FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Do I (or my child) need a license to operate a motorized boat?
Anyone born after January 1, 1989 is required to take a boater’s safety course to legally operate a boat or personal watercraft (PWC) in the state of Wisconsin. Anyone is eligible to take a boater safety class and receive a safety education completion certificate. The certificate is not valid for a child until he or she is 12 years old. View ‘The Handbook! Of Wisconsin Boating Laws and Responsiblities’ at (click for DNR website).
Who determines the level of the lake?
Shawano Lake water levels are adjusted by the dam at the Little Rapids facility on the Wolf River. The dam is owned and operated by Eagle Creek Renewable Energy. Under their license, Eagle Creek is required to maintain the water level at the dam reservoir between 802.1 and 803.17 median sea level, a range of about 12 inches. Eagle Creek has no discretion to hold back water or to release water. They monitor the headwater elevation very closely in order to adjust gate openings to ensure that they are maintaining the water level within the required range.
This is different from how the dam had been operated in years past. There was a time when releases were done to generate more water flow, and as a result create more electricity, during times of high demand for power. When power demand was low, water would be held back. This led to fluctuating water levels. This practice was discontinued some time ago.
The federal regulations that Eagle Creek operates under were developed with input from various state agencies. Eagle Creek must abide by these regulations in order to maintain its license to operate the dam. The license must be renewed every 30 years.
Why does the amount of vegetation in the waterways vary from year to year?
In some summers, many Wisconsin lakes have experienced an increase in aquatic vegetation growth. While there isn’t a quick or easy answer, water resource professional theorize that increases in aquatic vegetation are the result of a variety of occurrences:
Early and very warm springs boost the development of new plants.
Record breaking temperatures in the spring and summer with above average growing degree days.
More frequent and intense rain events increase nutrient loads to Shawano waterways and contribute to increased vegetation growth. Periods of calm winds, hot weather and an ample supply of nutrients throughout the summer can fuel the growth of algae and duckweed.
Zebra mussels in large numbers have the ability to make the water clearer because an adult zebra mussel can filter a liter of water per day, siphoning out all the small particles they encounter. Increased water clarity allows for more light penetration which aids the growth of aquatic plants.
In sum, clear water, nutrients, periods of calm weather, low currents, warm water and other factors all can affect vegetation growth in Shawano waterways.
Where is chemical weed treatment applied?
Each year SAWM does limited chemical treatment of nuisance weeds to enhance lake navigation and recreation. By DNR permit we are restricted to treating only the following areas:
The buoy lines on the north and south shores
The bay between the channel to the river and Webers Point
Cecil Bay area
A section of the lake along Highway 22
A section of the lake more towards the middle of the lake
SAWM must apply for, pay for and receive DNR approval for the permit each year. The permit is based on the size of the area treated. The above areas are all specifically targeted because of high lake traffic and specific problems in those areas. All chemicals used are safe, biodegradable, DNR approved, and do no harm to fish or swimmers.
The channel and river are not sprayed primarily because the chemicals would be washed away by the current before they could become effective. In addition our DNR permit does not allow spraying in these areas.
SAWM is fortunate to have its own volunteer chemical applicator. Bart DeFere takes several courses on his own time and must pass a challenging testing program to be certified to make the chemical applications. We could not afford to do these treatments if we had to hire an outside company to do them. One of the SAWM barges has specifically been outfitted to do the spraying, including a special setup that includes tanks for chemical distribution.
What causes algae?
Algae blooms are an unusually dense growth of aquatic single celled plants. Excessive amounts of nutrients that enter our lakes leads to eutrophication (accelerated plant growth). Sometimes plant growth may be in the form of nuisance algae that “bloom,” turning the water pea green and sometimes even causing fish kills. They occur, frequently to the point where they discolor the water, when ideal factors combine to promote growth – generally light, temperature, salinity and nutrients. Algae blooms are a natural phenomenon but their frequency, duration, extent and density are all increased in waters where human activities on land increase nutrient runoff.
