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Aquatic vegetation causing problems in Lake Onalaska

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BRICE PRAIRIE, Wis. (WXOW) - Volunteers have spent the summer clearing the aquatic vegetation in Lake Onalaska.

"The last ten years with the high water events, the sediment has really been pouring in from the main channel and it's just got shallow enough now that these big vegetations beds are really taking hold," said Fritz Funk, Commissioner for the Lake Onalaska Protection and Rehabilitation District.

Dense groupings of wild rice, duckweed, and wild celery have exploded in growth which can cause problems for boaters and kayakers.

"The issues it causes with outboard motors is they can overheat and actually burn up motors, They clog the intakes, and then they can't cool the motors," said Mark Knapmiller, co-owner of Schafer's Marine Services.

He and his brother Chad bought a vegetation harvesting machine to help clear paths, but running the machine costs money. Cutting the paths in the lake costs about $3,000 per outing. The Knapmillers also had to spend time securing permits from U.S. Fish & Wildlife, the Wisconsin DNR, the Army Corps. of Engineers, and the Lake District to be able to cut the vegetation.

"Up 'till now nobody has gotten paid for any of this, so it's all donated hours," said Knapmiller.

This is why Knapmiller and members of the lake district are calling on the community to help out through donations and volunteering, so they can continue attracting tourists to the area and keep the lake industries flowing.

"The amount of tourism dollars that come into the lake... it's hard to even calculate," said Knapmiller.

"This is a fantastic lake for families and fishermen and hunters and sailors and everybody. It's just a great place to be but we're not going to be able to get out to those deepwater areas if we don't cut those channels," said Funk.

The Lake Onalaska Protection and Rehabilitation District hopes to raise over $15,000 to cut the paths five times next summer. You can find a link to donate or volunteer right here.

Mike Beiermeister

WXOW Weekend Anchor and Reporter

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