Green Lake boat tour

A view of Green Lake, Oct. 5, 2015. (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

Keeping water healthy in and around Green Lake, was the goal of an environmental field trip Monday.

Members of the Green Lake Association looked at successes, and challenges for Wisconsin's deepest inland lake.

The 60-foot tour boat "Escapade" crept out of port on Green Lake Monday morning.

30 passengers included scientists, business leaders, and members of the Green Lake Association.

"We still feel that we have a destination lake that's swimable, and fishable. One that's a gem in this state," said Stephanie Prellwitz, Green Lake Association Executive Director.

But there are issues below the surface. Last year, The Department of Natural Resources added Green Lake to the state's list of impaired waters.

"Phosphorous concentrations are higher than we would optimally like. And there are bands of low dissolved oxygen in the lake," said Prellwitz.

Invasive weeds and zebra mussels coat piers at some of the boat launches.

"It's getting warmer, and the less ice coverage we got, the more sun gets through. The zebra mussels make clearer water, the sun gets through. It creates an environment for the weeds to grow," said Jerry Specht, Green Lake Sanitary District President.

But the Lake Association has a 6-pronged plan, and addressing phosphorous is a priority.

The nutrient comes from places like yard waste, and farm run-off.

"As far as phosphorous goes, it's really a story of keeping it upstream, and out of the lakes. If you're a farmer, it means keeping your nutrients on the land. So whether that means using cover crops, or whether that means using the right amount of fertilizer," said Prellwitz.

But leaders say any possible solutions won't be cheap.

"I know farmers want to do this stuff, they just don't want to do it, if it's going to break them. They got to break even, that's the catch," said Paul Robbins, UW-Madison Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies Director.

But those in and around Green Lake say the stakes are too high to do nothing.

"It's not about the lake today, or the lake this week, or the lake this month. When we're talking about lake quality, it's a long-term answer," said Prellwitz.

The Green Lake Association says a website to monitor lake health should be up and running within a year, but noticeable changes to the lake will take decades to achieve.

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