If your algae looks like fluffy clouds or cotton candy, there’s a good chance its filamentous algae, sometimes called “moss” or “pond scum.” Cladophora feels “cottony,” which spirogyra is bright green and very slimy to the touch, and pithophora (or “horse hair”) has a very coarse texture like horse hair or steel wool. As algae grow, it produces oxygen that gets trapped in the entangled strands of algae. This entrapped oxygen makes the algae buoyant and causes it to rise to the surface.
Algae are necessary for a healthy lake ecosystem, but there can be too much algae. When this happens, the grazers who eat the algae can’t keep up. As the uneaten algae die off, they sink to the lake bottom and decay. The process of decay requires bacteria, which in turn require oxygen. If there is an abundance of dead algae, bacteria use up too much oxygen, and there isn’t enough left over for all of the animals, like insects and fish. Too much algae can also give lakes an unpleasant green color or a surface scum.
Unlike toxic blue-green algae, which is blue-green in color (but can be brown or purple) and appears cloudy or like thick pea soup, Cladophora, pithophora and spirogyra are from the green algae family. Green algae don’t produce toxins but it is still important to think about practicing good hygiene, such as washing off, if you come in contact with it.
Short term, the best method for homeowners to remove filamentous algae is to rake out the floating clumps and compost these piles or use them in your garden as mulch. Chemical control requires a permit from the DNR. Long term, waterfront property owners and farmers can limit the amount of water and nutrients reaching the water. Reducing fertilizer use, keeping animal waste out of waterways and storm drains, preventing soil erosion on farms and construction sites, planting buffers along waterways, and keeping leaves and grass clippings out of the streets are just a few of the ways that we can all reduce phosphorous runoff over the long run to help keep the problems from getting worse.
What is swimmer’s itch?
Swimmer’s itch is a skin rash that affects some people that swim in bodies of water, including Shawano Lake. Following is information that was provided by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
Swimmer’s itch is a skin rash caused by a parasite which ordinarily infects birds, semi-aquatic mammals, and snails. As part of their developmental life-cycle, these parasites are released from infected snails, migrate through the water, and are capable of penetrating the skin of people. After penetration, these parasites remain in the skin and die but can cause an allergic reaction in some people. The parasite in people does not mature, reproduce or cause any permanent infection.
Only about one-third of the people who come in contact with the parasite develop swimmer’s itch. People who swim or wade in infested water may experience this itchy rash. All age groups and both sexes can be involved, but children are most often infected due to their habits of swimming or wading in shallow water and playing on the beach as the water evaporates form their skin. Swimmer’s itch may be prevalent among bathers in lakes in many parts of the world.
An individual may get the infection by swimming or wading in infested water and then allowing water to evaporate off the skin rather than drying the skin with a towel. Person-to-person spread does not occur.
Whenever infested water is allowed to evaporate off the skin, an initial tingling sensation may be felt associated with the penetration of the parasite into the skin. The irritated spot reaches its maximum size after about 24 hours; the itching may continue for several days. The symptoms should disappear within a week.
A person’s first exposure to infested water may not result in the itchy rash. Repeated exposure increases a person’s allergic sensitivity to the parasite and increases the likelihood of rash development. Symptoms may appear within one to two hours of exposure.
There is no treatment necessary for swimmer’s itch. Some people may get relief from the itching by applying skin lotions or creams to the infected site.
The first outbreaks usually occur in late May or early June. The outbreaks in Wisconsin may last from two weeks in the northern lakes to a month in the southern lakes. In some lakes it may last the entire summer.
To reduce the chances of getting swimmer’s itch:
Towel off immediately after swimming or wading in infested water to prevent rash development.
Swim in water away from the shore.
Avoid swimming in areas where snails have accumulated.
Don’t encourage birds to stay near swimming areas by feeding them.
Other tips from Shawano Lake veterans: apply Vaseline or soap before entering the lake and towel off as soon as you leave the water. Wash off with Phels Naptha soap immediately.