Aug 10, 2000
The Chetek Chain of
Lakes may once again be in line for a watershed project. That was the
information that Dale Hanson of the Barron County Land Conservation Department
told members of the Chetek Lakes Protection Association (CLPA) at their
annual meeting held Sunday afternoon at Pokegama Inn Supper Club. There
were over 90 members of the CLPA attending the meeting where Hanson was
one of the featured speakers.
The Chetek Chain of Lakes had been in line for a watershed cleanup project
a few years ago - in 1995 an application was made and in 1996 the county
was informed that the project would be funded in 1997. Just two months
later funding for such projects dried up and the work on the Chetek Chain
was scrapped along with many others when a moratorium was imposed on all
new watershed projects by the state. According to Hanson, such projects
were very popular with the people of the state who could see improvements
in water quality from watershed projects that had been completed. Therefore,
a redesign of the program was started and that is where the Chetek Chain
is going now.|
A Land and Watershed
Resource Management Plan was recently completed in the county and is undergoing
revision and will be submitted to Madison by October of this year. If
approved by the state, and If funding becomes available, there will be
three projects in Barron County in coming years. The first of these watershed
projects will be Lake Desair, which should start in 2002. Desair is a
small, 81-acre lake located in the northwest corner of Rice Lake Township.
The lake, which has an average depth of 17 feet and a maximum depth of
33 feet, has no incoming or outgoing streams and has a rather small watershed
area feeding it, but is in need of immediate help. The Chetek Chain, meanwhile,
has a watershed area of 13x20 miles, or 190 square miles that equates
to 121,600 acres. Watershed projects would be established for Pokegama
and Ten Mile Creek to begin in 2003, and a second project centered around
Rice Creek and Prairie Lake to begin in 2005.
Hanson said that according to a report issued by Barr Engineering following
an extensive study of the Chetek Lakes, with a major portion of the funding
for that study coming from the CLPA, much of the runoff of pollutants,
mainly phosphorus, enters the Chetek Chain of Lakes from these incoming
waters. Phosphorus is deemed to be the culprit that enhances the growth
of weeds and algae in the local lakes. The watershed projects will be
in place for a number of years for each of the three noted above. Hanson
said that the Hay River and Yellow River watershed projects, which were
undertaken prior to the 1997 moratorium, were both 8-10 years in length.
Hanson told the audience that the Chetek Chain of Lakes will never be
the pristine clear-water lakes that so many people would like to see.
When pressed by a member of the audience just how much improvement could
be expected, the figure 45% cleaner was given out.
Other speakers Sunday
afternoon included President Jerry Zehner, Assemblywoman Mary Hubler (D-Rice
Lake), and First Vice President Gary Fredrickson. Assemblywoman Mary Hubler,
who has represented the 75th District of Wisconsin in the State Assembly
since 1984, spoke briefly on several environmental issues that are up
before the legislature at this time. Hubler said that the state has done
a good job on surface water runoff in recent years, but there is still
a serious problem with nonpoint source pollution of our lakes and streams.
Nonpoint source pollution includes pollutants that get into our water
system from many different unspecified places within a watershed, unlike
point source pollution which would be similar to a pipe emptying pollutants
directly into a lake or river.
The legislature recently directed the Departments of Natural Resources
and Agriculture to come up with some rules pertaining to runoff. Hearings
have been held throughout the state at various locations with over 2,000
people speaking out on the many topics. Typically, according to Hubler,
environmentalists want more rules set while farmers and businesses want
less. Hubler said that we are still a year or more away from putting these
rules into law, and that the major stumbling block is to find the funding
necessary to put these rules into force and pay for a major portion of
the associated costs, estimated to be in the neighborhood of $2 billion
dollars. She said the state does not have that kind of money available,
in fact there is a $1 billion shortfall in moneys available for programs
already in place. While Hubler said the state will not put the rules into
force until the money is available to pay for them, she added "It
will cost a lot of money, but will be a wise investment for our children
and grandchildren in Wisconsin for years to come."
Gary Fredrickson spoke
on activities undertaken by the CLPA on the local lakes this past year.
He said that several CLPA volunteers helped take out the aeration system
on north Prairie Lake on March 23 in 74-degree temperatures this past
spring, the earliest date on record that the aerators have been taken
out. CLPA members take out the more than a mile of rope, poles and signs
for storage until they are needed once again next winter. The aerators
are used to put oxygen into the water to help prevent winter fish kills
such as the one that was experienced in 1992.
