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"After all these years, still doing a great job!!" -Ron Hermanson
​Transfer of Clam Falls Dam to county debated
By Lynda Berg Olds
Within the body of the regular meeting of the Polk County Board of Supervisors Tuesday night was also a “Committee of the Whole” (COW) meeting. This is where no action may be taken but it provides for a less formal discussion among supervisors. This was desirable for relatively new County Administrator Nick Osborne so he could get a feel for where the board stood in relation to the proposal for the county to take over the Clam Falls Dam.
Osborne hoped for a consensus and after a rather lengthy back and forth between supervisors, it appeared he got one: supervisors were on the same page about one thing for sure – that they needed more information.
At the meeting of the board a few short months ago, an army of citizens from the Clam Falls area swarmed the county board meeting, passionately imploring the county take over the dam, which, it appeared, sustains their community's way of life.
But it isn't that simple. The bottom line was that the county will re-examine the issue after an engineering study is completed. That study is going to come with a price tag of $47,000, but without knowing the extent of work that may or may not be required, the county could not responsibly take on ownership of the dam.
This is a topic that swirled round and around. At first the comments were rather harsh. Supervisor Russ Arcand noted this is the second time around the county has been asked to take over the dam.
“How many times do we have to tell them no? It is their dam and it is failing.”
Supervisor Brian Master said he did some research and maintained that the dam was going to cost $1.3 million to repair. A few supervisors stated bluntly that they did not believe the county should be in the business of owning dams.
It turns out that the DNR has 114 dams in Polk County – and the county owns two of them (the Atlas and the Kennedy Dams) Both of them evidently need work as well. The proposal notes that $650,000 would come with the county taking over responsibility for the Clam Dam – but it may not be enough.
Supervisor Chris Nelson said, “I can't imagine us not working through the process.”
Supervisor Brad Olson concurred. “It doesn't cost us anything to move forward.” He noted that while he doesn't necessarily believe the county should be in the business of owning dams, the water in the Clam Falls area is as important to them as the water is to the people in the Kennedy Dam area. He also said that the “maintenance,” monitoring the water level, is done by an 80 year-old resident and it takes very little time or effort. It does require commitment however.
There are four stipulations required for the county to even begin to take over the Clam Dam:
They have to agree to take ownership;
Analysis must show the dam can safely be over-topped by a 500-year flood;
And if #1 and #2 are achieved, the DNR has to issue an exemption allowing the dam to be over-topped by the 500-year flood;
Then, finally, when all three items have been achieved, Polk County takes ownership of the dam and simultaneously, RWE (Renewable World Energies) and NWE (Northwestern Wisconsin Electric Company) will deliver certified funds in the amount of $650,000 to Polk County (less any costs of modification...perhaps the $47,000 for the engineering study).
The COW was successful, consensus was achieved. After much conversation and speculation, the supervisors mostly agreed they need more information, thus, County Administrator Nick Osborne was more or less “directed” to proceed with caution (and get the engineering report as long as the county doesn't have to pay for it).
This topic will be updated for the June meeting of the Polk County Board of Supervisors.
In other business, supervisors approved a “Johnson Property Donation” of 120 acres. Osborne said the land is a good fit and it wasn't generating much in taxes anyway. He indicated the county forestry department may well make a buck with this land adjacent to property slated for a select harvest of trees. Also, the land doesn't come with a dam, which is how the county came to own the Kennedy Dam.
The final item of business was part of the COW agenda, but supervisors said they had discussed the revised organizational structure of the county exhaustively in committees and the action item, “Resolution adopting the Division Structure” was approved by voice vote.
May 23, 2019
“Every moment in your life”
By Lynda Berg Olds
After being introduced by Unity Superintendent Brandon Robinson at the commencement ceremony Friday night, with a rousing round of applause from her classmates, Valedictorian Amie Costello said she only had one thing she wished she had done differently – she wished she would have gotten to know all her classmates better.
“Everyone of you has unique dreams, personalities and goals for yourselves and I wish I had taken the time to learn more about each and every one of you. All of you at some point helped me get through a tough time. You helped me in class – or you've even just helped me in the halls without realizing it. You have all impacted my life in the best way possible and I wanted to thank you for that.
“Throughout these past four years I've been at Unity, I have also met some amazing teachers who have helped me get where I am today...Brian Collins sadly could not be here tonight. He was the first teacher I met when I came to Unity High School. From the first moment I met him, I felt his energy he has for teaching. We all know him for his random stories, his passion for ornithology and his fun energy inside the classroom.”
