DNR awards grants for 61 surface water management projects in 36 counties

MADISON – Sixty-one lake, river and aquatic invasive species projects designed to improve the state’s waterbodies and wetlands in 36 Wisconsin counties will soon receive more than $4 million in grant funding through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources surface water grant program.

Aquatic invasive species projects will receive $2.1 million dollars to control established AIS populations, of which $500,000 will support research to help improve future AIS management. Lake protection and restoration projects garnered more than $1.7 million, while about $224,000 is for river management. The following is a breakdown of the number and amounts of grants by type:

“These grants help communities put lake management plans into action by implementing projects to protect and improve water quality and aquatic habitat, and, at the same time, control and prevent the spread of AIS,” said Carroll Schaal, chief of the DNR lakes and rivers section.

Funding for the grants comes from a portion of the state tax on gasoline consumed by motor boats. Grant awards from the DNR cover a large portion of the total project cost. Applicants must contribute at least 25 percent of project costs; the exact amount of applicant investment varies depending upon the grant sub-program.

The following are a handful of the projects that received funding:

  • Fish Creek (Door County) and Colburn Creek (Forest County) will get new fish passages, while nearly a mile of the Blue River (Grant County) will get a trout habitat makeover.
  • Restoration work on a Root River tributary (Wild Cat Creek) is planned to enhance water quality and improve flood control.
  • Modifications to the fishway at Thiensville Dam in Mequon will help sturgeon access more upstream habitat on the Milwaukee River.
  • Residents of the Chetek Lakes (Barron County) where tornadoes caused severe damage will restore native plants, manage runoff on denuded shorelines and repurpose damaged trees as ‘fish sticks’ to become in-lake wildlife habitat.
  • Projects on Chute Pond (Oconto County) and Park Lake (Columbia County) will divert and control storm water runoff, establish natural native vegetation to improve habitat, and serve as demonstration projects to allow people to see what lake restoration looks like.
  • Lake Owen (Bayfield County), one of the states deepest, cleanest and clearest lakes, will use $182,000 for lake protection efforts including the installation of two boat decontamination devices.

“The legislature and governor provided a one-time $500,000 increase to the AIS grant fund, so we were able to provide support for all the eligible applicants that applied this year,” Schaal said.

The DNR received a total of 71 applications. Seven projects are unfunded due to insufficient funds and three applications were not eligible for a grant.

To see the full list of awards, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for “surface water grants.” Links to awarded grants can be found on the right-hand side of the Web page under “Related links” on a desktop computer, or under the “Show more” dropdown on mobile devices.