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Residents talk Turtle Lake

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Kevin Hoffman
October 6, 2011
— Several residents concerned about Turtle Lake's diminishing water levels are asking the town of Richmond to take action on a leaking culvert they believe is the primary cause.

Representatives from the town and members of the state Department of Natural Resources gathered Wednesday for an informational meeting, which organizers hoped would shed more light on the lake's condition and what can be done to address it.


The issue is likely to carry on for some time as various groups weigh their options, both legally and financially. The town board could take action, but state experts said Wednesday the development of a lake district is another reasonable solution.


Creating a new taxing authority to manage Turtle Lake's dam piqued at least some interest with the more than 20 residents who attended the meeting. The small crowd was allowed to submit written questions, but open dialogue was prohibited during the 75-minute meeting.


Most people agreed something needed to be done to address the culvert, but the question is what route to take and how the town could pay for it. Michelle Schneider, water management engineer with the DNR, offered some options, but it's unclear whether any would improve the lake's water level.


Property owners along a channel on the northwestern side of the lake want more aggressive solutions to both maintain property values and avoid losing their lake access.


"I think putting some kind of gate structure on the culvert is a first step," Schneider said. "It's great to have people out there taking all kinds of measurements to see what's really going on out there."


Schneider agreed blocking the culverts could improve the condition of the wetlands but not necessarily the level of the lake. The dam is Turtle Lake Road, which is several-hundred feet to the lake's south.


Schneider said the DNR has regulatory oversight on the dam but cannot force the town to address the lake's water level. The dam is in compliance with all regulations and is not violating the law, she said.


Residents and town officials disagree to what extent Turtle Lake's water levels are decreasing. Town Chairman Wayne Redenius said above average precipitation over the last few years increased water levels before a drought this year began to draw it back down.


If residents were to create their own lake district, they first would need to petition the town board. Because the dam and the road are the same, the two taxing bodies would need to reach an agreement on such issues as maintenance and oversight, said Jeff Thornton of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.


The lake district would have to elect a board of commissioners, which would include property owners along Turtle Lake.



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