Costello said that in each class she had with Mr. Collins, she had fun and really got into the material [even if biology wasn't her favorite subject].
Costello's other favorite educator was chemistry teacher Mrs. Johnson.
“She has always had a really positive energy in the classroom and you can tell she loves teaching us...”
Costello encouraged her classmates to meet any challenges with their heads held high.
“As Ralph Waldo Emerson perfectly put it, 'What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.'
“As we walk out of here tonight I want you all to be proud of yourselves. We've completed the first part of our journey and we're graduating high school tonight.”
Costello wanted to leave the class with one last quote by Michael Josephson: “Take pride in how far you've come. Have faith in how far you can go. But don't forget to enjoy the journey.”
Hear hear.
The Unity High School Concert Choir performed the piece, “Connected” a capella and it was outstanding. As the students hustled to get back to their seats, Fugate introduced Miss Hallie Allen to deliver the Salutatorian Address. By way of preamble, Allen began:
“Famous author Mark Twain once said, 'The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.'
“As graduates, what lays in front of us today is a scary thing called life. For a good 12 years we have been patiently waiting for this moment, the moment where anything is possible. This is the moment we step out of the comfort of our 'normal' and begin facing the challenges, experiences, friendships and independence. From this moment on, we get to determine what our tomorrow looks like. Not knowing your 'why' the minute you leave this building does not mean you are a failure or lost. Finding your purpose in this world is the most adventurous and exciting journey every human being gets to experience. You can continue your education, join the workforce, travel, you can try new hobbies or interests – the sky is the limit and the coolest part is, there is no right or wrong. Leave here today believing in yourself, loving the person that you are, motivated to use your strengths and interests to make a difference, and I guarantee you find yourselves on the winning side of your goals and dreams. As you begin to set goals, dream and make plans, you need to first know that they are yours and yours alone.
“The worst thing you could do while striving for your dreams is to doubt yourself. Just remember that doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will. There is no on who can tell you that you are not capable...and never be afraid of trying something new because life gets boring when you stay within the limits of what you already know.”
With an infectious smile, Allen regaled the assembled with tales of various hijinks and shenanigans she and classmates shared over the past dozen or so years, before some final words of wisdom:
“Remember to be the best version of yourself - and to believe in your dreams. You are given an opportunity each day to create the life you dream for yourself. So make sure you use each day to make your dreams become a reality. Remember there is nothing more important than the present. Live with ambition, strength, confidence and faith in every moment – because every moment is your life. Congratulations guys, we did it!”
​May 30, 2019
Goose population reduced by half
By Lynda Berg Olds
Balsam Lake Village Trustee Caroline Rediske informed her fellow board members (and the press) at Monday night's meeting that the goose population has been eliminated by roughly 50 percent. As longtime chair of the Parks and Recreation Committee, goose eradication efforts have been in her bailiwick.
“Our egg oiling and all of our geese eradication processes are going along really well. Egg oiling right now – he's got like 39 eggs oiled. Last year we had like 54. We have cut the population down to at least half.”
Rediske talked about the meeting on May 28 where discussion was held on the status of Phase 2 Goose Round-up. It was noted there are a lot less geese in the area of the sewer plant, Balsam Lake Beach and East Balsam. She said there were a lot less geese in the area, less than 50 – and if the numbers do not rise to a benchmark of over 60, there will not be a goose round-up this year. The deadline for initiation of a goose round-up is right around the corner on June 14, so the likelihood of another round up, at least for this year, is slim to none.
Rediske told the Ledger on Tuesday that the count for the geese goes from the fall season to the summer season, thus the current tally of geese eradicated is 224. She said 74 geese were harvested (hunted); 56 eggs were oiled and 94 were captured (killed) in the round-up. Last year was the first year for the round-up and the fervent hope is that it won't need to be done again.
Rediske said this 39 eggs have been oiled this spring and 20 were successfully hunted last fall, so the present season total to date is 59.
Rediske announced she would not be seeking re-election next time and to that end she is working on passing the Park and Rec baton. She gave the Outdoor Recreation Plan to new Trustee Kelli Flaherty to review.
Rediske also advised that the special event permit for camping for the Freedom Fest Softball Tournament has been done. The check has been written and everything is fine and approved, with a map for the camping.
