/ Opinions / Need lake project funding? Here’s where to look

Need lake project funding? Here’s where to look

May 29, 2020 by Ted Rulseh

Lake associations generally have slim budgets for projects to sustain or improve water quality and lake ecosystems. It’s even tougher for individual property owners to find money to take on lake enhancement projects, like a natural shoreline restorations.

That’s where the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Surface Water Grant Program comes in. It provides money for initiatives that include public outreach and education, lake surveys, invasive species prevention and control, habitat improvement, and more. 

The DNR has released a draft guidance document for the 2021 grant program and will begin accepting comments from the public in July. The program makes a total of $6 million in grants available to county and local governments, lake districts and associations, non-profit groups, school districts, property owners, and others.  

These grants can be a great way to pay for important projects that otherwise would not be affordable. In recent years the state has greatly streamlined the application and approval processes, so grants can be awarded faster and with less red tape. 

Suppose your lake group wants to educate members and other property owners about surface water quality and habitat protection. Grants of up to $5,000 are available for such purposes.

If you’re a property owner who wants to install best practices to help protect and improve your lake, you can apply for a Healthy Lakes & Rivers grant of up to $1,000 per project. These grants cover five best practices including fish sticks for fish habitat and the planting of vegetation in the shoreline area to limit runoff and lake pollution. 

If your lake group wants to take on a major enhancement project, Surface Water Restoration grants of up to $50,000 are offered, provided you have a project design plan that follows standards set by the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the DNR. 

For collecting basic information about your lake and its ecological condition, you can seek a grant for up to $10,000. On the other hand, if your lake group wants to create a comprehensive and in-depth lake management plan, grants for up to $25,000 are available. 

Other grants support initiatives like acquiring land and placing it into permanent conservation status to protect water quality and critical habitat, Clean Boats/Clean Waters education, invasive species protection, and rapid response to new invasive species infestations. In addition, $500,000 in grant funds is available to support research related to invasive species and their control.

So, clearly, whether you’re looking to restore a lake or make sure that it remains in good condition, you don’t have to go it alone. It’s worth looking through the DNR’s guidance document to find out what grants might best serve your needs and to understand how to apply successfully.

You can read the draft and explore grant possibilities for your lake or property by visiting https://dnr.wi.gov/aid/documents/surfacewater/SurfaceWaterGuidanceDRAFT.pdf.

Ted Rulseh resides on Birch Lake in Harshaw and is an advocate for lake protection and improvement. His Lakeland Times and Northwoods River News columns are the basis for a book, “A Lakeside Companion,” published by The University of Wisconsin Press. Ted may be reached at [email protected]

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