The purpose of the Amnicon Dowling Lake Management District is to preserve and protect the lakes, their watersheds and the surrounding areas, in an effort to enhance the water quality, fishery, boating safety and aesthetic values of both lakes as a public recreational facility for today and for future generations for the mutual good of our residents, the public and the lakes’ environment.
- Chair: Judy Peterson Elected term: 2021-2024 Email: email@example.com
- Secretary: Jay Hunger Elected term: 2020-2023 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Treasurer: Kim Nygaard Elected term: 2022-2025 Email: email@example.com
- Douglas Co Rep. Joe Moen Appted term: Yearly Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Town of Summit Rep. Samantha Beaumont Appted term: Yearly Email: email@example.com
- Commisioner: Tom Fennessey Elected term: 2021-2024 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Commissioner: Steven Noble Elected term: 2022-2025 Email: email@example.com
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History of the Amnicon Dowling Lake District
You may not think that our two lakes have any relationship to a point in the bottom of the Ohio River where it crosses from Pennsylvania into Ohio, but it was from here this point that the Public Land Survey promoted by future President Thomas Jefferson began in 1785 and extended westward into lands obtained by the U.S. through the Northwest Ordinance, which included Wisconsin. Townships thirty-six square miles in area (6 miles on a side) were laid out, and because of its Ohio River starting point one of the lines happened to run vertically on the strip of land that now separates Dowling and Amnicon Lakes. This resulted in Dowling Lake being in the Town of Oakland and Amnicon in the Town of Summit.
Almost from the beginning of settlement some 120 years ago it was realized that the two lakes had much more in common than the Township line that separated them, particularly because of the billion or so gallons of water that flowed between them in a typical year. To better deal with these common concerns, we looked at organizing in three possible ways in the 1970’s: a property owner’s association, a Lake District, and a Village.
A property owner’s association is the most common way lakes deal with things. Because they are voluntary, frequent drawbacks of associations are that only 10%-15% of owners choose to belong and funding is unpredictable from year to year. Formation of a Village was at the other extreme and would have required things like a constable, our own fire protection and zoning, etc.
The people of our lakes at that time wanted to ensure greater member participation than a property association would likely provide, but at the same time they realized that our area did not have a large enough commercial and industrial tax base to support the relatively high expense of a Village. It would have been too much of a financial burden on the many seasonal residents here at the time.
It was decided instead to work towards forming the third type of organization: a Lake Management District. Unlike a property owner’s association, by law every property owner within a District is a member and is required to support it financially through their property tax payments. For our District, this currently amounts to some 285 landowners within a 9 square mile area on the lakes and in their watershed. Informational meetings were held, petitions were circulated, which 51% of landowners signed, and in October 1977 the Douglas County Board of Supervisors approved the formation of the Lake District. It was, and still is, the only Lake District in Douglas County.
The Lake District is organized and operates according to Chapter 33 of the the WI State Statues. It is governed by a 7 member board of commissioners, 5 of whom are elected, 1 representative appointed from the Douglas County Board, and 1 from the Town of Summit.
In cooperation with the state, the first of now 7 major lake studies was begun. In the late 1970’s a residential development of year-round homes on the undeveloped Sedlachek property at the southeast corner of Amnicon Lake was planned with much objection from the 150 other Amnicon Lake owners. The Lake District purchased part of this lakeshore and now keeps it as a natural area. It also worked with all parties to make the project more lake-friendly than originally planned. Now there are 5 residences instead of the original 30, all far enough from the lake and with adequate natural buffers to minimize damage to the lake and its water.
Also in the late 1970’s a foreign plant called Purple Loosestrife had begun to crowd out the lakes’ more varied types of native plants and the Lake District started a program to keep it under control. The program continues today and has been largely successful.
In the mid-1990’s the District’s focus turned to property owner education and stewardship, something the current District Commissioners hope to strengthen. A Sanitary District was also formed to look at the sanitary needs of its residents. Two options were evaluated: a centralized collection system or each individual owner bringing their own existing onsite system up to code.
After much study and discussion, it was decided by member vote in 2003 to proceed with the option of each owner being responsible for their own existing system. The Sanitary District was also dissolved, as it was no longer necessary. With the county’s help, in the intervening 18 years large numbers of these systems have been replaced or modified and brought up to code. By our personal account, over 30 of Dowling Lake’s 83 lakeshore systems have been replaced, for instance. And existing state laws should have all systems inspected in the next 2 years and the non-compliant ones corrected the year following. It is one of the Lake District’s biggest success stories.
The District’s attention then turned to the growing statewide problem of invasive species. Without a native predator to control their numbers, they can quickly spread and dominate a waterbody. Many of these foreign plants and animals become established in a lake by hitchhiking on watercraft being transported from lake to lake, and the District has employed residents to monitor this activity and educate boat owners at the landings.
A 2006 Wisconsin/Lake District funded study (Thatcher Engineering) was the first to show that, while Amnicon Lake was still in good shape, aging gracefully, as they say; Dowling had steadily declined in water quality the past 25 years. A 2014 study (SEH/Garrison) showed a similar rapid rate of decline for Dowling, accompanied by loss of most of its native plants.
Amnicon still has a robust growth of oxygen-producing plants. Why the difference, and what can be done about Dowling’s deterioration? A current study (LEAPS) will hopefully provide some answers and solutions going forward.
Taken together our studies form a detailed, scientific environmental history of the Dowling/Amnicon Lake watershed. The District has recently reorganized them and is taking steps to preserve and safeguard them, for the education of both present and future members as well as governmental bodies.
Our Lake District was not created to take the place of the other levels of government we have, but rather to complement and work in conjunction with them. Compared to big government it is also much easier for Lake District members to participate and have an impact in the District. To this end, the District is revamping its education and awareness program, for existing as well as new property owners, and will be starting a website. This history may be one of the first things you read on it.