“The next thing we talked about is since the Highway Department building is gone, we have no wiring now down to the light for the Welcome to Balsam Lake sign and flag pole. If you have a flag it should be illuminated.”
Rediske said they got a bid from Dalles Electricians to install the underground conduit to the existing flag pole light location – in the amount of $2,900. Later in the meeting that bid was awarded to Dalles.
Discussion was also held at the Park and Rec Committee meeting regarding lots 1 and 2 east of the sewer plant. The first parcel is 22.68 acres and the second, 8.78. The village owns these two parcels, yet they are not annexed into the village.
“We own them but they haven't been annexed,” Rediske said. “The village owns them however the lots are in the Township of Balsam Lake. The recommendation was to begin that annexation process. Trustee Jim Duncan noted the parcels are in the “conservancy” status, which, he said, is a good thing.
June 6, 2019
Better clarity for East Balsam?
By Lynda Berg Olds
On June 8 at 9 a.m., an informational meeting about East Balsam Lake's water quality was held by the Balsam Lake Protection and Rehabilitation District (BLPRD) at Unity School's Performing Arts Center.
BLPRD Chairman Tom Kelly welcomed the 40 or so in attendance and promptly turned the podium over to Cheryl Clemens, of Harmony Environmental, out of Amery.
She began by noting that water quality has been an issue on East Balsam for many years and said the BLPRD board has a solution to propose.
“If you were at the annual meeting last year and are getting the newsletter that comes out, you are aware that the proposed solution is an alum treatment.”
She advised she would be sharing information about the studies that have led to the decision for the proposed alum treatment. She jumped right in, noting the vote for this project will take place at the annual meeting on July 20 – and also acknowledging the 18 or so people serving on the water quality committee who helped to guide this process.
“East Balsam Lake is an impaired water, which means that they don't meet standards for water quality. Other lake basins in Balsam Lake are not listed as impaired water.”
Clemens noted that people who recreate on East Balsam will have noted the blue green algae, which is driven by high phosphorus levels. The phosphorus comes from the lake sediment at the bottom.
“When the scum is formed (during an algae bloom) and even sometimes when they don't, there are toxins that are produced. These toxins can lead to serious reactions. There have been examples of dogs who have died with exposure to blue green algae toxins – and they can be irritants to some people depending on concentrations and exposure....and the blooms are unsightly and smelly.”
Clemens said they do have a solution to propose and they can make it better. She then talked ab out a great amount of work that has gone into analyzing East Balsam. Some of the studies over the years include: Citizen lake monitoring from 1987 to 2019; Barr Engineering Water Quality study in 2010; Ayres Associates – engineering solutions in 2014; Polk County - watershed/agricultural in 2015 and UW – Stout/Bill James Studies from 2015-2017.
“This is very valuable data. It use34d to be that Little Balsam was worse off than East Balsam and then there were projects that the District undertook on the Glenna Farm if you remember years back, taking that farm out of production and putting in a sediment basin, so that work resulted in much cleaner water on Little Balsam. By about the year 2000 Little Balsam had shifted in improved clarity and quality and in the meantime East Balsam got worse. Barr's study of each Balsam basin in 2010 and identified problems with East Balsam, primarily caused by the lake sediments.”
Clemens discussed how the Barr study prompted a search for solutions – and more studies. She said the work done by Bill James, of UW-Stout has been instrumental in leading to the recommendations that are being brought forward.
“So phosphorus is released from the bottom sediments when the lake stratifies or forms layers – and decomposition keeps happening on the lake and uses up all the oxygen. Under those conditions, phosphorus is released and it is phosphorus that fuels those algae blooms. What happens on East Balsam, because of the depth in particular, it stirs up regularly. So it will go anoxic (depleted of oxygen), the phosphorus builds up on the bottom, you get a really windy day, a stormy period and that is brought to the surface and algae growth happens – repeatedly.”
Clemens pointed to studies showing that over 70 percent of phosphorus comes from the lake bottom – and the phosphorus that is brought in from the land is less than 30 percent.
“The bottom line is the phosphorus from the bottom of the lake is really significant and you cannot control or improve the water quality in East Balsam without addressing what comes up from the bottom of the lake.”
Clemens talked about different measures of quality, noting that if the internal load is controlled, there can be a 57 percent decline in phosphorus.
