Delavan Lake official wants to get residents involved

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Mike Heine
Saturday, November 24, 2007
— The new Delavan Lake Sanitary District administrator wants the public to go back to school when it comes to the 2,000-acre body of water that she’s been assigned to help protect.

Gail Swaine, who has been on the job about two months, is starting a campaign to educate the public about best practices for maintaining a healthy, clear, usable, swimmable and fishable Delavan Lake.

“Get ready to get involved,” Swaine said of her approach to reaching out to the public. “That’s exactly what we want to do here. We’re going to get yelled at. People are going to say they’ve heard this all before.”

But it’s imperative that people know.

The lake underwent a massive rehabilitation in the late 1980s and early ’90s, and it is turning for the worse again. Excess phosphorus is promoting algae blooms; clarity has gone down, and invasive fish species are present again.

The town can’t afford another big project, so a slew of smaller steps must be taken to preserve and even improve the lake’s quality, Swaine said.

Educating landowners about the dangers of phosphorus fertilizers, the benefits of shoreline buffer zones and the problems caused by stormwater runoff is a key step, Swaine said.

She plans to get the messages across in a revamped newsletter from the sanitary district—the first one went out two weeks ago—and on a new and interactive Web site.

That’s not all.

Increasing the frequency of public learning seminars by people who study the lake also is planned, as are enhanced pontoon classroom days for elementary-aged kids.

The pontoon classroom gets kids on and around the lake to learn about fish species, ecology, water clarity, shoreline practices, pollution and more.

“They take this information home. That’s how these things really get started,” Swaine said of educating the public.

Public education is an ongoing theme in the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission’s “Lake Management Plan for Delavan Lake.”

The ecological practices described throughout the 2002 guide have been started, but the education needs to come into focus, Swaine said.

A presentation last month by Dale Robertson, a research hydrologist with the United States Geological Survey, showed the lake’s potential for future decline if changes aren’t made.

In the 1970s, the algae-filled, carp-infested lake was rated second worst in the state.

“It’s never going to get back to the way it was in the 70s. It’s not going to get that bad,” Robertson said. “It could continue to degenerate. It could get bad.”

Focusing on the 26,000-acre watershed should be a primary goal.

The watershed is a major source of phosphorus and other pollutants that come into the lake and promote weed and algae growth, Robertson said.

Also, promoting a healthy, balanced fishery has helped keep the lake’s ecosystem in check, he said.

Last updated: 10:01 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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