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Partnerships are key to improving water quality in Wisconsin, according to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Deputy Secretary Kurt Thiede.

Thiede was in Beaver Dam to recognize a DNR led team that created the Healthy Lakes Initiative, an effort that has benefitted Beaver Dam Lake as well as lakes throughout Wisconsin.

“There is absolutely no way we can do conservation without partnerships,” Thiede said.

So while he presented an award to the Health Lakes Initiative group, he also was acknowledging the local partnership with Beaver Dam Lake Improvement Association. BDLIA joined the Health Lakes Initiative to take advantage of a small grant program.

Grants fund projects to support installation of fish sticks (downed trees and large branches) to improve habitat, native plants or diversion practices along the shoreline to slow runoff; and upland practices like rain gardens that manage runoff from structures and impervious surfaces.

Lakeshore property owners, municipalities and businesses complete the projects with grant funding of up to $1,000. BDLIA received $4,320 from the DNR. In order to meet the grant’s 25 percent match requirements, participating property owners pay a portion of the costs or contribute volunteer time to complete their projects.

The first year of the program, Beaver Dam had four participants in the project. Three more projects were added the second year. Bill Foley, who is vice president of the BDLIA, and Bill Boettge, who is president, have demonstrated their leadership by getting involved in the first year of the Healthy Lakes Initiative.

They both have shoreline improvement projects on their lakeside properties. They reported Monday that the plantings have increased wildlife—from softshell turtles, to birds, bees and butterflies.

“It’s easy to maintain. It’s self sustaining,” Foley said.

Boettge said working with the Health Lakes Initiative is just one of the growing partnerships it has been developing. The association has a member on the Dodge County Conservation Committee and has developed relationships with agricultural producers. A winter workshop on manure handling, no-till agriculture and cover crops is in the works.

He listed other cooperative efforts including installation of a new kayak launch at Waterworks Park in Beaver Dam and the annual Fish N Fun event for children.

On the horizon is a project that will tackle conservation efforts along Beaver Creek.

DNR lake biologist Pam Toshner thanked the group for their cooperation and said, “I’m pretty sure Healthy Lakes wouldn’t exist without local citizens.”