“Chlorophyll is a measure of algae growth. With internal phosphorus control there can be a 70 percent decline in chlorophyll, a 70 percent decline in algae – and an increase in clarity of 88 percent. This is based on a lot of data that has been collected over three years. It is based on mathematical models that can help us predict results in lakes.”
Clemens then spent some time explaining the other options that were considered before it was completely clear that alum treatment is by far and away the best option for East Balsam. Those other options included dredging, aeration, East Balsam outflow and reducing runoff (external load).
Dredging is cost prohibitive. To remove sediment from 300 acres 10 feet and deeper would cost anywhere between $15 to $45 million. It would also remove plants, thereby negatively impacting the fishery.
“Aeration – the idea there would be to keep the oxygen from being depleted from the bottom.”
But East Balsam lacks sufficient iron in the water to control the phosphorus when the lake mixes – and furthermore, when Cedar Lake tried aeration it just made the algae blooms worse!
Increasing the outflow is simply not practical.
Reducing the external load just doesn't have enough oomph. That is even if 100 percent reduction could be achieved, East Balsam would still remain an impaired body (remember less than 30 percent of phosphorus comes from runoff).
Jumping forward then is the alum method. Alum has been used for more than 200 years for drinking water clarification and its use is essential in wastewater and drinking water treatment plants today. Clemens said alum was first suggested for use in lakes in 1955 and the first lake application was in Sweden in 1971. The first United States application was in 1973 – here in Wisconsin.
As people are wary about adding something unknown into the lakes, more time was spent explaining how safe alum actually is. It is a common food additive and as said before, is used in drinking water. It is drinking water grade alum that is used in lakes. Also, aluminum is the third most abundant element in the Earth's crust. Most food, water, air and soil actually contain aluminum and, exposure to alum in lakes is very low. It is also generally safe for fish, however the use of the word “generally” was not further defined.
The alum application area proposed is based on area of probable bottom anoxia in the summer and will lead to improvements throughout East Balsam.
How the alum is administered can be studied by picking up last year's June issue of the Laker, which can be found at Ledger Newspapers in Balsam Lake. The press was present for Long Lake's alum application of 42,000 gallons. The homeowners on Long Lake are reportedly thrilled with their results thus far, but it is not a one-shot deal.
The proposal for East Balsam is to split the alum dose into smaller applications and spread the applications out over several years.
So what do Balsam Lake folks really want to know? How much it will cost. Clemens said with four $200,000 WDNR grants, the average cost (from 2021 – 2028) for a home valued at $100,000 would be $24.27 per year. For a $500,000 house that number is $121.35 per year.
Cedar Lake residents treated their lake in 2017 with alum and just applied the second round on Monday, June 9. They indeed have lower concentrations of phosphorus on the bottom – as does Long Lake. 
Clemens said the keys to success with the alum application is “flexibility and adaptive management; understanding and working with alum treatment strengths and limitations; and realizing the complexity of lake rehabilitation.”
In short, this is not a quick fix, but a process. And with regards to external loads, the BLPRD evidently has funding for lakeshore owners to undertake projects that help to reduce runoff into the lake, using rain barrels and creating buffer zones.
All Balsam Lake property owners are stakeholders in the lake's health and there is a direct coefficient between water quality and property value. Balsam Lake is one of the most valuable lakes in the state. One attendee said a recent study showed that increasing clarity by one foot adds over $6,000 to property value and by two feet – over $20,000. But the whole context wasn't exactly clear. Could that be per foot of lakeshore? Possibly...they aren't making any more land, lakeshore or not.
BLPRD Chair Tom Kelly concluded, “This is an investment, and a good one.”
The timeline is such that if the project is approved at the annual meeting July 20, the first alum application could take place mid-June of next year.
​June 13, 2019
More money for roads? Maybe
By Lynda Berg Olds
During “Supervisor Reports from Outside Meetings” at the county board meeting Tuesday night, Supervisor John Bonneprise reported that he had attended a presentation by State Secretary of Transportation Craig Thompson, as part of the WCHA (Wisconsin Counties Highway Association) Convention in Green Bay.
“It was last Tuesday (June 11) at 10 a.m. and at 10:30 a.m. they brought in a bulletin saying that the Senate had just passed a one-time emergency fund – to fund the counties $1 million and fund the townships $1,000 per mile.”
Bonneprise asked if any other supervisors had an update regarding this transportation funding. Supervisor Jay Luke said he had somewhat of an update, but observed, “It is very confusing – as we expected it would be.”
Supervisor Brian Masters concurred.
