Lake Owen Association Lake Manager Report

2019 Annual Meeting

Your new Lake Manager team: Cheryl Clemens with Harmony Environmental and Steve Schieffer with Ecological Integrity Service, was hired in October 2018. Both Cheryl and Steve have many years of experience working with successful lake programs across Northern Wisconsin. We understand that lake management is complex and strive to use the best available science to strategically plan and implement lake programs. Steve is assisted by Nile Merton, graduate of Northland College, and Zach Clemens, student at UW‐ Eau Claire. Cheryl and Steve coordinate all efforts, with Steve’s team focusing on water quality data collection and analysis, aquatic plant surveys, and aquatic invasive species inventory. Cheryl is the Project Manager working directly with the board and partners to plan and coordinate the aquatic invasive species decontamination station and AIS monitoring and response. Cheryl will also provide shoreland restoration technical assistance.

Our focus in 2019 and 2020 is to implement priority recommendations from the Comprehensive Management Plan for Lake Owen developed by Northland College and the Lake Owen Association in 2015. The work is funded by an $186,500 Lake Protection Grant from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and matched by Lake Association funds. The Board is actively involved in the plan implementation – especially activities related to the decontamination station.

Water Quality

Why does Lake Owen have such fantastically clear water? What future changes could threaten Lake Owen water clarity?

To answer this question we are initially focusing on the chemical and physical characteristics of the lake. We will delve further into biological processes if our initial investigation isn’t conclusive.

The epilimnion (surface water where there is enough light for algae production) is very low in nutrients and algae growth. However, the hypolimnion (bottom water) is very high in nutrients. If brought to the surface these nutrients would lead to more algae growth and decrease clarity. We are collecting data primarily in the metalimnion (the zone between these two regions) to better understand lake dynamics.

Data collection includes:
 Nutrient (phosphorus and nitrogen) concentrations and total amount – in various areas and

depths of the lake
 Zooplankton present (they eat algae)
 Temperature and oxygen measurements (explain stratification/lake layering processes)

Further analysis:
Our GIS specialist is dividing the watershed (area that drains to the lake) into subwatersheds. This will allow us to separately analyze water quality and potential threats and best practices to address these threats in various regions of the lake. We will have results of this work for you by the end of the year.

Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Surveys

Aquatic Invasive Species are by definition in Wisconsin statutes, nonindigenous species whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.

While it is difficult to predict impacts once established in a given lake, threats of invasive species include damage to property, decreases in property value, degradation of recreation, and very high costs of control. Prevention is by far the preferred approach to address the risk of introduction of invasive species. Lake Owen is a highly used recreational lake, and there is definitely a risk of aquatic invasive species being introduced and established in the lake. Impacts are difficult to predict ‐ conductivity measurements suggest zebra mussels can grow here, and we will be measuring Ca levels this summer to further assess susceptibility. The list of zebra mussel infestations in WI and MN is long, and expanding to more and more lakes including some nearby. While it is true that establishment and spread of Eurasian or hybrid Eurasian/northern water milfoil is most common where there is organic sediment in 6‐12 feet deep water, Steve has managed lakes where it grows in rocky, sandy substrate.

Lake Owen AIS Surveys ‐ 2019

  Grid and meander surveys
  Full aquatic plant survey ‐ planned late July/early August (evaluate natives, look for invasives)
  Shoreline survey (yellow flag iris and aquatic forget‐me‐not)
  Zebra and quagga mussel plate samplers (2 landings)
  Ca samples ‐ planned July (susceptibility to zebra mussels, conductivity indicates lake is susceptible)
  Veliger tows ‐ planned (presence of veliger/larvae)

During the yellow flag iris survey, we found three new locations and some native blue flag previously identified as yellow flag. The USFS fact sheet reports “It can form dense colonies and impenetrable thickets in fresh or brackish water displacing native species and altering habitat for animals. All parts of the plant are poisonous.” We will be asking landowners with yellow iris for permission to chemically treat and working with the USFS to treat on their lands. Hand removal efforts have not been very effective. We have maps and permission forms here today.

Decontamination Station

We are happy to report that the decontamination station is up and running. Many questions have come up regarding the station.

How are invasive species introduced into lakes?

People and their boats, equipment, and trailers spread invasive species. This is evident from the patterns of spread, and low levels of invasion on lakes without public access. Researchers can even pinpoint the lake from which a zebra mussel invasion originated using DNA analysis. These studies show that invasions occur in clusters with nearby lakes, the most likely sources of AIS invasion.

What is the importance of a hot water, high pressure system for preventing aquatic invasive species?

Hot water kills aquatic invasive species in short order: 140F with 10 second exposure, 120F with 2 minute exposure. High pressure allows removal of plant and animal material that stubbornly adheres to boats and trailers. Next best is sanitation with a mild bleach solution, but that requires being left in place for 10 minutes.

How is the station operated?

The Lake Owen Station is located at the SW corner of Highway 63 and N Lake Owen Drive (FS RD 213). This is the route most used to access the North Outlet Landing and Two Lake Campground. It is operated by trained staff with hours that coincide with staffing at the North Outlet Landing. Generally: Sun. thru Thurs. 8 – 2, Fri. 8 ‐ 4, Sat. 7 – 5.

We are following procedures modeled after experience in Minnesota. Boats go through a process of inspection to determine if decontamination is needed. If boats have been in waters known to be contaminated with AIS or boats were in another lake less than 5 days previously, decontamination is completed. Because any water left in live wells, motors, and ballast tanks poses a threat of zebra mussel veliger transport, internal areas of these are treated with 120F water.

When the station is closed, we have a sign that suggests following best practices


INSPECT your boat and equipment

REMOVE vegetation, animals, and debris

DRAIN WATER from motor, live wells, bait buckets DRY for at least 5 days!

Will people use the station?

That is the challenge. While free to the public and conveniently located, it is not at a landing. Boat decontamination is not required in Bayfield County. The LOA Board and Lake Manager will continue to work with Bayfield County and the Town of Drummond to pass ordinances to require decontamination and establish effective enforcement.

We have invited press and partners to an open house and demonstration event planned for Monday, July 15 at 4:30 p.m. There are also signs and banners at the station itself, a flyer distributed to area businesses and public places, and a coupon incentive for visitors. Our Clean Boats, Clean Waters staff are trained to direct boaters to the decon station and to report incidents where AIS violations are found.

How do we protect the South end of the lake?

Resort owners are encouraging and may require visitors to come to the decontamination station prior to launching. A decontamination station using a dilute bleach solution is being established at Otter Bay. The coupon will encourage users to get a treat or drink at the bar while they wait for their boat to be sanitized and ready to enter the lake.

Shoreland Restoration

Natural areas with native vegetation characterize much of the Lake Owen shoreline. They create a stunning visual experience and help to keep the water clear and clean. Although much of the Lake Owen shoreline is natural, the lake study found some areas where native vegetation could be planted to enhance natural beauty and protect water quality.

These areas are eligible for free technical assistance and cost sharing for installation of native plants. Cheryl has worked with hundreds of clients to recommend and select appropriate plants and design native plantings. She will be working with local contractors and property owners to encourage shoreland restoration. If you have lawn to the edge of the lake, your site is likely a good candidate. Contact Cheryl for more information and to set up a free consultation for your property.

Cheryl Clemens
Lake Manager for Lake Owen Association