The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has awarded 215 grants in 67 counties totaling more than $3.1 million for projects to improve water quality and aquatic habitat.
The grants include $22,013 to the Door County Soil and Land Conservation Dept. for a Forestville Mill Pond Comprehensive Lake Management Plan. Beginning in March, watershed data will be collected – including an inventory of current livestock operations in the watershed – in order to estimate the nutrient load in the millpond. Water monitoring will be conducted in the summer by University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh students. An aquatic plant survey – which is a key component in determining a management plan – will be conducted in August. Results of the study are expected to be delivered at a public meeting next winter.
The surface water planning grants support lake and river project planning and aquatic invasive species education, prevention and planning. This year, the grants will leverage an additional $1.8 million in matching funds by lake and river associations, local governments and nonprofit groups.
Shelly Thomsen, DNR lakes and rivers team leader, said the projects help communities understand the condition of aquatic ecosystems and watersheds, conduct studies and develop management plans. Grant funds originate from a tax on fuel used by boats in Wisconsin.
“This year, we’re seeing a lot of interests by lake groups to develop and update management plans on their lake,” Thomsen said. “Planning grants help local groups collect, analyze and communicate information needed to protect and restore lakes and their watersheds. It’s the first step for improving water quality in our state.”
Thomsen said a significant project involves developing a lake management plan for the Winnebago Lakes, which include lakes Winnebago, Poygan, Winneconne and Butte des Morts. The Winnebago Lakes cover 167,000 acres, span five counties and comprise 17 percent of Wisconsin’s surface water area. Developing a management plan will help partners working on the system identify opportunities to improve water quality and drinking water, as well as protect the largest viable population of lake sturgeon in the world.
The 2017 surface water planning grants were submitted to DNR in December. Clean Boats, Clean Waters projects, which fund staff to conduct boat and trailer inspections and educate boaters on how to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species at boat landings, accounted for the largest number of awards with 118 grants totaling more than $640,000. Aquatic invasive species education, prevention and planning efforts represented the greatest area of investment with 30 grants totaling some $1.4 million.