“They came up with some kind of a scale on funding,” continued Luke. “The scale was done in conjunction with your assessed value. That would eliminate Lorain Township because they've got so much state and federal land that their assessed value didn't meet the qualifications that they had for the amount of money they were putting into the roads. But that's been sent back so it is still up in the air.
“I totally believe that we will be pursuing approximately $1,000 dollars per mile for townships and the million dollars in the county. But just imagine how much paperwork will be involved in participating, but we have until 2023 to apply. So it is moving along – and that it did come out of the Senate is somewhat encouraging.”
Editor's note: During the “Dot game” (See photos), the supervisor's number one priority (tied with Recreation/Tourism/Parks) was Transportation/Road Conditions.
June 20, 2019
Camper crash/fire claims life
By Lynda Berg Olds
At 4:37 p.m. last Saturday, June 22, the Polk County Sheriff’s Department Dispatch Center received a report of a camper that was on fire in the south ditch off of Ravine Drive, about two miles east of the Village of Dresser.  
Sheriff Brent Waak advised the County Ledger Press that upon arrival on scene, the Allied Fire Department of Dresser extinguished the fire – it was then that they discovered the vehicle was occupied - and - “the occupant had succumbed to the fire.”
Once members of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrived, the evidence showed that the camper had been traveling eastbound on Ravine Drive. 
“The vehicle left the roadway to the right and entered the south ditch,” the Sheriff's press release says. “After traveling several feet in the ditch, the camper struck several trees.”
Evidently, it was after the camper came to rest that the vehicle ignited.  
This matter is under investigation by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office at this time. In fact, in speaking with Sheriff Waak Wednesday morning, he asked that any potential witnesses, anyone who may have seen this camper in the ditch, or even before it went in the ditch, to please contact his office at 715.485.8300.
His department would like to thank the following agencies for their assistance: The Allied Fire Department and First responders, and the Polk County Medical Examiner’s Office.
The name of the occupant will be released at a later time.
June 27, 2019
Contentious issues pepper Board meeting
By Lynda Berg Olds
There is no doubt people are passionate about their property and what they can do with it. No one likes restrictions in the good ol' USA, where one's home is their castle – and when a neighbor perceives their rights are being infringed upon, well, things can get a bit heated.
During Monday night's meeting of the Balsam Lake Village Board, several examples of this played out. One woman wanted to build a fence as big as she could for maximum yard space, in spite of setbacks and the surety of the snowplow damaging said fence. The fence she wants to construct is a six-foot white fence and she was ultimately given approval with the caveat that she indemnify the village of any expense related to damage to the fence from the (snow) plow.
A couple wanted to rezone the property they just bought, which is in excess of 20 acres, to have it on record that they are allowed to have their seven horses and two llamas, plus two llamas that came with the property. Livestock has evidently been present on this property since the beginning of time and was “grandfathered-in.”
This issue got hammered out and a number was arrived at. Trustee Jim Duncan first suggest a maximum of “25 four-leggeds,” to which the neighbors strenuously objected, saying, “That is way too many.” He then made the motion to allow for up to 20 four-leggeds, not including dogs, which fall under a different ordinance. It was noted that no more than three dogs are allowed within the village proper.
The neighbors opinion was not sought out like before and the motion passed without a lot of fanfare, seemingly much to the chagrin of said neighbors, who were evidently used to just two llamas. But the property is 22.58 acres after all.
Another village resident sought and was granted a fireworks display permit. He assured the board that he wouldn't be doing giant Freedom Fest-type fireworks, but would stick with fountains, bottle rockets and the like. He was certain the law would still show up, but his hope was that other cops would hear that he had a permit and allow him to entertain his family (and neighbors) with a nice display.
Other property issues (before the big one, spoiler alert) involved approving which streets to patch and do crack seal. It was approved for Monarch Paving to patch an area on West Main Street, which is obviously more of a village concern.
As for which streets to crack seal, an even dozen were selected:
Pine Crest for about $4,000; 150th Street for just shy of $10,000; Tower Avenue for just over $2,000; Idlewile at about $6,500; Peral at $3,776; Coourthouse Road for $1,180; Mill Street for $2,200; Ramburg Court for $786; Industrial in the amount of $6,293; James Court for $629; Royal Oaks Court for $2,360 and Park Drive for $2,517 – all for the grand total of $41,953.
