Caring for the Lake

Lake Facts

Elkhart Lake is the largest kettle moraine lake in Sheboygan County at 292-acre lake. While it is relatively small compared to many other lakes in southeastern Wisconsin, it is one of the deepest lakes in the state with a maximum depth of 119 feet. Elkhart Lake has some of the clearest water clarity of lakes in Wisconsin.

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Water Quality

Keeping the lake in good shape is a major part of what the Elkhart Lake Improvement Association is dedicated to doing.  Each year, ELIA works with the staff at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), professional marine biologists, and with volunteers to help make “Keep Elkhart Blue” a reality for all to enjoy.

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Lake Ecology

Ecology is the relation of organisms to one another and to the physical surroundings. In Elkhart Lake we have a diverse aquatic plant community. The aquatic plant survey conducted by the DNR showed twenty-two plant species and two types of macro-algae present. Of the twenty-two plant species collected, twenty are native and two are exotic. The two non-natives are Eurasian water milfoil and Curly-leaf pondweed. Both of these plants are labeled invasive.  This means that they could negatively impact the ecology of the lake.

ELIA has taken a four-pronged approach in an attempt to control the spread of these invasive plants.

  • Education with the Clean Boat/Clean Water program (see tab)
  • Diver Assisted Suction Harvesting – DASH
  • Chemical controls in small areas
  • Volunteer hand pulling

DASH is an environmentally friendly method to remove small areas of invasive plants from the lake. A diver will pull the plant from the bottom and then it is sucked to the surface, captured and safely removed from the waterway.

Chemical controls are regulated by the DNR and must be applied by a licensed applicator. A permit system is used that dictates which plant species may be controlled, the products to be used, the time period and the area where they may be applied. ELIA has only used this method in problem areas too large to hand pull.

Voluntary hand pulling is encouraged as it can target the invasive plant and the plant can be removed from the lake. We have had a workshop teaching interested citizens on the proper technique of hand pulling. It is important to get the root of the plant and to make sure no fragments are left to float away as EWM can propagate through fragments of the plants.

Clean Boat/Clean Water

This is a volunteer or paid watercraft inspection program in which citizens help educate others about aquatic invasive species to help minimize the spread of these organisms. Inspectors perform boat and trailer checks for invasive species, distribute informational brochures (like this Aquatic Invasive Plants guide), and collect and report any new water body infestations to the DNR.

ELIA has been awarded grants from the DNR to help pay for the watercraft inspectors at the public boat ramp since 2015. This has been a very well received educational tool at the boat ramp. Most of the boaters using the lake are regulars and practice these methods to help keep the lake clean. See DNR watercraft inspection statistics for Elkhart Lake.

Lake Projects

Neuses Bay Phosphorous Treatment Bed Removal

Reducing excessive amounts of Phosphorous entering the lake and the resulting encouragement for unwanted growth of aquatic plants has been a key objective for ELIA. The recent implementation of a Phosphorous filtration system in the south side Neuses Bay Area watershed is an example of what is being done.

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Merrybrook – Sheboygan Bay

Iron bacteria are naturally occurring, but they are not always a welcome part of our lake watershed. We have an iron flocculate issue in Sheboygan Bay which we are now starting to assess in conjunction with the country and local DNR, to see what can be done to mitigate this unwanted discharge.

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Ordinances and Guidelines

ELIA is providing the below ordinances and guidelines to assist homeowners and residents in the area to better understand their responsibilities and sensible options for preserving the beauty of Elkhart Lake.

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The following documents include ELIA supported reports regarding Elkhart Lake and the surrounding area to aid in accomplishing our mission.

Document Type Published Document
Government ND Chemical Aquatic Plant Control Permit Application
Government 2019 Chemical Aquatic Plant Control Permit Application
Government 2018 Sheboygan Marsh Drawdown
Information 2018 Water Chemistry Data Collection
Report 2017 Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Water Quality Annual Report
Record 2014 List of Lake Studies Grant History
Government 2013 DNR Worksheet for Large Scale Chemical Aquatic Plan Treatment
Report 2013 Lake Management Plan for Invasive Species
Map 2010 Elkhart Lake Monitoring Stations
Report 2008 Results of the 2006-2007 Groundwater Monitoring-Big Elkhart Lake, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin
Report 2006 Groundwater Mapping & Monitoring Report, Elkhart Lake, Hey & Associates
Report 1996 Water, Nutrient Budgets and Trophic Status of Elkhart Lake