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lake wingra carp removal file photo

Carp netted in Lake Wingra are pulled from the water during a project conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in this 2008 file photo.

Clearly, it's a bad time to be a turkey and, based on an announcement from the Dane County Board Wednesday, it's not a very good time to be a carp, either.

Scott McDonell, board chairman, unveiled a plan to spend about $27 million over the next five years on projects aimed at cleaning up the county's lakes. Included in the proposal, which McDonell said he expects the board to act upon next week, is the extensive removal of sediment-churning carp from Cherokee Marsh and from Mud Lake south of McFarland.

"I'm a pretty easy-going person by nature," McDonell said. "But when it comes to carp, I have murder in my heart. They are an invasive species that need to be eradicated and that's exactly what we're going to do."

Other parts of the five-year-long plan include installation of algae-blocking booms on beaches and building more storm drain covers, at a cost of $6 million over five years, to reduce the amounts of sediment going into the lakes. Also, the plan would set up a $3.4-million annual fund to buy land that helps protect water quality in the Yahara lakes and their tributaries.

"Our view is that this will make a substantial difference," McDonell said. "In five years, our lakes will be clearer."

Money for the effort, called the Clear Lakes Initiative, is coming from Dane County's capital budget. The plan calls for spending $5.4 million each year for five years, for a total of $27 million through 2016. McDonell said the county board has already included $5.4-million for the cleanup project in its 2012 budget. 

The proposal was praised by other county board members Wednesday.

Board member Patrick Miles, Dist. 34, said additional money budgeted to replace old storm sewers will decrease the amount of time to get all of the structures replaced from nearly 40 years to only about 10.

"Storm sewers built 50 or 100 years ago let all kinds of debris, nutrients and sediment flow into the lakes, and the outfalls need to be replaced," Miles said.

The cleanup project builds on several efforts already underway, including the Yahara CLEAN initiative, which is aimed at finding long-term solutions to the problems that plague the county's lakes, especially pollution by phosphorus, which causes excessive weed and algae growth.

The plan to eradicate carp is built on the success of a similar effort in Lake Wingra where the trapping of carp two years ago during the winter resulted in a marked improvement in the lake's clarity. Similar techniques will be used to remove carp from both Cherokee Marsh and from Mud Lake, according to Dick Lathrop, formerly a limnologist with the state Department of Natural Resources who has since retired. Lathrop helped oversee the carp eradication effort on Lake Wingra and also came up with the idea of floating booms to keep algae off beaches.

Lathrop said it will be necessary to collect data on the movement and location of carp before trapping them, probably next winter. He said plans also call for the use of bubble barriers — pumps and hoses that blow columns of bubbles up through the water — to keep carp from re-entering areas from which they've been removed.

Lathrop agreed that such efforts should help clear up the lakes.

"I want to return to a time when kids could swim in our lakes and at our beaches, even on the hottest days," McDonell said.