These are not the easiest decisions to make when roads are in disrepair, as in all the villages this year after the rough winter. Oftentimes, it is a crapshoot as to which roads are the “neediest.”
Another property issue the village has been dealing with is regarding ownership of “Eone Pumps.” Clarification from the village attorney revealed it is his opinion that the village owns the pumps on Petersen Trail, County Road I and Pinecrest Road – and is responsible for their maintenance. The property owner is responsible for pipes, etc., other than the pumps and force main. Further, if either party damages something they are responsible for the repairs. The village crew will make test holes this July in the blacktop on Peterson Trail, which will tell the crew how deep the water sewer lines are – and they will put the riser on the Eone Pump at 200 Peterson Trail. Thus, this long-standing issue will finally see some resolution.
The final property issue was about Park Drive Boat Landing – and it is a hot one indeed, and has been for many, many years, on and off. The issue is this is a public access – and no, the village does not want to sell it. As Village President Kathy Poirier has repeated to at least four parties that this reporter knows of, the village has a responsibility to provide public access to everyone, and certainly has not interest in selling or vacating a public access. But herein lies the rub. This public landing has long been used to access the island, which has recently changed hands. The new owner, Matthew Hall, was on the agenda to discuss the matter, but his mother Jeanne Hall said he was stuck in traffic and would be delayed. As it turned out then, he was last on the agenda – and took by far more time than was spent on the rest of the meeting.
Hall introduced himself as the new owner of Pine Island and said he had received a call from the DNR about three weeks ago regarding a complaint that he said was brought forward by the village.
“This is the first time this has been brought to my seems like the issue is, is there is a boat and a dock on a public access. In speaking to both neighbors there has always been a boat and dock on that property, and going back to the deed on that property, it is even listed in the 1920s that there was a boat at that location, so I guess I am unsure what the complaint is. I brought in a photo of the public access and you can't do a boat landing, but there is still ample room to put in a canoe or a kayak. And we have been maintaining it since we moved in – and I guess I am looking to see what the issue is.”
Trustee Jim Duncan took the lead, saying, “There has been an issue there before. Ten years ago the Warden was called to have the dock and boat removed...but this has been an ongoing issue. This is not the first time this has ever happened. We don't allow boats and docks at other public accesses. The dock at the other access is within the village and owned by the village.”
Hall insisted the plat map was “fairly clear” that historically it was laid out as access to that island. It is a 20-foot 'undevelopable' strip. There are a couple others like it and there have been other roads that have been vacated as access to the other islands. Going back to be clear they kind of called it (the access in question) a driveway or a road and that it was to provide access to the island.”
Duncan responded, “Okay. You said it was laid out for that. I am on the Lake Access Committee with the Balsam Lake Rod and Gun Club. For over 20 years we have been looking at accesses and finding accesses. At that time, in 1920, is probably when that Park Addition was put in, and at that time every quarter of a mile had to have an access to the lake, as well as an access for the island. There's many, many 20-foot accesses on many, many lakes in our area. We find them all the time and we mark them. In fact, I think the Rod and Gun Club marked that one and paid for the sign 20 years ago.”
“There is not,” Hall stated. becoming more adversarial. “Starting at Park Drive, there is not an access up to that point, which is greater than a quarter-mile.”
Back and forth it went with Duncan stating unequivocally, “This is a public access and it does have a sign on it. The Rod and Gun Club was involved and the county would have surveyed it. [Of note, Duncan “retired” from a very long career with the village's Public Works Department and literally knows most everything there is to know about the village.]
Duncan explained that even though once upon a time there were accesses every quarter-mile, developers came along in the 1930s and 1940s and swapped out some lots for others to make deals work so they had buildable lots. He noted that some accesses were traded for undesireable lots – and all they can really be used for is kayaking and walking, etc.
“All the neighbor kids can come down on your dock and fish,” commented Duncan, to which Hall said, “Sure,” I have no issues with that – and we maintain it.”
Poirier asked Hall if the Game Warden had contacted him – and he said he did.
Trustee Corby Stark spoke up and asked, “So is the concern is that there's a public access but it's a private dock?”
“Yes, there has been a dock there,” stated Duncan.
Public Works Director David Patterson added, “And a boat.”
Hall said the Warden was acting off a complaint from the village. Patterson said that his department received the complaint, and he contacted the Warden, asking him what was legal.
“He said if it is village property and you don't allow people to put boats and docks on there it needs to be removed. I asked him how we handle that since it is on the water. He said, 'I handle that.'
