Annual lakes meeting focuses on shoreline property owners
The 2020 virtual Six-County Lakes Meeting takes place 9 a.m.-noon, Friday, July 10
By Eileen Persike
Northwoods lakes are beautiful to look at, offer an array of recreation and fitness opportunities, and are a relaxing place to hang out. But the president of Oneida County Lakes and Rivers Association (OCLRA) says the value of lakes goes much deeper.
“One of the things we’ve tried to do as an organization is try to point out the economic value of lakes and rivers in Northern Wisconsin,” said Bob Martini. “There are all kinds of economic metrics that show that even if you don’t care about the lakes, or the water quality or the fish, you have to care about the economics. So we’ve brought a lot of people into the fold with that argument that weren’t maybe so interested in some of the biological aspects.”
Lakes are the heart of a $220 million dollar tourism industry in Oneida County, Martini added, with lake shoreline totaling 75% of the county’s assessed valuation. It’s a natural resource worth protecting; a task that Martini said falls to property owners.
OCLRA and its Vilas County counterpart (VCLRA) are hosting the annual Six-county Lakes Meeting Friday, July 10, 9 a.m.-noon. The program will be offered online this year, providing the opportunity to participate to many who perhaps would not otherwise attend. The speakers will address various ways in which lake property owners can follow lake-friendly and environmentally-responsible practices.
“The reason we are concentrating heavily on what shoreline owners can do is that the protections from the state and the county are so undermined that voluntary actions by the shoreline owner are really the most important options for protecting lakes now,” Martini said. “We want to make sure the information is out there so the owner can really protect that water.”
Martini, a retired water quality analyst at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said that for 50 years Wisconsin was a leader in water protections, but now, he said changes made in Madison have put the state is near the bottom.
“It’s been a dramatic change in protections for water. In addition, the legislature has removed local control for protection of water. It used to be that county boards could decide through zoning laws how effective and how protective they wanted to be. Now that’s just not possible,” said Martini.
Add to that warmer water created by climate change, invasive species, bigger boats and motors that propel waves from higher water levels onto shore, Martini said, and we have “the perfect storm against lakes at a time when we’re highly dependent on them”
Event speakers include Mike Meyer, a research scientist who has done habitat assessment work for 30 years in northern Wisconsin, comparing habitats of natural shorelines to habitats of shorelines that have been altered by people. He will talk about shoreland management projects on Lake Tomahawk, what landowners are doing on their property that could be improved without much cost, and would improve the lake. Martini said the first step in landowner improvement is “to have them understand what’s happening right now and how improvements can be made.”
First Weber Group real estate agent Sandy Ebben will talk about what Realtors can do to advise their clients on how to protect their economic assets.
“Their property value depends on the quality of the lake,” said Martini. University of Wisconsin economics researchers studied more than 1,000 property transfers in Oneida and Vilas counties. “If you had water quality problems, or scenic beauty problems or invasive species, the value of the average lot could see a 15-17% reduction. That’s not only important to the landowner to protect their asset, but every school district or every taxing authority in the area depends on assessed valuation for a significant portion of their budget.”
Lakes Meeting organizers hope that by communicating to the public the current threat to the lakes that everyone loves, they will become concerned enough to learn what those threats are and learn what they can do themselves.
“Some of the things they can do when they go to the voting booth,” Martini said. Just don’t vote for the people who are trying to remove local control or reduce the protections that are already out there and ultimately I think the idea is to keep economics in mind as well as the environmental side of it in mind.”
There are so many reasons to be protective, Martini concluded, and “very few good reasons to be exploitive.”
To see the agenda and sign up to attend, visit www.oclra.org