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Portage Council approves final version of Silver Lake management plan

Portage Council approves final version of Silver Lake management plan

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The Portage Common Council approved the years in the works Silver Lake management plan at its meeting Thursday.

The plan, a joint effort between the city, Columbia County Land and Water Department and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Center for Watershed Science, focuses on providing good water quality, healthy shorelines, plants and animals at Silver Lake, City Administrator Shawn Murphy said.

“This is a multi-year project that has come to fruition,” Murphy said. “This was an update of the plan that was put in place in 2006, so it was overdue in getting updated. This is also much more comprehensive than the 2006 plan and covers a lot.”

The plan provides best management practices for the next five years.

The plan is meant to provide guidance for anyone working on the lake. It provides context for public rights, lake users, property owners, the city parks department, planning and zoning officials, county land and water conservation officials, DNR staff and fishing or sportsmans’ clubs.

Referring to it as “a playbook for the lake,” city Parks and Recreation Manager Toby Monogue said planning for the 99-page document found “a lot of positives.” The water quality is generally good. One goal is to ensure it stays that way or gets even better through meeting goals in the plan.

Ryan Haney with the UW-SP Center for Watershed Science, said 82% of phosphorous that enters the lake comes from developed property around it. The first goal of the plan is to keep phosphorous levels below state-advised criteria for drainage lakes and ensure the dissolved oxygen levels stay above five to support the fish.

One objective is to ensure water quality goals are achieved and degrading water quality is detected through routine monitoring. Part of keeping phosphorus levels low is to educate property owners about their connection to the lake and how to practice healthy land management. A big part of that is to reduce runoff into the lake and reduce erosion from the nearby roads, Haney said.

Another goal focuses on healthy shorelands, which will protect water quality and provide essential habitat space. The plan is to restore about 1,000 feet over the next five years. Part of that includes making sure property owners understand the shoreland importance to the lake ecosystem and their roles in protecting areas and making informed land management decisions to minimize their impact on the lake. Shorelands can be visually appealing without being mowed down, Haney said. That way, they protect habitats and dissuade geese from using the water and shoreland.

An additional educational component of the plan includes ensuring users have an understanding of aquatic plants and how to eliminate invasive species. They can actively manage excessive plants to improve recreation, facilitate the predator/prey relationship and remove nutrients from the system to prevent overgrowth of algae and other plants.

A plant management plan is an important piece to the overall lake management plan and is an appendix on its own, Haney said.

Fish are also important. The plan outlines strategies to support healthy fishery, with an ideal end result of a balanced fish community. Objectives for that goal include an improved habitat for better reproduction and working closely with the DNR to develop a sustainable fisheries management strategy.

“I do not think it’s a burden on the parks department,” Monogue said of the plan. “From the city standpoint, we’re just excited to see it put into place.”

Alderman Mark Hahn, District 2, raised concerns over education of nearby residents and their impact on the lake.

“I was very impressed with how much was in there and learned a lot about the lake,” Hahn said. “When I saw how much was contingent on the lake itself and the landowners along the lake and even close to the lake, contingent on what they plant... Is there some way the information can get out to the people who would be most impactful on what may be harming the lake with what they plant or what they don’t plant?”

Murphy said the city conducted three informational meetings that were open to the public to inform them of the plan and how they could be involved.

The vote to approve the plan as is was unanimous, but the council agreed to send their questions and concerns back the Parks and Recreation Committee moving forward.

Capital Newspapers reporter Bridget Cooke contributed to this report.

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