Two groups hope to improve Beaver Dam Lake through 2040

November 7, 2016 GMT

About 98,000 acres feed water into Beaver Dam Lake, and continuing to improve the entire watershed is a priority for Beaver Dam Lake Improvement Association and Beaver Dam Lake Development Corporation.

Bill Foley is a member of the BDLIA Lake Planning Committee. BDLIA currently has 340 members and recently sponsored the new kayak pier and festival at Waterworks Park. Scott Rasmussen is part of the Beaver Dam Lake Development Corporation — Mayor Tom Kennedy appoints BDLDC members. Both groups work hand in hand to improve Wisconsin’s 16th largest lake. Now both are groups are optimistically looking far ahead.

About a year ago, a comprehensive management plan was finalized that lays out the status of the lake and how to improve it. Last month both men met with the Beaver Dam Operations Committee to lay out plans for the lake to 2020 and out to 2040.

In Rasmussen’s opinion, Beaver Dam Lake is better than it used to be. He said, however, that the water quality could be better given that the lake connects to four city parks and more than 800 shoreline properties.

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“It’s not where we want to be,” Rasmussen said.

As of last year, Beaver Dam Lake has been placed on the impaired waters list due to continued phosphorus inflow. According to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources surveys, total phosphorus sample data overwhelmingly exceeded 2016 several thresholds for recreation use and fish and aquatic life use, and overwhelmingly exceeded chlorophyll thresholds.

The plan and study was published in 2015 and supported with a Lake Management Planning Grant through the DNR. It breaks down lake sampling, shoreline assessment and aquatic life. The lake has 15 monitoring stations — six in open water and nine on or near the shore. Volunteers have been collecting water samples annually since 1996.

Foley said the plan highlights 18 high level objectives for what should be done to the lake. It also outlines 55 improvements to benefit the lake.

These are all big tasks according to Foley and cooperation is going to be a key component if everyone wants to improve the lake by 2020. He said he is feeling confident that those goals will be met and he’s getting plenty of help from UW-Madison.

A total of 17 UW-Madison graduate students will be studying and sharing their findings with the groups next summer.

“We’re reaping a huge reward of information,” Rasmussen said.

In the past Rasmussen said you had to rely on the state for money for such work.

“It’s hard to get that state money now,” he said.

Besides looking to outside help, Rasmussen is aiming to improve the shoreline and fishing. He said they are planning to install some mechanical gates in Rakes Bay that would prevent larger carp from coming into Beaver Dam Lake and reproducing. In addition, plans are being staged to create a nutrient rich micro-environment for game fish.

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A good micro-environment, according to Rasmussen, allows the fish nutrients, but it also gives the fish a place to lay their eggs in a better environment. In the past, his group used to collect Christmas trees a throw them in the lake. The small branches were ideal for perch to lay their eggs. Perch are one breed of fish that has done well in the lake.

This will all happen in 2017 when BDLIA will be installing “fish sticks” in three locations in the lake. “Fish sticks” are trees set in the lake to provide a safe and nutrient rich area for fish.

Other fish such as bluegills and walleye are struggling to live. Rasmussen says that bluegills need weeds to reproduce efficiently. Carp root out the weeds making it a problem. On the other side, too many weeds can create excessive nutrients causing algae growth.

A few ways BDLIA is working to limit carp in Beaver Dam Lake, Foley said, are continuing to remove carp with the help of commercial anglers who bid on removal operations through the DNR. The carp barrier at Rakes Bay is another solution.

Because some fish in Beaver Dam Lake are fighting to keep their numbers up, BDLIA has been restocking the lake annually.

This year, they placed 9,000 perch and 3,900 walleye in Beaver Dam Lake. BDLIA spends approximately $10,000 to $20,000 each year in its stocking program. Funds come from the BDLIA banquet, donations and fishing tournaments that give their proceeds to BDLIA.

In addition, the DNR stocked 219,000 small fingerling walleyes this past June and 65,420 small northern fingerlings in May. BDLIA stocked 23,500 bluegills in the 3- to 5-inch range this past spring.

According to the comprehensive study, 2015 was a good year for fishing black crappies on Beaver Dam Lake and based on the report this should continue as 35 percent of the crappies in the sampling were in the 7- to 8-inch range. There was a large number in the 3- to 4-inch range, indicating excellent reproduction and recruitment in 2014.

Over the last two years, BDLIA has stocked more than 34,000 bluegills in the lake.

Rasmussen said that one other aspect of the plan is to limit runoff in the lake. They have been working with farmers in the area to limit their manure spreading and to stop laying the manure on land surfaces throughout the winter.

As a result Rasmussen said that the lake is seeing a more educated and frugal farmer and he said he wants to educate more. On Feb. 8 and 9 the Dodge County Healthy Water and Soil Workshop will held specifically to teach farmers about how their actions change the lake.

It’s something they are working on and there is still room for improvement, but he thinks this cooperation should improve a farmer’s bottom line and the lake well into the future.