This Monday, at its regular monthly meeting, the Oneida Conservation and UW-Extension Education Committee heard a grant proposal from the Vilas County Land and Water Conservation Department. This grant proposal would be forwarded on to Lumberjack RC&D for possible approval, but conservation specialist Quita Sheehan needed a nod from not only the Vilas committee, which she received last week, but from the Oneida committee as well.
This study would look at several lakes in Vilas and Oneida counties, finding any correlations between water clarity over time and property values. Sheehan presented the grant proposal, noting it would not take any county funds to complete the study, hence the reason for applying to Lumberjack for the grant.
She stated that a research scientist from UW-Eau Claire, who was conducting the study, would first start with all lakes in Vilas and Oneida County that were over 100 acres. From there, the lakes would be narrowed down based on those that have enough Secchi disk data available as well as properties sold in the past number of years. This pool of lakes, then, would give the study enough data to make an accurate prediction of how changes in overall water clarity affected property values over that same time period on any given lake. The complex model, she said, would attempt to remove other variables to property values and look solely at water clarity. Dave Noel from the Oneida County Lakes and Rivers Association (OCLRA) was present as well to show OCLRA's support for this study. The Vilas County Lakes and Rivers Association has also pledged support to the study.
"I've been working with Dave Noel from Oneida County Lakes and Rivers Association and we just thought this would be another piece of information we would be able to give to folks who live on lakes - shoreland owners, property owners, lake associations, to local governments, so that when decisions are being made, at the personal level - how do we manage our shorelines? - or at the town or county level, how do we, what effect might management decisions we make that might affect our shorelines, what effect would that have in terms of our local economy?" Sheehan said. This tool, she told the committee, would be very useful in those situations.
"The question always comes up, does the water clarity really affect property values," Noel said. "We've had some studies done around the state and we've said, oh yeah, look at these studies, but we really lack data for Oneida and Vilas counties."
He spoke about another study that was done in all of the Mississippi headwaters, noting that there were some interesting findings there. Sheehan said, on one particular lake out of our area, a decline in water clarity equated to an 10-11 percent reduction in property values.
"I know at times we've cited other studies and studies that have been done around the nation," chairman Bob Mott said. "We talked about this some time ago. I would be interested to see this localized in Vilas and Oneida counties because we have such a large number of lakes and certainly a high number of lakeshore properties. It would be interesting."
The committee agreed with Mott, that there was value in this study and seeing real numbers for our area would be a good tool. This information, once compiled, would be used in outreach material and for educational purposes for all stakeholders. The committee unanimously approved to send the grant proposal on to Lumberjack with a favorable recommendation from Oneida County.
Oneida County AIS specialist Stephanie Boismenue presented her grant application during this week's meeting as well. She was looking for the committee's recommendation to apply for an AIS prevention, education and planning grant from the DNR. She was still waiting for estimated in-kind contribution costs from various partners in the fight against AIS. This grant, though, she said, would pay for two of the needed three LTE employees for the program. The other LTE employee needed next summer would be paid for with 2017 grant money that was still available. The board approved sending this application on to the DNR with a favorable approval as well.
The issue of the largely unused timber bridge owned by the land and water conservation department was also discussed at the meeting. Manny Oradel, a forester with the DNR, brought the matter to the attention of the board, wondering if the bridge should simply be sold. Lumberjack bought the bridge, he said, and eventually gave it to the land and water department. It is to be used by the public for projects with special conservation considerations, such as when a private logging company needed to access an area beyond a patch of wetland, or when a private land owner would have need to it to complete something such as a reforestation project.
However, the last time the bridge was rented, he said, was in 2012. If the department planned to keep the bridge, he would need to buy another tarp for it this year.
In lieu of selling the bridge, committee chairman Bob Mott asked the department to first attempt to market it better. He asked that a letter be sent to all private logging companies as well as to the towns in the county, making them aware that the bridge was available for rent. While he agreed it may never be a "money maker" of a venture, he felt there was some value in keeping it. The forestry department, Karl Jennrich said, had expressed some interest in the bridge, but they were not "keen on the idea" of letting the public have use of it. The original intent, he said, was to have the bridge available for public use. It was decided to take the advice of Mott and send out letters to towns and logging companies to see if there would be any interest in using the bridge before a decision may be made to sell it.
Beckie Gaskill may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.