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Once a month, through the summer and early fall, Dick Barrickman plans on wading into the middle of a country stream, holding a small bottle at least six inches below the water surface, filling it and then packing it on ice in a box in the car.

Just doing his part to give Lake Wissota a 101-year health check-up.

Dick is part of a team doing stream monitoring this year in an effort to gather data that should be useful in planning strategy for the Lake Wissota Stewardship project. It may seem strange to check what’s going on (or rather, into) the lake by taking water samples miles away, but that’s where the action is.

Impoundments – lakes formed by the damming of a river or stream – tend to collect sediment over time, and that sediment contains phosphorus, which is a nutrient that leads to those disgusting green algae blooms on Wissota and other lakes in the area.

The Moon Bay area of Wissota, on the east side of the big lake, has been a problem area for algae blooms. Dick and his wife, Barb, were among the Moon Bay neighborhood leaders who urged the extension of the Little Lake Wissota Stewardship project into a larger portion of the lake, not only because of need, but to bring more people on board with the overall efforts.

“The implementation team for the stewardship project was looking for a way to do some work in the watershed for Little Lake Wissota and the Moon Bay area – the Yellow River watershed,” said Dick, a fellow Lake Wissota Improvement and Protection Association board member. “We had a meeting with the DNR people and did some brainstorming on what we could do. They suggested we do lake and stream monitoring.”

Runoff water from throughout the massive watershed carries phosphorus into the lake. In Little Lake Wissota, the major inflow streams are Stillson Creek and Paint Creek. “But there are other creeks in the watershed,” Dick said. “The term ‘watershed’ is all-encompassing.”

Indeed, the watershed for the entire large and small lake is estimated at more than 5,000 square miles.

That is, other little streams flow into the major inflow creeks of the small lake, and likewise into the Yellow River on the Moon Bay side of the lake. It stands to reason that the phosphorus is not pouring into the large or small lake in equal levels from all directions. So what are the major areas of concern? That’s what monitoring those little feeder streams can help determine.

The Lake Wissota Stewardship project seeks to improve water quality through improved landowner practices. It makes sense to focus those improved practices in areas that are contributing more heavily to the phosphorus inflow. So where are they? That’s what Dick and his crew are working to find out.

“We take the water from the middle, where the water is moving swiftly,” he said. “We don’t want a sample from pooled water; we need water that is more representative of what’s going into the lake.”

The idea behind putting the little bottles on ice is to prevent, or at least slow, the growth of any algae or other organisms in the sample.

The samples from each team member are then sent to a DNR lab in Madison, with complete notes on the time and date and locations the samples were taken.

So what have we learned so far? Nothing, really. It’s way too early to tell. This program just got started. Results will be published on a DNR website.

Efforts to improve water quality on Lake Wissota have so far produced results. After completion of projects on Little Lake Wissota Stewardship Project before its expansion to the Yellow River and Moon Bay areas resulted in about a dozen more algae-free days on the small lake per open water season, according to Dan McCabe, former co-chair of the project.

It takes efforts like those of Dick and his team of volunteers, and most especially the landowners who agree to take on projects on their property, that lead to better wonderous days on Lake Wissota for everyone.

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