Lake Altoona Management Plan

Compiled and written by Lindsay Olson and Jeanette Kelly

January, 2016

The Lake Altoona Rehabilitation and Protection District has developed the following lake management plan to protect and enhance Lake Altoona. It was written in collaboration with Beaver Creek Reserve Citizen Science Center, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Eau Claire County Land Conservation Division, Eau Claire County Department of Parks and Forests, Lake Eau Claire Lake Association, and Lake Mead Protection and Rehabilitation District. This publication is for all the people who live in the Lake Altoona community, who recreate in and enjoy Lake Altoona, and are concerned with the well-being of Lake Altoona. This is a living document that sets goals and guidelines to restore and strengthen the lake ecosystem, protect and improve the natural beauty of the area, and to maintain water-based recreational activities.

Executive Summary

A lake management plan is a document that lays out a roadmap for managing and improving a lake. It also outlines community building and allows a lake community to control its fate. Planning helps correct existing problems in areas such as water quality, invasive species, fish populations, tourism, and more. It can also prevent future problems from cropping up, and outlines what actions to take if they do.

Lake Altoona is a man-made reservoir (impoundment) on the Eau Claire River created in 1938 when the area was flooded by the Works Progress Administration. Impoundment lakes are subject to a unique set of challenges because they act as natural sediment and nutrient sinks, resulting in a limited lifespan without management. The goals of the Lake Altoona Management Plan are to implement a strategy focused on managing sediment deposition, improving and maintaining water quality, and enhancing fish habitat. The plan seeks to increase awareness of the issues and provides recommended action items to improve Lake Altoona. The plan also identifies and prioritizes the actions and associated costs required to protect, restore and maintain the long term health and viability of Lake Altoona.

Because of the problems facing Lake Altoona, a management plan is imperative to its future. The result of doing nothing will have a negative impact on the recreational, habitat, and monetary value of the lake to local residents, business, and government. The main problems facing Lake Altoona can be addressed, managed, and possibly even reversed with the right approach. The Lake Altoona District, Eau Claire County, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, local townships, and others have for many years been proactive in developing a plan of action. Funds and other resources have gone into supporting various scientific and engineering studies to better understand the problems and identify ways to address them. This plan takes that background information and applies it to today’s knowledge of natural resource management to devise viable solutions going forward.

Three pillars of focus: i) sediment management, ii) fisheries, and iii) water quality, have been identified to manage Lake Altoona and combat the biggest problems facing the lake. These three areas address the key concerns that have been identified by District members, government agencies, and other users of the lake.

Sedimentation to Lake Altoona has been an on-going problem. The cost to control sedimentation is prohibitive, and control efforts have had only short-term effects. Sedimentation to the lake from its primary tributaries also has negative impacts on water quality and fish habitat. High levels of nutrients are often associated with sediment supply to and storage as benthic sediment in Lake Altoona.

A technical investigation was performed by GO Environmental Services at the time of this plan’s writing to develop new conceptual strategies for sediment mitigation. The report established a picture of the historical trend of sources and sinks of sediment supply and establishes an accurate estimate of the annual magnitude of sediment loading to the lake. With this information new mitigation measures are discussed and future sediment data collection initiatives are recommended.

The following action items are outlined in this plan for each of the three pillars of focus:

  1. Sediment management
    a. Mitigation options
    i. Continue with current strategy of dredging delta and channel
    ii. Construct and use multiple sediment traps upstream
    iii. Change dredging method from hydraulic to mechanical excavation
    iv. Apply stream flow reduction strategies
    v. Reduce energy in expanded floodplain areas
    vi. Analyze and develop strategies for control of sediment at sources
    a. Recommended future and ongoing projects and studies
    i. Use of LiDAR data to determine erosion hot-spots and historical trends
    ii. Regular scheduling of lake bathymetric maps
    iii. Establish river stage continuous monitoring site and calibrate for discharge rate (flow)
    iv. Determine river transported sediment type and size distribution
    v. Establish relationship for stream discharge rate vs. sediment transport rates to predict lake sediment loading
    vi. Coring to characterize lake sediment
    vii. Sub-surface profiling of river channel
    viii. Create accurate elevation map of river bed, backwater, and potential aggregation sites
    ix. Identify best locations for upstream sediment traps and catchment basins
    x. Identify and design re-connectivity and improved habitat projects
  2. Maintain healthy fisheries and increase aquatic and shoreline habitat
    a. Increase coarse woody habitat: Apply for a fish habitat structure general permit to add fish habitat, add nearshore coarse woody habitat such as tree drops and half-log structures, add deeper water coarse woody habitat (fish cribs)
    b. Protect and enhance near-shore and other aquatic plant communities: Investigate possibility of adding a no-wake ordinance to critical areas to protect nearshore aquatic vegetation
    c. Monitor existing invasive species and prevent new occurrences: Re-establish Clean Boats Clean Waters (CBCW) checkpoint
  3. Improve water quality
    a. Reduce nutrient runoff from watershed: LAD subcommittee actively participate in the development and implementation of the Eau Claire River Watershed 9 Element Management Plan to coordinate LAD nutrient and sediment reduction goals with the larger watershed objectives
    b. Increase area of healthy shoreline buffers: Educate and generate awareness of the problem, host a contest for buffer installation, construct a demonstration site with signage
    c. Reduce fertilizer use: Work at the neighborhood and local level to educate and generate awareness of the problem, engage local vendors who provide alternative fertilizers, assist Eau Claire County Land Conservation Department in watershed wide engagement of the Eau Claire River Watershed 9 Key Element Plan by engaging a volunteer group from the LAD
    d. Stabilize gullies and washout ditches, remove concrete channels: Engage volunteer group from the LAD to identify improvement opportunities and initiate outreach to landowners in collaboration with greater Eau Claire River Watershed activities

Under the guidance of the Lake Altoona District and with the help of enthusiastic volunteers, governmental organizations, and other regional resources, the Lake Altoona Management Plan will ensure a successful future for the lake.

This lake management plan was presented to the public for comments and edits at the Altoona Lake District annual meeting on October 12, 2015. A second public hearing was held on XXX. No edits were recommended.

The Lake Altoona Lake Management Plan was approved the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on January 9, 2018.

The Lake Altoona Lake Management Plan was adopted by the Lake Altoona District on January 31, 2018.