HFRLA's Comprehensive Lake Management Plan (CLMP)

Seminar on Watershed

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WIDNR) requires a permit to be issued to perform any type of aquatic plant management activities. These activities could include anything from the control or removal of excessive or nuisance native-plant growth in limited areas, to a full-scale remediation effort involving invasive-plant species. The first condition that must be met for a lake-group or association to receive a permit is the existence of an aquatic plant management plan. To be pro-active in the event that our lakes should at some time in the future experience an “invasive” event, the High-Fishtrap-Rush Lake Association (HFRLA) board of directors approved moving forward to complete a comprehensive lake management plan (CLMP).

A CLMP involves a variety of activities, studies, and data accumulation with the following general objectives:

  • arrive at a baseline measurement of a lake’s ecological status and well-being,
  • establish a framework for on-going evaluation measurements,
  • provide education and training for stakeholders to heighten awareness of lake quality issues, such as early identification of invasive-species encroachment and
  • develop action plans to address identified deficiencies.

The WIDNR has been extremely supportive of these initiatives and has developed a program to provide financial assistance to lake associations to conduct such studies. The assistance is in the form of monetary grants that require a level of matching on the part of the lake association members. This matching can either be in the form of donated dollars or dollar-equivalent volunteer hours. Volunteer hours must be captured by volunteer, date of service, and the related plan objective.

After a great deal of investigation by the board of HFRLA, a proposal to conduct a CLMP was presented to the association members at the 2011 annual meeting and was approved. It also included the authorization to engage a qualified consultant, Whitewater and Associates (Whitewater), to assist HFRLA in the creation of study-objectives and a related work plan. Additionally, Whitewater would provide certain levels of technical expertise that would be required to accomplish our objectives, such as the following: hydro-engineering, water-chemistry, mapping, and aquatic plant sampling.

The following exhibits present the work plan by major objectives and tasks:

The project was completed with the conclusion of the 2016 summer season and the issuance of a final report to the WIDNR. The project involved approximately 2900 hours of association member volunteer hours, direct financial support from HFRLA of $10,500, the donation of volunteer hours by Whitewater valued at $31,725, and the financial grant assistance from the WIDNR of $50,000.

Major highlights of the CLMP included the following:

Public boat landing monitoring – in 2015 and 2016, HFRLA participated in the Clean Boats Clean Waters program. Qualified college interns were employed at the public boat landing on Highway B to monitor and help educate anglers and pleasure boaters as to the issue of invasive species, both plant and animal. The monitors checked boats and trailers for the existence of plant materials, checked for properly drained live-wells, and reviewed state regulations regarding the transport of live fish and bait materials. Assuming the availability of financial resources, HFRLA intends to continue this program into the future.

Fishtrap dam monitoring – association members were able to make regular and unscheduled visits to the Fishtrap dam to take water-level measurements which were communicated directly to the WIDNR. The overall objective was to manage water flows through the bypass structure in hopes of achieving more consistent lake-water levels. Additionally, our volunteers surveyed the general area for potential maintenance, safety, and cleanliness issues, any of which were passed along to the WIDNR.

Angler journaling – over a two-year period, association members logged and recorded results of 377 fishing outings and measured over 1,600 fish. This information should provide the WIDNR with valuable insights on our lakes’ fish populations that can supplement the population sampling they perform on a periodic basis.

Documentation of the littoral/riparian zone conditions – a 100% photo survey of our shorelines, with descriptive analysis, was completed. This survey will provide a base-line condition for use by future generations on the status of our shoreline as measured in 2014.

Aquatic plant sampling – GPS-coordinate based sampling of our aquatic plants was conducted on both High and Fishtrap lakes. Similar to the littoral/riparian zone photo survey, this sampling will provide a baseline of our aquatic plants to analyze not only current conditions, but changes that may evolve in the future.  Our aquatic plant samples have been updated for High, Rush and Fishtrap Lakes in 2019

Water quality sampling —on a scheduled sampling calendar, water-chemistry samples were obtained and submitted for laboratory analysis, and water-clarity testing was conducted using sechi disks. This work supplements our long history of testing on High Lake and starts a similar, long-term program on Fishtrap Lake.

Frog and toad monitoring—using pre-determined locations around the lakes, volunteers on multiple occasions monitored frog and toad calls for species identification and general population estimates

Stakeholder surveys —a comprehensive survey was prepared and mailed to individual lake stakeholders (predominantly residents of the lakes) in order to evaluate their lake usage and its relative, personal importance to the stakeholder. An important facet of the survey included obtaining an understanding of our stakeholders’ knowledge and awareness of invasive species.

Education —training programs were conducted on aspects of our lakes’ ecosystem as well as training on aquatic invasive-species awareness, identification, prevention, and protection.

The work culminated with the creation of an aquatic plant management plan that will be then incorporated into an adaptive management plan. Key deliverables will include recommendations to be presented to county, lake, and water resource managers as well as the WIDNR. With the completion of this CLMP, HFRLA is in an enviable position to support “a call for help” to the WIDNR in the event of possible future adverse changes to our lakes’ ecology or the introduction of a serious aquatic invasive-species threat.