The Door County Environmental Council (DCEC) board of directors has gone on record in opposition to the planned two-year draw down of the Forestville Dam.

Door County supervisors voted in January to approve the 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.

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 2009 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.

In February the Kewaunee County Board 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.

In its March 2019 newsletter, the DCEC board writes:

The Door County Environmental Council strongly supports a comprehensive cleanup and permanent restoration of water quality in the Ahnapee River and Forestville Millpond. The question is, how is this best accomplished?

Minutes from meetings of the Door County Land Conservation Committee for the past three years reveal a tripling of the average phosphorus levels in the millpond over the last two decades (1994-5 to 2012-13). In 2017 the Door County Soil and Water Conservation Department requested and received a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Lake Planning Grant. The purpose of the grant was to research and collect water samples for the express purpose of providing current and accurate data on water quality. The department’s June 2018 final study report revealed high concentrations of total phosphorus in both the pond water and accumulated pond sediment, including elevated levels of oil, grease, and heavy metals in the sediment. But, perhaps the most disconcerting finding was that 25% of the upstream waters exceeded established stream thresholds for total phosphorus concentrations.

It is interesting to note that 88% of the farms upstream are part of the DNR’s best management practices for water quality. Either the water quality numbers are inaccurate or the best management practices for water are ineffective. And, while environmental experts have complimented Door County on the study, they have also criticized the county for not making the objectives of the study clearer. Door County must ensure that the proposed millpond drawdown will indeed accomplish those objectives of increased water quality, clarity, and quantity. In addition, these same experts have added that if you want fish, you must ensure that the water quality upstream is such that the millpond will accommodate fish.

Given the above, the Door County Environmental Council does not support a Forestville Millpond drawdown at this time. Because, if the contamination in the upstream waters feeding the millpond is not corrected, the millpond will soon revert to its current status. Rather, we believe more time and more money should be provided to investigate, enforce, and if need be, create clean water standards in the Ahnapee watershed. In order to have a clean Forestville Millpond and Ahnapee River, a comprehensive watershed cleanup program must be employed.

The Door County Environmental Council Board of Directors