In late 2018, the Geneva Lake Environmental Agency (GLEA) announced its appeal to the Wisconsin DNR for grants and funding assistance for a multi-faceted abatement program to fight the spread of Starry stonewort (SSW), an aggressive invasive species of algae detected in Trinke Estates Lagoon. This program includes hydraulic dredging, our only hope of possibly removing the ecological threat.
It is now nearly 6 months later, and the hydraulic dredging project has been canceled until further notice. GLEA Executive Director Ted Peters originally set the deadline of Memorial Day to finish the project to accommodate the Trinke Estates Association members who use the 3 lagoons to park their boats, but a series of negotiations between Peters, association leadership, the DNR and contractors has pushed the project (possibly) to the fall.
Community members have grown frustrated, as shelving this project gives Starry stonewort a stronger chance of spreading and causing more damage. The summer would have been the ideal time for hydraulic dredging, but the GLEA seemed hesitant to avoid backlash from Trinke Estates Association members.
As an interim measure, the DNR and the GLEA has suggested using chemicals to combat SSW, which has raised several concerns within the community. Chemical treatments could be the very reason why SSW first took hold in the lagoon -- the lagoon is already treated twice a year. This kills everything that grows and creates the ideal environment for SSW to spread, as it thrives on dead plants.
Chemical treatments not only threaten the environment; they are ineffective at eradicating SSW because the bulbils, its star-shaped reproductive organs, take root down under the sediment where chemicals can’t reach. SSW typically recolonizes itself 3 to 5 days after treatment, making these treatments ultimately ineffective. The logical interim measure is to quarantine the lagoons until the hydraulic dredging can begin.
The DNR started on the right track by presenting a responsible eradication plan. The problem is, they also offered a secondary plan of chemical treatments, which has unfortunately become the chosen method – and the hydraulic dredging has since been canceled. The DNR now seems to be wary of taking action to push the dredging project forward. This is why we have requested the Trinke Estates Association to issue a voluntary quarantine of the lagoon. We will keep you updated on the association’s response.
In the meantime, we cannot wait for action! As we enter boating season, the chances of this harmful species infiltrating Geneva Lake becomes greater by the day. Our window of opportunity to stop this threat is closing! We must urge the DNR to step up NOW before SSW spoils the health, beauty and vitality of our cherished Geneva Lake.
Help us send a strong message to the Governor’s office by signing our petition urging the DNR to stand up and order a quarantine in lieu of chemical treatments and to support timely hydraulic dredging efforts. Click below to ADD YOUR NAME NOW.
How did we get here?
The GLEA became aware of Starry stonewort in late 2018 and put together a swift investigation of the lake, verifying a single infestation in Trinke Estates Lagoon. Things got complicated quickly, as there is no single governmental authority for Geneva Lake. Trinke Estates Association does NOT have the authority to do the necessary work to address the infestation, but it can request the permit.
Under the Public Trust Doctrine, the DNR has authority to act as the trustee for the waterway since it is public land. The department did plan the collection and dewatering process to take place on the 6+ acre Trinke open park space and presented this plan to the 30-member Trinke Estates Association members on February 16th. The collection bags were to be fenced into a corner so the sediment could dry during the summer months. The next two months included meetings involving Ted Peters, Linn Chairman Jim Weiss, DNR Coordinator Kyle Mosel and Baxter & Woodman Engineer Douglas Snyder, all negotiating with Trinke Estates Association President Tim Cavanagh and other leadership members.
In the end, the Trinke Estates Association agreed to using their property for the initial dredging operation and to running the collection and dewatering hoses across Trinke property for a brief period of time. Using any of the park space for collection (and hydration and drying out) however, was off the table. The hunt was then on for an alternate collection site.
By the time Jim Weiss had identified another suitable site, we were well into spring, and the job would not have been completed by Memorial Day deadline. Integrated Lakes Management out of Waukegan, Illinois reported that it could do the job in the summer for $850,000 or in the fall for $174,000. This company appears to be the leading contender for the contract with a fall deadline.
What happens next?
Starry stonewort is the greatest challenge Geneva Lake has faced. Chapter NR 40 of the Wisconsin Invasive Species Rule supports fast action by the DNR to prevent new invasive species from coming into Wisconsin or, as is the case in Trinke Estates Lagoon, to eradicate invasive species that are already here but not yet established. The DNR is just required to get landowner permission or a judicial warrant to enforce this action, which the department appears unwilling to do.
We need the DNR and Governor Evers to stand up! Please share our petition with your neighbors, friends and all who care about the future of Geneva Lake.
In addition to signing our petition to the Governor, we also encourage the community to contact the Governor's office directly to alert them to this issue.
You can also put pressure on the Trinke Estates Leadership to issue a voluntary quarantine, and remind the LG city council that this is a serious issue demanding attention. Let's remind everyone in power that we strongly oppose the use of chemicals in Geneva Lake that could cause harm to our delicate ecosystem. Make your voice heard!
Trinke Estates Association Leadership
President Timothy Cavanaugh
Vice President Robert Silverstein
Lake Geneva City Council
Mayor Tom Hartz
First District: Shari Straube
First District: Selena Proksa
Second District: John Halverson
Second District: Doug Skates
Third District: Richard Hedlund
Third District: Tim Dunn
Fourth District: Ken Howell
Fourth District: Cindy Flower
About Starry stonewort and hydraulic dredging:
Starry stonewort (SSW) is a macro-algae, which means it does not have a vascular system like true plants. Bulbils - its star-shaped reproductive organs - are most plentiful in late summer but are present throughout the growing season. SSW forms a dense carpet of material in shallow area, and it poses a significant threat to any water body because its bulbils embed themselves in a water body’s sediment. Below is a photo of a Starry stonewort bulbil, courtesy of the Wisconsin DNR.
This video shows the drastic results of Starry stonewort infestation, as the species overtook Minnesota's Lake Koronis in just a couple years. This could very well be Geneva Lake if drastic action isn't taken to exterminate our colony of Starry stonewort currently isolated in Trinke Estates Lagoon.
Canceling the hydraulic dredging project means the GLEA will have to reapply for two $20,000 lake protection grants through the DNR if they end up wanting to do it in the fall. These are reimbursement grants, which means the GLEA would receive them for money spent up front for the dredging. Member communities, which include Lake Geneva, Fontana, Williams Bay and the Town of Linn, would also need to sign an agreement that commits them to backing the GLEA’s request for a $300,000 bank loan. The agreement commits these communities to repay the loan if the agency is unable to pay. Fontana Village President Pat Kenny reported that his village board already has committed to supporting the project, and Alderman Doug Skates has stated that he believes Lake Geneva would be willing to back the loan, as well.
If the hydraulic dredging is done in the fall, the sludge will reportedly be left onsite to drain during the winter, and it would then be moved to a landfill for disposal.
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