Local aquatic invasive funding totals nearly $802,000 for Vilas, Oneida

April 27, 2022

By Michelle Drew, News Editor, of Vilas County News Review

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported its distribution of surface water grants recently, with Vilas and Oneida county organizations awarded nearly $802,000.

The spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) is a statewide problem, with 343 projects located in 67 Wisconsin counties awarded $6.24 million in grant funding in 2021.

For the 2022 round of grants, Vilas County was awarded 35 different grants for $259,047, while Oneida County received 22, totaling $343,207. There also were two multi-county grants given, including $199,703 toward a microspordian pathogen as a control agent for invasive crayfish applied for by the University of Florida for use in Vilas and Oneida counties, and a Bridge-Nokomis Eurasian water milfoil monitoring and management project applied for by Lake Nokomis Lake District in the amount of $38,135 for Oneida and Forest counties.

The surface water grant program provides cost-sharing grants for surface water protection and restoration. According to the DNR, funding is available to provide education, ecological assessments, planning, implementation, and aquatic invasive species (AIS) prevention and control.

With many different projects eligible for grant funding, lake organizations and individuals can support surface water management at any stage — from organization capacity development to project implementation.

These grants are broken down by project, with funding awarded to organizations who meet the requirements. Those who are automatically eligible to apply for the grant monies include counties, municipalities, natural resource agencies, tribal governing bodies, other local units of government, accredited colleges, universities, technical schools, lake districts, and town sanitary districts.

Qualified lake associations, surface water management organizations, river management organizations, nonprofit conservation organizations, and school districts must apply for eligibility before applying for a surface water grant.

The Clean Boats, Clean Water (CBCW) initiative is one major draw of the funding, with 27 Vilas area lake organizations receiving anywhere from $3,000 to $23,000 in funding. Fourteen Oneida County organizations also were awarded this funding — including $12,000 ,to the Three Lakes Waterfront Association. In total, Vilas County was awarded $135,768 while Oneida pulled in $89,660.

CBCW is a streamlined AIS grant through which volunteer or paid staff conduct boat and trailer inspections and educate boaters on how to prevent the spread of AIS at waterbody access points. Up to $24,000 is available per CBCW grant project ($4,000 per landing or pair of landings).

According to Cathy Higley, lake conservation specialist for Vilas County Land and Water Conservation Department, the fight against AIS in area lakes is an expensive and never-ending project. With around 200 access points and more than 1,300 lakes in Vilas County, there are many ways invasives can move into bodies of water. Once they move in, it can be extremely difficult and sometimes impossible to get them out again, so prevention is key.

Vilas County received $18,780 in Lake Monitoring and Protection Network (LMPN) funding, which is split between the county, North Lakeland Discovery Center, and the Lac du Flambeau Tribe, to care for area lakes — especially those lakes that don’t have enough property owners to create an official lake association or district.

These funds go to help train people how to check for invasives as part of CBCW, as well as monitoring and responding to AIS. Higley added that another use of the funding goes to early detection surveys which involves snorkeling a few lakes per year. Funding also assists with the Drain Campaign at area boat landings by providing towels to boaters to pick up water out of livewells so it isn’t transported to other lakes.

The water found in the wells can transport fish diseases as well as different AIS such as baby zebra mussels which are microscopic to the naked eye.

Higley noted that these LMPN funds also help support lake organizations in other needed areas such as how to access funding and connect people and volunteers.

Oneida County received $22,003 in LMPN funding.

North Lakeland Discovery Center in Manitowish Waters received a series of grants to perform aquatic plant studies on three lakes in the Manitowish Waters Chain.

According to Jamie Van, Water Program director for the center, there were three new surface water grants that were awarded this year for Spider, Island and Rest Lake. This money will be used to complete a full point intercept vegetation survey of each of these lakes.

“This is following Management Goal 6 of the the Manitowish Waters Chain of Lakes Comprehensive Management Plan which was completed in 2019 and sponsored by North Lakeland Discovery Center, Manitowish Waters Lake Association, and DNR grants,” Van said.

Some other bigger funding numbers that came through for Vilas County lakes included a $13,564 grant to Big Sand Lake Property Owners Association for 2022 aquatic plant management updates for plant studies. The association is considering a trial set of herbicide spot treatments to target dense Eurasian water milfoil colonies that exist in high-traffic areas of the lake. A statement released by the association stated that it has already started early consultation with DNR about the control and monitoring strategy, which would also monitor herbicide concentration.

The North & South Twin Lake Protection and Rehab District was awarded $30,058 to continue its efforts of monitoring and controlling Eurasian water milfoil (EWM). To date, the district has made strides in controlling the AIS by using diver assisted suction harvesting, hand pulling or small scale herbicide treatments to keep milfoil from rebounding in the short term.

Other funding went to the Gresham Lakes Association in Vilas County of nearly $22,000 as well as to the Tomahawk Lake Association in Oneida County of $150,000, both for the management and control of EWM.

Another program which received funding was the Vilas County Health Lakes Fish Sticks Projects for 2022-’23 which received $3,300.

According to the DNR, trees have been dropping naturally into Wisconsin lakes since the glaciers receded. Fallen trees provide shelter and feeding areas for a diversity of fish species and may also provide nesting and sunning areas for birds, turtles and other animals above the water. Nearly all fish species use woody habitat for at least a portion of their life cycle.

Fish Sticks projects are intended to restore woody habitat in lakes by adding trees to the near-shore area. They are large, woody habitat structures that use either single trees or trees grouped together which are anchored to the shore and are partially or fully submerged near the shoreline of a lake.

Fish sticks projects are completed to provide additional fish habitat, as well as to expand fishing opportunities by anglers and provide protection to shorelines. These projects generally include a variety of cooperators such as lakefront property owners, lake associations or districts, DNR permitting and fisheries staff, county land and water conservation departments and possibly federal agencies.