This went round and round and Hall had an explanation, rebuttal or retort for everything.
Trustee Eric Jorgenson asked Hall what his realtor said when he bought. Board members murmured perhaps this should have been more clear when a person is buying an island – they should probably make sure access is secured.
“Where does it stop?” asked Jorgenson rhetorically.
“Find other accommodations, it is a public access,” Poirier stated firmly.
It was patently clear the board has no give in terms of giving up a public access. Duncan did make a motion to table the issue, and to give Hall 90 days (which amounts to basically the rest of this year) to figure something else out.
Jeanne Hall commented that they use a wheelbarrow to bring their belongings to the boat. Everyone wanted to know where Matthew parked and he said baldly, “on the road,” which is also likely an issue. But his mom said he could park at her house.
Duncan said Patterson is going to need some guidance – and so is the DNR.
“At no point can that access be blocked,” said Poirier, who noted When she was on the board years ago, they disallowed private use.”
​July 3, 2019
Official statement on lack of fireworks
By Lynda Berg Olds
There's been a lot of “blowback” from the Balsam Lake community and beyond about the cancellation of the Annual Freedom Fest Fireworks display. Here is the “official statement” from the Balsam Lake Village President, Kathy Poirier:
“On Wednesday I was notified that we did not have insurance for the fireworks from our insurance company. We tried all day on Wednesday and of course Thursday was the holiday. Friday morning several of us met at the Village Hall – the fire chief (Brad Williamson), myself and Lori (Duncan, Village Clerk/Treasurer), as well as a few more, one of whom has some history with the fireworks.
“We were still waiting to hear back and came to find out the insurance company wasn't open on Friday. So we tried some other avenues, like John Volgren, to secure liability insurance for both the fire department shooting them off and for spectators and we weren't able to secure the insurance for the firefighters. We could get a policy for the spectators but we could not find any company that would [bind coverage] for the fire department to shoot them off.
“There were some other hoops that we jumped through because they said if we had licensed or trained shooters – pretty basically, the timeline just got too tight. And like I said our insurance company was closed and then we were unsuccessful in securing another one.”
Poirier said the small group gathered again at 11:30 a.m. on Friday to make the final decision. They gave themselves a noon deadline to try to give as much notice as possible for the public.”
The Ledger would like to stress again that it was Wednesday, July 3, that Poirier first heard there was any issue.
Perhaps it should be noted that on Monday the Ledger received a notice from the Village of Balsam Lake that the Balsam Lake Board of Trustees has been invited to attend the Homeowners Association meeting this Saturday. This had to be “noticed” to the press as a quorum of the board will be present [as per state statute]. The meeting is taking place at Paradise Landing and no action will taken. Discussion will be held on the fireworks display for 2020.
Poirier commented that this is not a negative meeting, it is a positive meeting. She said, “We are looking to the future as to how to proceed with the fireworks...I was in contact with the Homeowner's President throughout that whole thing, so there's no negative here.”
One thing appears certain, it is unlikely that anything like this will happen in the future.
July 11, 2019
Alum not a long term “cure-all”
By Lynda Berg Olds
There has been much ado about treating impaired lakes with alum to improve water clarity, particularly in the advent of blue green algae blooms, which can be toxic to people and pets. Indeed the County Ledger Press has written extensively on the subject, both on these pages and in last summer's “Laker #3.” The alum project on Long Lake was observed and documented. Did they see measurable improvement in water clarity. They did. Will it last? No. They will do another alum treatment next summer – just as the Balsam Lake Protection and Rehabilitation District (BLPRD) is planning to do several applications on East Balsam over a number of years.
East Balsam is listed as an Impaired Water by the Wisconsin DNR, unlike the other basins on Balsam Lake. The BLPRD states, “Experience has shown this basin becomes very green and sometimes slimy with algae in mid-July, August and September. This condition makes the water undesirable and potentially unsafe for water activities. The BLPRD Board of Commissioners is dedicated to improving the lake wherever possible – in this case with the alum treatment.
If, that is, the lake district residents vote to move forward with the project. That vote is rapidly approaching and will take place at the annual BLPRD on July 20 at Unity School. The meeting begins at 8:30 a.m.
