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Natural Reaction: Boulder Lake gets a check-up

August 02, 2019 by Jacob Friede

There was recently a directed lake study done on Boulder Lake, conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The results of that study were recently released at a Boulder Lake Health meeting held by the Boulder Lake Advancement Association.

“The bottom line is there weren’t any emergency or major issues. That’s one thing we were worried about,” Boulder Lake Advancement Association president Bill Niemuth said. “That’s not the case, so that’s really, really good to know, but there are things we can do to protect the health of our lake.”  

Lakes biologist Kevin Gauthier Sr. and water resource management specialist Ty Krajewski spent weeks surveying the lakes water quality, aquatic plants, woody habitat, and shorelines.  And for the most part, Boulder Lake is doing pretty well.

“This survey is a really nice check up,” Gauthier said. “This would likely detect if there was something red-flaggish going on.”

Fortunately, there was not.

Richard Schauss, who resides on Boulder Lake, helped out and took water samples. There was not an alarming amount of phosphorus or chlorophyl in Boulder Lake and it was not predominantly impacted by algae. Schauss also helped out with the water clarity tests, which is measured by dropping a Secchi disk into the lake and then recording the depth at which it can no longer be seen. The Secchi disk reading averaged six and a half feet, which means Boulder Lake is moderately clear and a mesotrophic lake. That is good news for fisherman.

“I think from a fisheries perspective, I think it’s generally a pretty good fishery. Mesotrophic lakes tend to be a pretty good fishery,” Gauthier said.

As far as aquatic plants, the survey found they grew in water up to six feet deep, so out of 613 total reference points on the lake, plants could’ve been found on 196 of them. They were only found on 36 spots. According to Gauthier, that is probably the result of Boulder Lake being primarily a sand, rock, and gravel bottomed lake. 

“I don’t know that’s it’s necessarily good or bad,” he said. “I think in this case it’s really reflective of what the lake is. There’s not a ton of muck on Boulder compared to some lakes.”

The plants were fairly diverse, however, in the few spots where they were found and that is a good indicator of lake health. Twenty different species were found and that resulted in a diversity score of 0.86, which Gauthier said is a pretty good score in comparison to low diversity lakes.

“We see them down in the 0.4, 0.5, 0.6, and that’s when one or two plants or three plants really kind of got an upper hand for whatever reason. In this case, that’s not the case,”Gauthier reported.

Boulder’s woody habitat, which creates healthy habitat for fish and other wildlife, was also surveyed. Gauthier and Krajewski went around the whole lake and looked for wood in two feet of water to the shore and what they found was consistent with most lakes.

“Where there’s no people there’s more wood. Where there’s people there’s less wood,” Gauthier said.

That was the trend with shorelines as well.  In the undeveloped areas of the lake, the shoreline had a good buffer of wild grasses, shrubs, and trees that prevent nutrient run-off and erosion. Where there was development, however, the shorelines were more manicured and vulnerable.

To help remedy that situation, Carolyn Scholl of the Vilas County Land and Water Conservation Department spoke to educate lake residents on what they can do to improve their shorelines and protect the good health of Boulder Lake.

“We want to see high quality shorelines area,” Scholl said. “In Land and Water Conservation we need to reduce soil erosion. That’s kind of one of our primary goals in our department.”

To achieve that, Scholl promoted shorelines with plenty of woody habitat and downed trees, and natural cover like native grasses, plants, and shrubs. She also recommended rain gardens and infiltration areas to hold water and water diversions that direct water away from running into the lake.

And now more than ever there is incentive to do all of these. Through the Healthy Lakes program, land owners can receive grant money to put these practices into action, and the Vilas County Land and Water Conservation Department can assist those interested in doing so. 

They not only go to properties and assess the shoreline situation and make recommendations on the best practices to implement, they also offer technical assistance with the Healthy Lakes grants themselves. 

“There is grant funding available through the DNR,” Scholl said. “We’ll do all the grant administration part. We’ll write the grant. We’ll administer it and get lake organizations through it. So you don’t have to worry about the grant part of things.”

Boulder Lake received a good health report this summer, and the practices Scholl spoke of are things everybody on the lake can do to make sure it stays that way. 

“Hey. It’s petty healthy,” Gauthier said. “But there are things we can do.”

Jacob Friede may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]


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