Advocates for a cleaner Lake Decorah say the project to restore the lake’s waters is making progress, but still has a long way to go.
Lake Decorah faces challenges related to sedimentation and resulting eutrophication from high concentrations of nutrients in the water and aquatic plant growth.
Dredging is a potential short term strategy to mitigate the problem, but does not address eutrophication at the source. Stopping sedimentation through land use management is the long-term strategy recommended by the DNR.
The Lake Decorah Restoration Project was formed in 2018 to address the lake’s water quality with the long-term in mind.
“What we want to do is turn this more into a recreation lake,” Said Mauston Mayor Brian McGuire. “Fishing, ice fishing… people used to water ski here.”
McGuire said although the project is still in the groundwork stage, a meeting Jan. 23 was attended by about 30 community members.
We want to “get rid of the smell,” McGuire said. “Get it all cleaned out and direct the flow of water to the point where sediment gets deposited in certain areas. And it can be cleaned out.”
Two annual ice fishing tournaments have been held to raise funds for the restoration project. The ice fishing tournaments have raised a total of about $16,000, with about $6,500 being raised in 2018 and $9,500 in 2019. Attendance was about 106 and about 190 each year.
McGuire said he expects Mauston officials will attend the Red Cedar Watershed Conference in Menomonee, as they did last year. The conference is hosted by University of Wisconsin-Stout and focuses on land management and clean water.
Mauston Parks Supervisor Seth Westberg said excess nutrients in Lake Decorah are related to agriculture activity.
“A lot of it is nutrient loading,” Westberg said. “Whether it’s phosphorus or nitrogen.”
The Wisconsin DNR lists the Lemonweir River, which connects to Lake Decorah, as “impaired water” and ranks it as the third highest contributor of phosphorous to the Wisconsin River.
“Tomah already went through this whole process,” Westberg said. “They went through it a totally different way because they had a natural disaster. But they’re still trying to better their situation, which ends up directly affecting us because we’re right down the waterway.”
Westberg said community events may be held as fundraisers to help gain money for the project.
“We are going to need hands,” McGuire said. “We will need volunteers. We’re going to need to help educate people too.”