Water clarity on the Chetek Chain remains poor during the summer months
of June, July and August, when the average depth on the secchi disc readings
is just 2.75 feet. Several volunteers from the CLPA take these readings
throughout the summer months including George and Stella Hunter on Pokegama
Lake, Bob August on Chetek Lake, Marlin Freyholz on Ojaski Lake, Gene
Ehlinger on Ten Mile Lake, and Gary Fredrickson on Prairie Lake.
Fredrickson said that experiments are underway with satellite imaging
where readings are coordinated with satellites and ground crews on specified
dates and times, and if it is found that the satellite readings are accurate
with those done by personnel on the lakes, it may be possible to eliminate
the secchi disc readings in years to come.
There were four permits issued by the DNR for chemical spraying this summer,
with three of those on Prairie Lake and the fourth on Pokegama. All of
the spraying was contracted through one commercial company. Fredrickson
said that permits were issued for seven fishing tournaments on the Chetek
Chain of Lakes this year including two ice fishing tourneys and the rest
since ice-out. Permits are required when there are to be 20 or more boats
or 40 or more participants.
118,000 tiny walleyes were scatter planted by CLPA and other volunteers
this summer in Prairie, Chetek, Ojaski and Pokegama Lakes. Estimates are
that 80% of the walleye fry planted into the lakes will grow to fingerling
size, and just 7% of those fingerlings will grow to maturity or legal
catching size. Therefore it is expected that the Chetek Chain will have
8,000 more mature walleyes in 2/3 years for male fish and 4/5 years for
Estimates are that just 10% of fish naturally spawned will grow to fingerling
size, so of a comparable number of 118,000 just 1400 would grow to adult
Spearing of fish continues to be a non-factor on the Chetek Chain - just
six walleyes were speared by native Americans this past spring, compared
to 0 fish last year, 77 in 1998 and 44 in 1997. Fredrickson said that
DNR wardens have been on the local lakes 14 times since April 1, resulting
in 20 boating citations and 18 fishing citations. In addition, the Barron
County Sheriff's Department has had a patrol on the water about 1-1/2
days per month with seven citations issued. Fredrickson said that the
well-publicized case where a pair of fishermen took home 146 fish over
the limit this summer could result in a $2100 fine per person and the
loss of three years of fishing rights in Wisconsin.
Fish-O-Rama continues to be very popular in Chetek with 47% of the 439
tagged fish being caught in 1999 and $13,000 paid out in cash prizes.
So far this year 115 of the 472 tagged fish have been caught, and only
nine of the 42 $500 fish having been caught to date.
CLPA President Jerry
Zehner showed a slide developed by the Land Conservation Department office
showing the area taken up by the Chetek lakes and rivers prior to the
building of the first Chetek Dam in 1863, and the area now under water
and making up the Chetek Chain of Lakes since that dam was put in. The
121,600 acre watershed pours 73,000 gallons of water per minute into the
Chetek Chain, or 39 billion gallons of water per year. The lakes hold
upwards of 11 billion gallons of water, resulting in flushing of the lakes
three times per year. Zehner said he is continually asked if it is okay
to use lake water for irrigating gardens and yards, with the answer being
yes. He said the DNR encourages such watering because the lake water is
warm and therefore does not result in shocking the plants being watered,
and phosphorus is taken out of the lakes and used as fertilizers for yards
A clip was shown from
KARE-11 TV in the twin cities concerning the moving of the bog from the
mouth of Rice Creek this spring to a location near Veterans Park in north
Prairie Lake where it is now anchored down.
The treasurer's report,
presented by CLPA Treasurer Don Freeman, showed a balance of $19,863.38.
$3,610.00 was collected in dues throughout the past year, and another
$4,462.00 in donations from individuals and local municipalities and businesses.
While there are no definite plans for this money at this time, it is expected
that much of it will be earmarked toward the upcoming watershed projects
Unanimous voice votes
were accepted for the re-election of Jerry Zehner as President and Gary
Fredrickson as First Vice President of the CLPA by those present at the
meeting. Both were re-elected for two-year terms. Other officers and directors
present at the meeting were Bob August, second vice president; Don Freeman,
treasurer; Judy Reichert, secretary; and Paul Lange and Chris Carlson,
directors. All officers also serve on the board of directors.
During the question
and answer period following the meeting, two Ten Mile Lake area residents
presented samples of water taken from the lake and asked what could be
done to clean up those waters. Problems with droppings from large populations
of geese and waterfowl were also cited. Suggestions were also made
that weed cutters should be used in the Chetek Chain.
Next year's annual
meeting will again be held the first Sunday in August at a location to
Last Updated: June, 2005