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COMPREHENSIVE LAKE AND WATERSHED MANAGEMENT PLAN -BIG CHETAC, BIRCH, AND LITTLE BIRCH

Updated: Aug 29, 2023



PREPARED FOR THE BIG CHETAC AND BIRCH LAKES ASSOCIATION



In the mid-2000’s Big Chetac, Birch, and Little Birch lakes experienced severe algae blooms such that during the summer of 2005, the Sawyer County Land and Water Conservation Department placed environmental hazard warning signs on the lake due to the high blue-green algae concentrations.


Deteriorating water quality conditions in the system drove the Big Chetac and Birch Lakes Association (BCABLA) to pursue a series of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) Lake Management Planning Grants to complete a comprehensive “Getting Rid of the Green” lake study. The goal of this study, which began in 2007 and was completed in 2010, was to identify the contributing factors to the blue-green algae blooms in Big Chetac Lake. It included a comprehensive look at the nutrient levels in the system, their sources, and the impact they have. It included a whole-lake early season curly-leaf pondweed (CLP) and mid-summer point-intercept (PI) aquatic plant survey, groundwater and watershed assessment, septic system survey, and a paleo-ecological study of the sediments in the lake to determine historical conditions.


The end result of this study was a Comprehensive Lake Management Plan (LMP) for the Big Chetac Lake written by Short, Elliot, Hendrickson (SEH) Inc. Recommendations for improving water quality were presented to the BCABLA and the WDNR in June 2010. That LMP was reviewed and commented on by a WDNR Technical Review Team in September 2010; and then adopted in part by the BCABLA in November 2010 based on recommendation made by the BCABLA Lake Management Plan Committee. Between 2013 and 2015 several management actions were implemented with support from a majority of BCABLA members and the WDNR (technical support and grant funding) including large-scale chemical management of CLP in Big Chetac Lake and an Alum Dosage Study for Big Chetac Lake. Implementation of these management actions was not entirely supported however.


In 2013, opposition to management actions being implemented surfaced from three local units of government: Town of Edgewater, Town of Birchwood, and the Village of Birchwood. Additional opposition was voiced by a few members of the community. Despite this opposition management implementation continued through 2015 In 2015, the BCABLA Lake Management Plan Committee completed an update of the 2010 plan and submitted their efforts to the WDNR for review.


The update highlighted what had been done between 2010 and 2015 and how it impacted certain aspects of Big Chetac Lake including water quality, the fishery, and aquatic plants both native and non-native. The WDNR completed its review of the updated plan and put its determinations into a letter sent to the BCABLA in January 2016. The WDNR did not approve the rewrite, and did not support chemical management of CLP proposals for 2016 made by the BCABLA based on the 2015 update. Instead the WDNR suggested that money left in an existing grant be used to complete a much more involved public input and involvement project that would hopefully better define and attempt to resolve conflicts that divided many stakeholders affected by the condition of Big Chetac, Birch, and Little Birch lakes and the management actions aimed at making improvements to them.


July 2016, Lake Education and Planning Services (LEAPS) was contracted with and led a nearly two-year public involvement campaign culminating in this document, considered an update of the 2010 LMP, and a plan for implementing it. This updated version referred to as “Comp Plan”, focuses on all three lakes in the system. Additional water quality and aquatic plant data was collected on Birch Lake in 2017; new aquatic plant data was collected on Big Chetac Lake; water quality monitoring and aquatic plant survey results since 2010 have been reviewed; and various surveys and reports completed by the BCABLA, WDNR and other stakeholders have been reviewed. In addition, representatives from a majority of the stakeholder groups have been heavily involved in the discussion leading to this updated plan, and several opportunities were provided for the general public to provide input and review.


The 2010 Lake Management Plan was and continues to be a good resource for understanding how a lake works and identifying those things impacting Big Chetac and to a lesser degree, Birch and Little Birch lakes, both good and bad.


This new Comp Plan updates existing information, adds new information, and then sticks to the nuts and bolts of management planning and implementation for all three lakes through at least 2024.


Portions of this Comp Plan will focus on the following:


1) public input gathered related to past, present, and future management recommendations;

2) past management planning and implementation;

3) watershed and lake characteristics;

4) updated water quality and aquatic plant data;

5) fisheries survey results;

6) Shoreland Habitat Assessment;

7) aquatic invasive species;

8) aquatic plant management;

9) whole lake management;

10) goals, objectives, and actions in this plan; and

11) a review of WDNR grant funding opportunities.






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