Healthy Lakes Grants Available

A new grant program designed to boost private sector innovation in caring for Wisconsin’s lakes debuts Nov. 13 with a webinar hosted by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and partners to help answer questions from residents, businesses, lake groups and others statewide.

The Healthy Lakes effort aims to fund local projects around the state that focus on simple ways to improve fish habitat, integrate native plantings, divert and clean runoff water and promote natural beauty.

“Wisconsin’s lakes help define our communities while providing valuable habitat and supporting our economy,” said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. “Our research tells us that lakes with good habitat tend to have better water quality, which translates into more recreational opportunities and sustainable property values. By encouraging participation from lake groups, counties and private property owners, we hope to see simple practices implemented that encourage additional ‘do-it-yourself’ projects.”

Carroll Schaal, DNR lakes and rivers section chief in the bureau of water quality, said the benefits of simple projects increase cumulatively as more property owners participate.

“When adopted by many property owners, the small changes add up,” Schaal said. “Positive incremental steps ultimately help protect and enhance our lakes for everyone.”

With $200,000 in funding available statewide, the Healthy Lakes project provides up to $1,000 in state grant dollars for each “best practice” identified in a proposal. Grant awards to eligible sponsors such as lake groups, waterfront organizations and communities will be capped at $25,000. Goals include increasing single-property participation in Healthy Lakes best practices by 100 percent from 2015 to 2017.

The Healthy Lakes funding is not intended for large, complex sites with substantial runoff or erosion problems where engineering design is more appropriate. Before undertaking any major projects, lake associations and homeowners are encouraged to consult local zoning ordinances. The Healthy Lakes initiative is an effort of the Wisconsin Lakes Partnership supported by DNR, the UW-Extension Lakes Program, Wisconsin Lakes, counties and the many lake groups and citizens who work to protect, improve and restore Wisconsin lakes.

The deadline to apply for grants is Feb. 1, 2015. To learn more about the program, lake associations, communities, businesses, environmental consultants and property owners are encouraged to participate in a Healthy Lakes initiative webinar hosted by DNR from 3 to 4 pm on Nov. 13. Those who can’t join the live meeting will be able to review it afterwards.