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As the centennial year of Lake Wissota draws to a close, the time has come for a renewed focus on the future of this jewel of the Chippewa Valley.

When the completion of the Wissota dam in 1917 created the impoundment we call Lake Wissota, the concept of managing natural resources was in its infancy. Few people gave much thought to how land and lake use policies might affect the future of the resource. A century later, the lake is showing its age. But today we have a better understanding of how water flowing into the lake carries sediment and nutrients that degrade water quality.

Users and residents of the lake are well familiar with the algae blooms that limit recreational use, impact the fishery and ultimately reduce the attractiveness and economic benefits of Lake Wissota to the community. Fortunately, in recent years efforts have been made to translate this better understanding of the dynamics of the lake environment into action.

The Little Lake Wissota Stewardship Project began as a five-year pilot project thanks to the generosity and commitment of the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company and the Chippewa County Land Conservation Department. With the cooperation of landowners, stream buffers and sediment basins were installed to reduce runoff in the watershed. About 40,000 trees and shrubs were planted as part of the effort.

Scientific models suggest that these installations have the potential to reduce the volume of nutrients delivered to the small lake by an estimated 672 pounds per year, resulting in a reduction of algae growth by 168 tons per year. The model measures the gains by added clean water days.

However, the participation of Leinenkugel’s was an effort of get the project started, and it is time for the people who love and use the lake the take over the efforts, which are being led by the Lake Wissota Improvement and Protection Association. Chippewa County has asked the LWIPA to commit to a contribution of $50,000 a year for the next five years to not only continue, but extend the project to the entire lake’s watershed.

Thanks to the support of local businesses, Lake Wissota landowners, and many other friends of the lake, the LWIPA can announce that it has secured enough funds to meet the $50,000 installment for 2018. Efforts to raise funds and pledges totaling $250,000 are ongoing to ensure that the Lake Wissota Stewardship Project reaches the goal set by the county. Chippewa County has asked that the balance of funds needed for the next five years be pledged by January 1, 2018.

To learn more about the Lake Wissota Stewardship Project and how you can help, visit http://www.lwipa.net.

Lake Wissota was still young when Wisconsin’s legendary conservationist Aldo Leopold, known as one of the fathers of the conservation movement, was first making his mark. In urging the public to adopt a land ethic, he was under no illusions that there would someday be a perfect balance between nature and man’s use of nature.

“We shall never achieve harmony with the land, any more than we shall achieve absolute justice or liberty for people,” Leopold wrote. “In these higher aspirations the important thing is not to achieve but to strive.”

Lake Wissota will never have crystal clear, pristine water, but we can stop the degradation of water quality, and even make it better. Let’s strive together to make it happen.

A Lake Wissota resident, Mark Gunderman is a member of the Lake Wissota Improvement and Protection Association.

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Chippewa Herald editor

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