Minutes of the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Bayfield County Lakes Forum
Drummond Community Center
Board Members Present: Jim Brakken, Beth Kolling, Trish Bantle, Ellen Lafans, John Lang
Meeting chaired by President Jim Brakken.
Meeting called to order at 10:00 a.m.
Waived reading of the 2017 Annual Meeting minutes.
Jim Brakken raised the issue of the alleged finding of Zebra Mussels on Lake Owen. It was pointed out that there was no confirmation of this alleged finding by way of samples, pictures, or professional examination. Further discussion occurred later in the meeting and will be noted below.
Treasurer’s Report given by Ellen Lafans. There is a current balance of $1,412.79 remaining in the account. See Treasurer’s written report. Highlights: $1,068.60 total contributions from October 2017 to present. Withdrawals of $521.00.
It was suggested in discussion as to use of some of the available monies to contribute to other organizations such as the WI Shoreland Initiative, Wisconsin Lakes, Inc., Rivers Alliance.
Motion made and seconded to accept treasurer’s report. Passed.
Jim Brakken raised the issue of the “Slow No Wake” rule improvement. It was noted that in the case of lakes of 50 acres in size, with public boat landings, the presently existing 100’ from the shoreline (Ordinary High Water Mark) Slow No Wake rule created a possible boating hazard, as the Slow No Wake designate area diminished the size of the available water surface upon which high-speed boating activities such as water skiing, PWC usage, and wake-boarding could take place. Couple the elimination of the “Spotter” rule passed by the state legislature, and you have the makings of a serious safety hazard. Jim Brakken suggested that a group from BCLF be created to study this issue and possibly appear before the state legislature to present a proposal to get law makers to address this issue. As to possible proposal details, there was no decision. However, much discussion ensued as to what might be available by way of safety recommendations, such as reducing the “Slow No Wake” area on these lakes. It was suggested that doing this would effectively eliminate the protection of the shoreline by increasing the wave generated impact. It was also mentioned that increasing the size of the “Slow No Wake” area, without a concomitant prohibition of high-speed recreational activities, would just increase the danger.
Discussion related to the “Slow No Wake” issue raised other concerns such as the Town of Barnes eliminating the hours during the day during which water skiing, wake boarding, and PWC usage could occur. It was pointed out that the Town Board noted that there was really no way of enforcing this ordinance. The DNR’s authority to enforce such ordinances was removed by the legislature. The Sheriff’s Department does not have the personnel to dedicate to enforcement. Tom Johnson, from the Lake Owen Association indicated that they were looking into the possibility of hiring a Reserve Deputy to assist in “Boater Safety Rules/Ordinances” enforcement.
Flooding & Erosion Workgroup Discussion by Ellen Lafans. Ellen presented the present status of the Flood & Erosion Hazard Working Group findings and proposal presented to the Zoning Committee. First, it was noted that some very knowledgeable individuals were members of this working group, including many professionals whose careers focused on water quality and land use. When the proposal was presented to the Zoning Committee, there was no discussion other than a small group of citizens opposing the recommendations of the working group’s proposal. The Zoning Committed did not ask any question of the working group regarding the alleged issues raised by the opposing parties, even though there was an indication that some members of the Zoning Committee had been very supportive of the efforts of the Flood & Erosion Work Group. The Zoning Committee following the opposition’s presentation then voted to table the proposal (supposedly for later discussion). However, it appears that this was a move to bury the proposal and not present it to the full County Board.
It was pointed out during the discussion that the Zoning Manager position is not an elected office, but a hired position, suggesting that the person in that position was above political/citizens’ influence.
It was also pointed out that the Land & Conservation Committee is separate from the Zoning Committee and might be an avenue to resurrect the Flooding & Erosion proposal.
Ellen pointed out that this road block is not the final word and that the work group is looking for citizen’s, lake associations’ and other conservation groups’ support to push the Zoning Committee to allow discussion and presentation to the full County Board of the findings and solutions presented in the work group’s report.
ACTION ITEM: Election of Officers (2-3 Director Positions): Floor nominations were open for candidates to fill the soon to be vacant Director Positions. Pamela Behnke and Mary Hayes were nominated (read “volunteered”) and were elected to those posts. Their election was guaranteed and unanimously passed, much to the relief of the attendees.
Lake Owen Association Report: Tom Johnson, President of the Lake Owen Association, discussed the many initiatives the Association is pursuing.
