Members of the Kewaunee County Board sent a message to their counterparts in Door County on Tuesday: They’re watching what’s happening with the Forestville Dam and Millpond.
Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution encouraging Door County and the state Department of Natural Resources to take all necessary steps “to protect the environment, natural resources and public health” during the draw down of the Forestville Millpond.
The Door County Soil & Water Conservation Department in November recommended an extended draw down through two winters and two summers, starting in the fall of 2019 to allow the DNR to complete ongoing water quality monitoring for a total maximum daily load (TMDL) of the Ahnapee River. Refilling would begin in the fall of 2021.
Door County supervisors voted last month to approve the two-year draw down that supporters say will improve long-term water quality near the dam and opponents say will damage the Ahnapee River downstream in Kewaunee County.
Those concerns were raised again Tuesday evening, as Forestville Village President Terry McNulty and Robert Sijgers of the Friends of the Forestville Millpond organization expressed concern about the impact of the draw down on the already impaired waters of the Ahnapee River downstream in Kewaunee County.
“If the Soil and Water Conservation Department thinks the draw down is so effective, why do they state in their own document that it might need to be repeated every five to 10 years?” said Sijgers, who owns property on the pond. “And why after decades of doing nothing is suddenly the hurry?”
Sijgers suggested the real issue plaguing the pond and the river is agricultural and other runoff into the Ahnapee. He said Door and Kewaunee County should apply for a DNR Targeted Runoff Management grant, which “reimburse costs for agricultural or urban runoff management practices in targeted, critical geographic areas with surface water or groundwater quality concerns,” according to the DNR website.
McNulty said a one-year draw down had been considered and even that option wasn’t popular.
“I’ve never seen something happen so fast in government,” McNulty said. “The week before Christmas the Door County Land Conservation and Parks Department came out with a public hearing – they’d already made up their decision what’s going to happen – at the end of the night I guarantee you most people would have said do nothing at this point … within less than a month’s time the County Board approved this two-year draw down, which was never one of their options.”
He asked for Kewaunee County’s help in obtaining an injunction against the plan.
“This is just not good for Forestville,” McNulty said. “We have businesses there that I say see hundreds of people come there every year because of the fishing, because of the recreational opportunities, and one of the businesses tells me it’s probably more like 1,000.”
Kewaunee County Board Chairman Robert Weidner said the purpose of the resolution is neither to object to or agree with the draw down.
“We were never part of the planning process and the stakeholders meetings that they had, the county was not part of it, so we’re starting at a deficit in knowledge as to how they intend to do it,” Wiedner said. “As a first step, it was important that Kewaunee County get on the record that we have expectations about this project.”
Supervisor Chuck Wagner, who chairs the Kewaunee County Land & Water Conservation Committee, relayed a conversation with retired Door County conservationist Bill Schuster, who he said supports the proposal.
“He told me there is little chance of any flushing of a lot more or different nutrients,” Wagner said. “There is nothing in that Millpond that is not already in downstream in the river, all the way to the lake. … Absent millions of other dollars that are totally unavailable to anybody in Door County, this is in his opinion the best option to do at least something to help that Millpond. In two years when they fill it back up, there’ll be a nice lake there again.”
But Weidner said the county plans to get as much information as possible.
“I think it’s very worthwhile that we follow up on this. Our Land & Water people are extremely busy, but they’re going to take this up,” he said. “We’ll stay on the project until we’re satisfied with what we see.”