Elkhart & Fox – Two Lakes, Too Different

I was visiting Elkhart Lake, WI recently, with the notion that this may be a sensible re-location spot for Clean Water Warrior. There is no doubt, the lake and the community are in many respects idyllic. A too-small, yet quaint village, abutting a beautiful world-class lake — Elkhart Lake is truly a destination for freshwater fans. And, as it turns out, race fans. The community’s Road America venue brings in over 100,000 people every racing weekend throughout the summer months. Not bad for a town with a population of 967.

Elkhart Lake, WI
Elkhart Lake, WI

Elkhart Lake has some terrific tourist history, too, dating back to the days of Al Capone. But its greatest asset may be its spring-fed water source, its incredible depth of nearly 120 feet, and the absence of farming or industry on its shores. Private residences, most valued at over $1,000,000, with responsible, updated septic systems surround the lake. This almost ensures that Elkhart Lake will remain clean and algae free for years to come.

Contrast that with poor Fox Lake, in Fox Lake WI — a neighbor less than 60 miles to the Southwest. Fed by creeks that empty into it after meandering through industrial parks and farms, and possessing a depth of no more than 20 feet, Fox Lake is almost doomed to its status as one of Wisconsin’s most at-risk lakes. What can be done to improve Fox Lake’s lot? Start with the farms. Wherever a 75-foot grass buffer does not exist between cropped land and creeks, create that space. Extend dramatically the distance between farms, and the lake itself. And eliminate any yard pesticide usage by lake dwellers.

Fox Lake at Peak Algae
Fox Lake at Peak Algae

Are these suggestions a solution all by themselves? No. Some conditions will simply always work against Fox Lake. But wherever implemented, they cannot hurt.

Harmful Algae Bloom Operational Forecast System – Perfect For Great Lakes

468px-NOAA_logoThe National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAAHarmful Algae Bloom (HAB) Operational Forecast System (OFS), which monitors bloom activity in the Gulf of Mexico from FL through TX, is working its way into the Great Lakes region.

Already, NOAA offers some OFS capabilities, the complete list of which appears via this link, but HAB monitoring is not yet a part.

Look for that to change and, though the HAB monitoring may have limited impact in area that already does a good job of monitoring bacteria levels such as E.coli (see: Wisconsin Beach Health), the extra involvement from NOAA certainly underscores the tremendously negative impact HAB have in freshwater and saltwater ecosystems alike.

The time to clean up Great Lakes? Now.

For those who live in the Great Lakes Basin, choking algae blooms in the Great Lakes, its tributaries, and inland lakes as well, is no longer news.

Algae Bloom Blankets Lake Erie, 2014
Algae Bloom Blankets Lake Erie, 2014

The matter is well-researched at this point, the major causes for the blooms are known, and it is even possible to identify what farm operations are the greatest contributors to this massive problem.

The below article provides a snapshot of current state of affairs:

Algae blooms in Great Lakes are of great concern.

Armed with indisputable research, and best practice land management approaches that are clear-cut and effective, there is every chance that these devastating, oxygen-sapping, aquatic life killing blooms can rapidly become a thing of the past.