In the recent summer issue of “Dockside,” the newsletter delivered to 850 property owners within the Balsam Lake District, the statement is made that alum “removes the phosphorus that promotes algae growth.” This is not entirely true. The phosphorus actually binds to the alum and is converted into an aluminum phosphate compound, which does prevent the phosphorus from being used by weeds or algae for food. The alum is pushed through water columns and settles at the bottom, providing a thin chemical “cap.” But the phosphorus remains at the bottom of the lake and is eventually re-released into the water – in as little as two years depending largely on weather patterns (torrential rains and wild winds are not helpful).
This is why four treatments are planned for East Balsam, every two years beginning in 2020. HAB Aquatic Solutions is the company of record who did the treatment of Long Lake last summer, and who the BLPRD plan to use for East Balsam. They are no doubt the experts in this specific, specialized field. They offer the alum “solution,” using a barge with large tanks of aluminum sulfate, applied to the lake in specific rates and locations.
Another firm, “Everblue Lake Solutions,” decries this “solution” altogether. While they concede that short term, better clarity can be achieved with the alum process, they claim this is nothing but a “band aid,” which simply covers up the problem rather than correcting it.
They stress that the cause of internal phosphorus loading in lakes is its release by decaying lake-bottom muck, with the concurrent lack of dissolved oxygen at the lake bottom. They believe the sensible solution is to treat this root cause by restoring the oxygen balance to the lake-bottom.
“Restore dissolved oxygen, aerobic bacteria and diatomic growth and phosphorus is naturally diverted to fish growth instead of weeds and algae.”
Another issue observed by this water quality company discusses the fact that alum does nothing to mitigate the other main nutrient for algae (and plant) growth, which is nitrogen. They also caution that the alum “cap” is consumed by “bottom feeders,” and disturbed/compromised by normal wind and wave action in shallow lakes (which East Balsam is).
Finally, they say that studies have shown that aluminum sulfate can be toxic to fish and other aquatic life. “While buffered alum has been 'deemed safe,' long term impact studies have not been conducted. Is this a risk worth taking?”
Some years ago, the BLPRD pondered this information and decided no, it was not worth the risk.
Everblue concluded, “Alum is short lived, expensive, not sustainable – and certainly not good for the long-term health of the ecosystem.”
That may be a bit of a stretch, but bears noting in the interest of providing, “the rest of the story.”
Now it is time to talk about money. Dockside provided the following information:
The BLPRD Board hopes to be able to obtain grants to help offset the cost of the alum applications. In fact, according to BLPRD Chair Tom Kelly, this whole project is contingent on securing all four grants. Other area lakes have been successful in obtaining grants so the Board believes they should be successful as well. If the maximum dollar amount of $200,000 in grant money is obtained for each of the four applications, the Board estimates the cost to property owners, based on a property valuation of $100,000, the cost over an eight year period 2021–2028 would be an average of $24.27 per year. At a $500,000 value, it would be five times that, or $121.35 per year.
Kelly said the rough estimate of the project is $690,000 plus, contingent on receipt of Wisconsin DNR grants amounting to $800,000 in grants, as well as finance fees, etc., for a total of about $1.5 million.
The alum treatment will remove phosphorus from the water column (think a glass of water), but it will still be present at the bottom, effectively capped by the alum – until storms or other events come along and stir it up. So this is not a cure-all, however it will provide welcome relief for the property owners on the East Balsam Basin.
What happens in a decade remains to be seen. Currently, runoff is not nearly the problem it was in the past, accounting for just 30 percent of the phosphorus loading. The other 70 percent happens naturally by plant decay.
It should be noted that several options were considered to address the muck and slime problems on East Balsam. As reported in the June 13 issue of the County Ledger Press, they include:
Those other options included dredging, aeration, East Balsam outflow and reducing runoff (external load).
Dredging is cost prohibitive. To remove sediment from 300 acres 10 feet and deeper would cost anywhere between $15 to $45 million. It would also remove plants, thereby negatively impacting the fishery.
“Aeration – the idea there would be to keep the oxygen from being depleted from the bottom.”
But East Balsam lacks sufficient iron in the water to control the phosphorus when the lake mixes – and furthermore, when Cedar Lake tried aeration it just made the algae blooms worse!
Increasing the outflow is simply not practical.
Reducing the external load just doesn't have enough oomph. That is even if 100 percent reduction could be achieved, East Balsam would still remain an impaired body (remember less than 30 percent of phosphorus comes from runoff).
Clearly there are no easy answers...but it is important to understand the issues if one is to make an educated vote on Saturday morning.
July 18, 2019