DNR supports water quality improvement efforts through surface water grants

MADISON — Forty-one projects to restore wetland and waterfront habitat, control aquatic invasive species and implement lake and river management plans are receiving nearly $2.4 in fiscal 2016 surface water grants from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Surface water management grants are submitted to DNR each year in February and this year the department received 50 grant applications totaling approximately $3 million. The competitive grant funds originate from a tax on fuel used by boats in Wisconsin.

Shelly Thomsen, DNR lakes and rivers team leader with the DNR Bureau of Water Quality, said this year’s grants to lake and river groups, nonprofit organizations and governments in 30 counties leveraged an additional $1.5 million in matching funds.

“These grants provide critical funding for projects that make a real difference in water quality in our state,” Thomsen said. “We’re excited to see the progress that is being made by public and private groups working in partnership to tackle these challenges.”

FY16 Surface Water Grants # Grants Awarded Award
Lake Management Plan Implementation 5 $797,575.12
Healthy Lakes 16 $132,542.86
Wetland/Shoreland Habitat Restoration 1 $100,000
Lake Land/Easement Acquisition 2 $249,487.50
River Management 5 $159,824.50
AIS Control 12 $938,985.59
Total 41 $2,378,415.57


Highlights of the 2016 grants include projects for:

  • Lakes Tainter and Menomin: These lakes in the Red Cedar River Watershed are prone to algae blooms due to excess phosphorous from surface water runoff. The West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission received a $200,000 lake protection grant to implement recommendations from the recently approved Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) implementation plan. The project includes updating water quality and land use data, assessing social networks, behaviors and attitudes of stakeholders in the watershed and determining the economic cost of poor water quality. The project will leverage an additional $450,000 from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, UW-Stout, Barron County Soil and Water Conservation Department, Dunn County Land and Conservation Division and Tainter-Menomin Lake Improvement Association to help reduce phosphorus inputs into the lake.
  • The Ridges Sanctuary: The Door County land trust will use an aquatic invasive species control grant to control 3,700 acres of invasive phragmites along 15 miles of Lake Michigan and Clark Lake shoreline. The spread of phragmites has severe consequences to native ecosystems, reduces access to the lakes for recreational opportunities and has economic impacts including reduced property values.
  • Hunting River: The town of Elcho in Langlade County received a river protection grant to restore fish passage by replacing culverts along Hunting River, a high quality, brook and brown trout stream with natural reproduction.
  • Statewide Healthy Lakes efforts: A total of 16 grants were awarded for the second year of the Healthy Lakes program. The program provides grants for homeowners to plant rain gardens and native plants, install diversion or rock infiltration features and deploy fish sticks to create feeding, breeding and nesting areas for all sorts of critters.

    To learn more, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for “Surface Water Grants.”