What should we do if we suspect an invasive plant or animal in our lake?

Contact Jeremy Williamson at the Polk County Land and Water Resources Department. He will likely ask for a sample and location where the potential invasive was found.

Jeremy Williamson
Polk County LWRD
100 Polk County Plaza, Suite 120
Balsam Lake, WI 54810
(715) 485-8639
jeremyw@co.polk.wi.us

In maintaining my lake lot, I'm unsure what's best for the lake, and what laws I am required to follow? Please help!

The brochure “Contacts for Your Waterfront Property Questions” provides a comprehensive list of contacts to help you.

Basic steps to follow to help the lake are to minimize runoff from your shoreland to the lake. This is usually accomplished with

  • minimizing the amount of soil covered with impermeable materials
  • diverting runoff to low areas where the water can soak in
  • plantings to cover all exposed soil, especially the first 35 feet from shore

The University of Wisconsin Extension has many helpful publications. The staff at the Polk County Land and Water Resources will also help with suggestions for practical shoreland practices to implement.

Shoreland regulations can be difficult to understand and often time consuming to follow. In July, 2015, the Governor signed into law new Wisconsin shoreland ordinance provisions explained in main content area of our Management and Protection page. In 2016, Polk County updated its shoreland ordinance to conform to the law changes. 

Should our lake group take action to preserve our lake or just let nature do the job?

Unless a lake and its watershed has little development, helping nature protect lakes is usually beneficial.

Before the middle of the 19th century, nature did a great job of preserving lakes, and human influence was negligible. Today most lakes in Polk County could benefit from management or protection actions. Activities which modify the earth’s surface such as buildings, roads, and agriculture can increase runoff of nutrients and sediments to lakes, some of which is polluted with toxins. Many ways exist to lessen this effect and are covered in other FAQs here.

Humans can also accidentally transport undesirable non-native plants (and animals) to lakes. These undesirables are called invasive species. Once present, invasive species tend to proliferate, spread, and replace the natives. Nature by itself has difficulty suppressing invasive species. Educating lake users to avoid putting invasive species in lakes and taking quick action as soon as invasive species are found in a lake are methods to fight entrenchment of invasive species.

How does lake management work?
Lake management is a process involving steps of planning, implementing, evaluating, and then repeating this process. Repeating this process is usually needed to utilize the new knowledge gained in the previous steps and to adapt to the continual changes in our natural environment and culture.

Should our lake group have an active lake management program?
Often, a management program starts because of a significant problem such as an invasive plant spreading over parts of a lake or algae blooms. However, rehabilitating a lake from a significant problem takes many years, and sometimes returning a lake to its natural state may not be possible. Beginning a program to understand what the most important potential contributors to today’s or future problems is always beneficial. Discussions among lakeshore property owners is the best place to start. If not already underway this can be followed up with an effort to collect data for a lake or river. The WDNR Citizen Lake Monitoring Network assists volunteers in collecting data for their lake or river. Volunteers collect data for water clarity (Secchi depth), phosphorus, chlorophyll, temperature, and dissolved oxygen, and monitor for invasive species. Many lake organizations collect additional data to study their specific situation.

Contacting the County Land and Water Resources Department and the regional Wisconsin DNR lakes coordinator is a good next step to get advice on this question.

Where can we get professional help in managing our lake?
The following are good sources for professional management help:

  1. The Land and Water Resources Department for Polk County
  2. The Wisconsin DNR regional lakes coordinator.
  3. Private consultants familiar with Polk County’s lakes.
  4. The Wisconsin Lakes Partnership (DNR, Wisconsin Lakes, and UW-EX) provides many opportunities to interact with lake professionals. The best option is the Wisconsin Lake Convention held in April each year.
Where can we get help to pay for lake management projects?
Both the Polk County Land and Water Resources Department and Wisconsin DNR regional lakes coordinator will donate some lake management professional help and advise the best options for funding. Lake organizations themselves can provide some financial support, especially lake districts because they can collect funds through real estate tax. The best funding source is usually the Wisconsin DNR’s lake planning and protection grant system.
This system pays for most of the cost of approved projects with the lake organization contributing a smaller portion of the cost.

What should our lake management goals be?
Initial goals are determined through consideration of a lake’s capacity to meet the people’s desires. This means the lake’s property owners and other stakeholders need to understand the lakes’s basic characteristics and the wants of the lake users. Obtaining a planning grant from the Wisconsin DNR is a good way to build this initial understanding. Based on this initial step to understand the lake and its people, useful goals can be established. These goals will vary among lakes because of different lake characteristics and differing desires of the people involved. Results of projects to accomplish the goals will be the basis for seeking renewed learning about the lake and its people’s desires, followed by setting new goals.

Who has responsibility for the health of our lake?
This Lake Management Essentials slide summarizes how the components of lake management fit into Wisconsin’s lake protection system. As depicted, successful management includes many functions. Most often lake organizations in Polk County must take on ultimate responsibility to successfully protect its lake long-term because State and County agencies can only provide overall management support on a limited basis. However, to accept ultimate responsibility is a often a major challenge for lake organizations. The organization needs close involvement with and understanding of most management functions, but volunteers with limited time and varying dedication run these organizations. As a result, dedicated lake organization board members and other volunteers with widely varying skills are critical to success.

What is social marketing for keeping our lakes healthy?
Increased knowledge or awareness of lake problems do not always translate to behavior change, largely because this approach cannot always satisfy lake users self interest. To complement this traditional educational approach, social marketing techniques utilize a planning process that promotes voluntary behavior of target audiences by offering benefits they want. This technique can often motivate participation in program activity because the audience more clearly sees the benefits for themselves.
If the lake organization is the center of lake management activity, please explain the different types of lake organizations