(1) Comprehensive Lake Management Plan: He pointed out the association has hired the services of Ms. Cheryl Clemens who is a professional lake manager. A grant of $182,000 from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has been secured, with an additional $143,000 raised (for a total of $325,000) to fund this position and facilitate the development of the Comprehensive Lake Management Plan. Some of the proposal items include the development of Decontamination Stations on boat landings or close thereby and coming up with a plan to require usage by boaters. At present, use of such stations would be voluntary, with no ability to enforce usage, which would diminish such stations’ effectiveness in stopping AIS transport.
Other elements of the Comprehensive Lake Management Plan would include conservation of Critical Habitat, Shoreland Restoration, and Water Quality Analysis.
(2) Tom Johnson then raised the issue of the disturbing release of unsupported findings of the existence of Zebra Mussels on Lake Owen. He noted the email of apology sent by Ellen Lafans on behalf of BCLF, but also raised the issue of contacting all recipients of the original email raising the unsubstantiated findings. The board of BCLF noted the need to follow up on this effort to clear up the fact that the finding of Zebra Mussels was false and that there is no evidence supporting a conclusion that Zebra Mussels exist on Lake Owen.
Pigeon Lake Flooding Catastrophe: Trish Bantle presented the catastrophe of the flooding following the Father’s Day Storm that drop 18 inches of rain around Pigeon Lake. This raised the lake level 4.5 feet in a very short period. This is still causing serious issues of property damage, septic system breaches, water quality, damage to surrounding roads, and washing away frontage and beaches. Most importantly, many of the homes there have been flooded and are now uninhabitable. On Pigeon Lake RD, an area 35’ wide by 10’ deep was washed out. Because there is no natural drainage from the lake, the water had no place to go other than to breach the OHM and damage the surrounding area. This problem was exacerbated by the damming effect of County Highway N. A very serious water quality and health issue has developed and is still developing surrounding the flooding breaching septic systems and allow sewage to spill into the lake. This could result in the lake becoming a septic holding tank itself and there is no present way to alleviate this present and continuing hazard. There was some discussion of creating dikes protecting property surrounding the lake, but such work would be prohibitively expensive for most property owners. As for solutions as to using culverts to allow lake waters to be siphoned off to the surrounding area, that requires further study. Trish indicated that there has been contact with FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers, the DNR. The question of where to find resources to buy the property of owners who have experienced serious damage that prohibits their use of the property, but no answers were presented.
AIS – Andrew Teal: Andrew verified the findings that Lake Owen has no evidence of Zebra Mussel infestation and that efforts need to be made to recall the false rumor. Tom Johnson requested that all such communications surrounding this and any other issue involving Lake Owen first go through his vetting.
Andrew then discussed the status of the Lake Namakagon EWM situation. He indicated that because of the efforts of citizens to pull the existing weeds, the infestation appears to be under control.
Andrew then discussed the fact that it appears that the EWM in Lake Namakagon is a hybrid between EWM and Native Northern Milfoil. The difference between non-hybrid native milfoil and the hybrid is that the hybrid has a red-gray stem and leaves and the native version is a bright green. About a dozen lakes in Bayfield County have EWM.
Andrew also discussed the efforts surrounding employing portable decontamination systems. Cheryl Clemens, as did Tom Johnson, indicated that the units that they have researched cost approximately $20,000. Consequently, at present, the AIS transport issue still depends on volunteers monitoring boat landings and educating the public.
Further discussion related to getting ordinances passed by counties to mandate use of available decontamination stations. Burnett and Washburn counties are looking into this requirement. It was mentioned that these facilities did not need to be placed on boat landings but need to be located within a reasonable distance of the lake so that usage by boaters would not be unreasonably burdensome.
Andrew also noted that there are efforts to coordinate AIS transport prohibition laws between Wisconsin and surrounding states to make them consistent with one another.
Andrew also thanked the membership for their efforts supporting the Bayfield County Lake Conservation Specialist Position proposal. The position has been half funded and the County Board needs to clear the way for creation of the position by providing the additional monies.
Wisconsin Lakes Association Update: A representative of the Wisconsin Lakes Association was present to update the BCLF membership regarding WLA’s initiatives and efforts. Since the legislature is not in session, not much is occurring regarding lake and river conservation issues. He advised present lake association personnel present that WLA provides a Lake Kit to create websites for lake associations. He also noted that there is a WLA conference in Stevens Point, WI on April 10-12, 2019 at the Holiday Inn. He encouraged everyone to attend.
Adjournment: Meeting adjourned 11:45 a.m.
Minutes prepared by John A. Lang, Secretary BCLF