Introduction to Lake Management Planning

What is Lake Management Planning?

Sail boats on Lake Winnebago

Let’s first be clear about what a lake management plan is not – it is not regulatory nor will it create a new layer of government. The intent is to focus coordinated efforts on simplifying management processes.

A lake management plan is a dynamic document that serves as a guide for strategic, and holistic management of our lakes.  The Winnebago Waterways are enjoyed year round by local residents and tourists alike. To preserve this impressive system for future generations, the Winnebago Waterways Program is engaging watershed residents to be active participants in the development of management recommendations. This collaborative effort will help watershed residents and other stakeholders to more effectively work together to protect, restore, or maintain desired lake conditions. The goals and action items contained within the plan will be identified and prioritized by active participants including area organizations, property owners, and lake users, among others (including people like you!). Once a lake management plan is complete, the next step is to implement the recommendations outlined within the planning document. Traditionally, a lake management plan is updated approximately every five years as priorities change over time.

We invite you to participate. Stay up to date on the project and participation opportunities by submitting your email below.

Why is a lake management plan needed?

Sailboat on Lake Winneconne (Photo Credit: Gene K.)

The Winnebago Lakes are wonderful resources that provide clean drinking water to the surrounding region, help to create jobs, and offer a variety of opportunities for families and individuals to enjoy the outdoors. The lakes are vital to our local economies as well as long-held family traditions.

The lakes are currently in a degraded state with algal blooms, polluted runoff, and invasive species being top issues of concern for area residents and lake users. Together, the lakes make up one of the largest freshwater systems in the U.S. Because of the size of the lake system, most management issues span multiple jurisdictions which can make efficient management difficult. The need for effective and cost-efficient ways to manage the lakes is what led five counties and other agencies to combine their efforts to develop a collaborative lake management plan.

To learn about past efforts in the Winnebago System, click here.

What goes into a Lake Management Plan?

The lake management plan for the Winnebago Lakes will focus on in-lake concerns such as aquatic plants, lake use and access, water quality, and aquatic invasive species. Other projects are in the works that aim to better understand issues on the landscape, such as the TMDL study of the Upper Fox and Wolf River Basin. The two plans will work together to improve the overall watershed.

Flooded Lake Poygan marsh (Photo: user submission)

Here are some examples of topics often covered in lake management plans:

  • Lake use, navigation and access
  • aquatic plants
  • aquatic invasive species
  • fisheries, wildlife, and habitat
  • shoreline development
  • water quality

Curious about TMDL’s? According to the U.S. EPA, “a TMDL is a pollution budget and includes a calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant that can occur in a waterbody and allocates the necessary reductions to one or more pollutant sources. A TMDL serves as a planning tool and potential starting point for restoration or protection activities with the ultimate goal of attaining or maintaining water quality standards.” (US EPA)

Top Issues of Concern for the Winnebago Lakes

Zebra mussels along the shores of Lake Winnebago (Photo credit: user submission)

The Winnebago System faces many threats. The top three issues of concern identified by the public are:

  1. Algal blooms
  2. Polluted Runoff
  3. Invasive Species
Other commonly reported issues:

  • phosphorus and sediment
  • excessive vegetation in waterways
  • erosion and wetland loss
  • water levels management
  • lack of boater education
  • fishing regulations
These issues were identified through public engagement activities during Phase I “Weigh in on the Winnebago Waterways” efforts. To learn more about results from Phase I, click here.

Public Meetings:

May 17th in Fond du Lac at Tuffy’s Outpost
May 18th in Winneconne at Woodeye’s
May 25th in Menasha at Waverly Beach

Click here for more information

Stay informed with Project updates

Subscribe to the Winnebago Waterways email list

Subscribe to the project mailing list to stay up to date on events and opportunities to provide input during the planning process.

Comments or suggestions?

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Lake Management Planning Updates

Blog articles from our e-newsletter, The Source

Pipe Creek Watershed Project

The Pipe Creek Watershed is the northern most watershed that drains to Lake Winnebago in Fond du Lac County. See map below. Like many of the tributaries along the east shore of Lake Winnebago,

Winnebago Waterways Program Introduced at Kick-off Celebration Event

Over 90 people from around the Winnebago Lakes region, including area residents and elected officials, joined Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance on April 27th for the Winnebago Waterways Program (WWP) Kick-off Celebration held at The Waters

UW-Extension Lakes Aquatic Plant ID Training – June 27th, 28th, or 29th, 2017

Aquatic Plant Identification Training Hosted by UW-Extension Lakes - Learn how to identify aquatic plants from the experts! Training Description Learn from the experts to identify aquatic plants at the one of three workshops in northern Wisconsin: June 27th, 28th, or 29th, 2017 Experts

UW-Ext. Lakes Aquatic Plant ID Training – June 5th or 6th, 2017

Aquatic Plant Identification Training Hosted by UW-Extension Lakes - Learn how to identify aquatic plants from the experts! Training Description Learn from the experts to identify aquatic plants at the one of five workshops in central and northern Wisconsin: Central Location -

Forming Lake Management Planning Technical Teams

The Winnebago Waterways Program (in partnership with Calumet, Winnebago, Fond du Lac, and Waushara Counties) is working to develop a Lake Management Plan for the Winnebago Lakes. The goal of the Lake