarity, total phosphorus, chlorophyll-A, dissolved oxygen, and aquatic invasive species in Silver Lake. Again led by Jessica and Nate, this information helps track changes in the lake’s water quality. Monitoring the aquatic invasive species in the lake, especially EWM, allows the team to map the distribution of these species and execute targeted removal efforts. In lieu of herbicide treatments for EWM control, the District uses volunteer SCUBA teams and support watercraft to carefully remove these plants from the lake. In this way, they selectively remove the invasive plants and cause minimal disturbance to the lake and other nearby species. One former area of EWM infestation is now clear of the plant as a result of these manual removal efforts, and native plants have colonized the space instead.

Hundreds of lake volunteers across Wisconsin monitor water clarity trends by using a Secchi disc. Credit – Amy Kowalski.

Supported by the Wisconsin DNR, the Clean Boats, Clean Waters program, the Citizen Lake Monitoring Network, and the Waukesha County Aquatic Invasive Species program, Silver Lake’s volunteers are strong and committed to protecting their special lake. They remain vigilant and ready to detect changes in water quality or the arrival of aquatic invasive species. Unwelcome species do not go unnoticed, nor do the efforts of this amazing volunteer group. Silver Lake is in good hands.

About timcampbell

AIS communications specialist for UW-Extension and WDNR.
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