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Monday, August 20, 2018

Shoreland Plantings: Part of Healthy Lakes Best Practices

Have you ever loved a lake? I've never met a lake I didn't love. My husband and I are lucky enough to own a trailer on Little Green Lake in Markesan, Wisconsin. It's our happy place.

I recently wrote the following piece for our Little Green Lake newsletter. While the specifics are for our lake, county, and state, the general idea of working for lake health could translate to any place on earth. 

If you love a lake, here's information about best practices for healthy lakes . . . . 

We all love our Little Green Lake. If only there was a way to:

·  Make our lake cleaner and reduce that nasty blue-green algae

·  Help the fish population

·  Help the songbird and butterfly population 

·  Discourage geese and their lovely green droppings

·  Discourage deer and rabbits from nibbling plants

·  Discourage ticks

·  Prevent storm water runoff and erosion

·  Make our shoreline more beautiful.

Guess what? There is a way!! Not only that, the Wisconsin DNR and Wisconsin Lakes Partnership will do everything but hold your hand – and your hoe – to make the magic happen.

It all comes down to five easy-to-understand Healthy Lake “Best Practices.” They are:

1. Fish sticks (putting logs and large branches into lake near shore to create habitat; requires permit)

2. Diversion (using berms and dips to prevent runoff from getting into lake)

3. Rock infiltration (capturing and cleaning runoff through rock where water collects)

4. Rain gardens (planted near downspouts, with berms to hold water)

5. 350 square foot native plantings (a contiguous area of at least 350 square feet, or 10 feet wide by 35 feet along shore)


350 sq. ft. native plantings along shore

The buffer or transition area along a lake’s edge is critical to lake health. The average cost of 350 square feet of shoreland plantings is $1,000 but may vary from $480 - $2,400. Healthy Lakes grant funding of $1,000 is available for one 350 square foot area on a property. Site prep takes six weeks to six months. Installation takes one to two days. Maintenance covers two years. The project ends in three years. Ongoing weeding may be necessary in subsequent years. Detailed information and photos are found here: Here are tips:

·  Stay away from foot traffic areas and any septic field.

·  Look for erosion-prone areas in need of rehabilitation: bare ground; rilled or rutted areas; slumped banks.

·   If you wish to use herbicides adjacent to lakeshore, check first with Ben Jenkins (, UW-Extension Agricultural Agent.

·   Find a location at least 10 ft. wide, running 35 ft. continuously along the shore.

·  Determine your soil/sun/shade types to select native plants that will thrive there (LOTS of help online in this area!).

·  Choose your template and design shape (LOTS of help through the links in this article).

·  Choose your plant list and lay out the planting.

·  Prepare the site and do the planting.

·  Water and critter-proof the plants.

·  Consider adding cues that the area is intentionally planted and not neglected (wildlife feeders/houses; trimmed shrubs; fences/mulch; artwork; signage; etc.).

Sample of a native garden template

 Money is available through Healthy Lakes Grants!

From 2015-2017, Wisconsin invested $377,000 in 267 properties in 21 counties on 56 lakes, covering 407 best practices. Grant applications are available from State of Wisconsin, PO Box 7921, Madison WI 53707-7921 or 

For ideas, you can order a “get started” brochure.

The Healthy Lakes Grants annual deadline is Feb. 1, and funding is determined by April.

-   There’s a 75%/25% state-sponsor match (reimbursement grant).

-   Eligible sponsors, including qualified lake associations, lake districts, counties and other local government units, may apply on behalf of multiple landowners.

-   Individual property owners are not eligible grant sponsors, but any of the eligible partner groups could apply on their behalf.

-   There’s a standard two-year grant agreement.

Each best practice is capped at a $1,000 state share. There is self-reporting or a site visit on 10% of projects annually. A 10-year contract, with standard operation and maintenance details, is described in the grant agreement. A grant sponsor develops and administers the contract that the landowner signs.

How are grants evaluated?

Judging priorities may include:

-   How much the project provides for water quality protection/improvement;

-   How much the project helps fish/wildlife habitat, native vegetation, natural beauty;

-   Availability of public access to and public use of the lake;

-   Degree to which the project complements other efforts, and level of support from other organizations/partners;

-   Likelihood of project success in two-year timeline;

-   Degree of detail in the application.

Is your property appropriate for “Best Practices?”

Healthy Lakes Best Practices are meant for simple properties, where you can work on one or more of the Best Practices yourself and/or get grant assistance to help do it. On a simple property, you don’t need engineering design and review.  For guidance, contact Krista Kamke ( at Green Lake County Land Use Planning & Zoning Department.

What are examples of properties not appropriate for a “Best Practice?”

·  The slope is greater than 20%.

·  More than 20,000 square feet are cleared.

·  More than two acres drain to an eroded area.

·  Severe gully erosion (at least one foot deep) is present.

·  You’re not comfortable implementing solutions on your own.  

Even if you’re not ready for a “Big” project . . . 

Consider adapting some of the Best Practices in your own small way. Once you start browsing the Healthy Lakes websites, you’ll be hooked (no fishy pun intended)!


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