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Cyanobacteria on Lake Mendota at the Memorial Union

Cyanobacteria

All five Yahara lakes saw cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) blooms throughout the summer of 2019. One bloom in particular on Lake Mendota was quite large, covering at least an area from Picnic Point to the Memorial Union on August 1st. The bloom was well-documented by photos from community members as having a green pea soup-like consistency.

Cyanobacteria blooms are often bright green, but can also appear in shades of brown, blue, and white. Typically, blooms are spotted on warm days with calm winds. On August 1st, Madison reported a high of 81 degrees with an average wind speed of two miles per hour. 

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Carp Barrier

Can bubble barriers stop carp?

Carp harvesting efforts have been underway for years in the Yahara River watershed, but more could be done to manage the population of invasive fish. In this month’s Clean Lakes Grants spotlight, we’re sharing the efforts of our partners at Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy, who are ready to tackle the challenge.

Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy is a not-for-profit organization devoted to protecting and restoring Pheasant Branch Conservancy on the northwest shore of Lake Mendota. Through a $8,750 grant awarded for 2018, the group will evaluate the feasibility of installing a new carp “bubble barrier” system on Pheasant Branch Creek to ultimately craft a recommendation and action plan for implementation.

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James Madison Park Lake and Fog

Lake Mendota is the largest of the lakes in the Yahara chain. The watershed surrounding the lake is primarily agricultural, including many fourth and fifth generation dairy farms to the north, but is experiencing rapid urban growth.

Phosphorus that enters Lake Mendota from its tributaries are carried down the chain of lakes via the Yahara River and represent the largest sources of excess nutrients in the lower lakes. To improve water quality in the chain of lakes, we need to make improvements in the land surrounding Lake Mendota.

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Lake Mendota, Don Sanford

Until last fall, most folks knew Don Sanford as one of the pack of “water rats” who raced their sleek, wind-powered craft on the waves and ice of Madison’s lakes. But with the publication of a book 12 years in the making, Sanford took on an unlikely new role: keeper of the history and lore of Lake Mendota.

“I’ve always been a sailor, never a writer,” says Sanford, an agile-looking man with a grizzled beard and sea-grey eyes behind wire rim glasses. “When I started the project, the last thing I had written was in grad school back in 1974.” Yet he dove in, driven by knowledge that Lake Mendota was too often a mystery to the people who lived along its shores. “I’d pick up friends from the Memorial Union for a boat ride, and we would start cruising down the shoreline. Without fail, somebody who’d spent their whole life in Madison would say, ‘Where the hell are we? I don’t know what this place is.’ Whenever that happened,” Sanford recalls, “it always made me think that somebody— somebody else, that is—should produce a lake guide.”

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Lake Mendota has officially frozen over, after a long warm spell that left many wondering when (and if) the lake would ever freeze.

After a cold front drove temperatures below zero over the weekend and winds died down, Lyle Anderson, office manager at the Wisconsin State Climatology Office, knew the conditions were right for “instant ice.” Residents may have noticed a “steam fog” hanging over the lakes, created when cold air moves over warmer water, also a “harbinger of freeze.”

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The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Space Science and Engineering Center plays no small role in the implementation of the Lake Mendota research buoy and in the Lake Forecast partnership. The SSEC is instrumental in outfitting and maintaining the buoy as well as working with the data that it generates.

The Space Science and Engineering Center recently wrote a very informative, in-depth article about their work with the buoy, even back to the first buoy deployed in 1959. Our Watershed Engagement Intern, Justin Chenevert, is quoted in the article.

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