Wednesday, November 23, 2016

About that WI algae outbreak...WI eased algae-fighting program

Remember the Wisconsin water crisis I so often write about?
The current official and lamentably partisan disdain for good science, established law and principled public water policy emerged in the early hours of Governor Walker's administration.
That's when, in the name of job-creation, Walker pushed the Legislature to adopt a bill short-circuiting the formal, routine review of a wetland filling permit application from a Green Bay-area developer (and Walker campaign contributor) to facilitate the construction of a national fishing equipment mega-store...
Not even a subsequent 2011 letter from federal officials citing a jaw-dropping 75 "omissions and deviations" in Wisconsin's management of the US Clean Water Act has slowed the flow of [negative] proposals or actions by the Governor, state agencies and the Legislature...
Now producing waterway dead zones, groundwater use permit favoritism and other breakdowns of resource stewardship statewide

Yes, dead zones, as described in this 2015 story:

The tide of nutrients from the Fox River and other tributaries will help create the latest, and most likely, longest-lasting dead zone in Lake Michigan's Green Bay this summer.  
The problem is caused by vast amounts of phosphorus and other nutrients that wash from farms and urban landscapes and produce conditions that create oxygen-deprived stretches on the bay.
Which are by-products of intentional institutional oversight deregulation, Department of Natural Resources staffing cuts, varies pollution enabling outcomes and other pro-business favors by state government at the expense of the people's rights to clean, accessible water?

So it is not entirely shocking that word would come by email this afternoon about yet more water contamination, and before you read the notice, remember that the State of Wisconsin under Scott Walker with the support of the Journal Sentinel unwound as part of its war on clean water and the environment a carefully-crafted plan to reduce algae-producing phosphorus runoff...and gave industry and other big polluters an additional 20 years to stop their dumping.

Now read on about the other kind of pond scum:

Courte Oreilles Lakes Association

For immediate release

Recent Blue-Green Algae Alert on Lac Courte Oreilles 
What to look for as a homeowner and how to report anything new or unusual 
When a lake looks like pea soup, that’s the effect of a blue-green algae bloom. A first-ever bloom of this kind developed on Stuckey Bay, Lac Courte Oreilles, on or about Sunday, November 6, 2016 and lasted for five days. Gary Pulford, COLA vice-president and Brett McConnell, environmental specialist for the LCO Conservation Department, took pictures and collected samples as directed by LimnoTech, an independent water environment research and engineering firm based in Ann Arbor, MI, that regularly assists federal and state agencies, including the Wisconsin DNR, to study lakes and streams across the country. 
The phytoplankton samples were sent to LimnoTech’s lab at Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, for microcystin analysis and determination of any toxicity for humans or pets on the lake. Samples were also sent to Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) Duluth, MN, for identification of the individual algae species that made up this algal bloom. 
November 6, 2016, this was the blue-green algae bloom in Stuckey Bay near the cranberry bog discharge canal.

What Causes Algae Blooms 
“Algal blooms are caused by excessive nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen) in the water, causing an explosion in algae production. Blooms are usually seen in mid to late summer when higher water temperatures help drives excess algae production. It is unusual to have algae blooms into November. This late bloom on Lac Courte Oreilles can likely be explained by the by the warm temperatures we are experiencing combined with an ever-lengthening growing season, the lake turning over and nutrient-rich water being forced to the surface, and the phosphorus-rich flood water being discharged from the cranberry bogs during harvest--all happening at the same time,” said Pulford. 
Lab Results for Incident on Lac Courte Oreilles 
According to Ed Verhamme, Project Engineer at LimnoTech, “I received confirmation from the lab that neither of the samples contained any traces of algal toxins above detection limits. That doesn’t mean toxins are not possible in the future. We’ve seen non-toxic blooms turn toxic (on Lake Erie) when faced with limited availability of nitrogen in the water. Ratios of nitrogen to phosphorus are key trends to track in the lake.” 
Brett McConnell of the LCO Conservation Department collected blue-green algae samples on Stuckey Bay on November 7, 2016.

Homeowner Information – Blue-Green Algae 
Information on identifying blue-green algae and safety precautions for humans and pets was provided to COLA by Gina LaLiberte, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Water Resources Management Specialist – Water Quality Monitoring Section. She also suggests that homeowners becoming familiar with the information about blue-green algae on the following websites: 
Wisconsin Department of Health Services: 
What to Look for and How to Report What You See 
Every homeowner on Lac Courte Oreilles plays an important role in monitoring what is happening on the lake. Be on the lookout for any changes you see or anything you consider unusual. With both the recent cisco and whitefish die-off in October 2016 and this algae bloom, it was homeowners reporting what they saw that was key to immediate data collection and analysis. Even if you have a question about something you see, let the COLA board know. We are here and ready to help. Report what you see to COLA at or call 612-839-8558. 
Thank you! Together we will make sure we are all doing the best to look after and take care of Lac Courte Oreilles. 

Learn more about COLA’s efforts to protect the water quality of Lac Courte Oreilles—the fifth-largest natural lake in Wisconsin, an Outstanding Resource Water, and a rare, two-story cold-water fishery. As part of this goal, COLA is committed to helping provide the science and lead the way in reducing pollution, to serve not only Lac Courte Oreilles and its watershed, but also other Wisconsin lakes and the organizations that support them. Visit For questions and interviews, contact Jim Coors at or call 608-628-0694.

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