There is one important thing farms and lakes have in common. Soil. Farms need it and the lakes don’t. But, soil doesn’t always stay where it should. Now, a new soil-loss vulnerability study is directing help to those who need it most, parcel by parcel in the Upper Courte Oreilles River Watershed in Sawyer County, including some acreage in Washburn County, too.
Every two years, Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act requires states to publish a list of all waters that are not meeting water quality standards. In the proposed 2018 list update, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) proposes to add 240 new water segments. The WDNR issued a notice on November 15, 2017, soliciting public comments on its proposed 2018 list of Impaired Waters. The WDNR is proposing to list all of Lac Courte Oreilles as impaired—which is a good—but, it is proposing to list “low dissolved oxygen” (DO) as an indicator, or symptom, of that impairment without citing Total Phosphorus as the cause of the impairment. During the Public Comment Period, through Dec. 29, 2017, the Courte Oreilles Lakes Association (COLA) and others are requesting that the WDNR also correctly list the cause of the low DO impairment of LCO (click here for the full story).
The following is from the WDNR: “Public comments may be submitted by December 29, 2017, and can be emailed to DNR at DNRImpairedWaters@wisconsin.gov, or sent by U.S. mail to Ashley Beranek, DNR, Water Evaluation Section (WY/3), Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707. Comments postmarked or received by December 29, 2017, will be considered before submitting the final draft list to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for approval.”
Musky Bay is already listed as an impaired water because of excess phosphorus. Unfortunately phosphorus levels in other parts of LCO are now rising to dangerous levels as well. COLA and the LCO Tribe have completed an assessment of the last five years of sampling data and determined these levels that will result in the extinction of the cold-water fish in LCO. In addition, these high levels of phosphorus are resulting in more algae and algal blooms, a decrease in water clarity, and excessive aquatic plant growth. See the full story with complete details and how you can be ready to help.
Wisconsin Governor, Scott Walker, has approved a scope statement submitted by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) on May 15, 2017, that initiates the rulemaking process to establish a protective water quality standard for Lac Courte Oreilles (LCO).
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources regularly conducts fishery surveys of area lakes and reservoirs to gather information on species composition, population size, reproductive success, size/age distribution, and growth rates. The information from the netting and electrofishing surveys helps the WDNR determine the best management practices for that body of water. Another important aspect of a fishery is the amount of harvest that is occurring on the lake. This information is collected by creel census or creel survey. See the 2016-2017 Report with explanations and conclusions by Max Wolter, Fishery Biologist, WDNR.
Wisconsin’s Consolidated Assessment and Listing Methodology (WisCALM), from the WDNR, provides guidance on assessment of water quality data against surface water quality standards and for Clean Water Act reporting on surface water quality status and trends. WisCALM is updated for each biennial surface water assessment cycle and was recently updated for the 2018 assessment cycle. See the attached update for Lac Courte Oreilles. Assessing waterbodies against water quality standards and identifying impaired waters that don’t meet standards is part of the overarching federal Clean Water Act (CWA) framework for restoring impaired waters. See more details about WisCALM on the WDNR website.
The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Geographic Information Systems Center (GIS Center) selected the Courte Oreilles Lakes Association (COLA) for its annual Outstanding Partner Award. The award recognizes COLA’s long-term commitment to gathering scientific and geographic evidence at the watershed scale and applying it to protect the two-story fishery on Lac Courte Oreilles.
Positive Outcome for Fleur de Lane Rezoning Request
The Courte Oreilles Lakes Association (COLA) has helped reach a positive outcome with the Sawyer County Board and Zoning Committee, regarding the Billings Family Trust request to rezone a property adjacent to Fleur de Lane. COLA worked with representatives from the Billings Family Trust, Fleur de Lane neighbors, the two lawyers involved, and Dale Olson—Zoning and Conservation Administrator—to find a solution to the rezone dilemma. See the Lac Courte Oreilles Districts Zone map here.
A letter related to Wisconsin’s phosphorus water-quality standards circulated through the WI State Legislature for sign-ons. It asked Wisconsin's Congressional Delegation to allow the state to revise phosphorus standards by loosening phosphorus regulations. Clean Wisconsin sent a response on behalf of the conservation community. The Wisconsin State Journal covered the news and its impacts.
The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Geographic Information Systems Center (GIS Center) has completed a study that contains the modeling and mapping necessary to help both farmers and lake associations in the Upper Couderay River Watershed identify farm parcels most vulnerable to erosion. See full story here, which includes: