A couple months ago, the Town of Lake Mills Chairman Thomas Buechel said he would like the town to focus on the Miljala Channel, an inlet on the western side of Rock Lake. As part of the initiative, he wanted the Joint Rock Lake Committee (JRLC) to primarily focus on the channel indicating the project should be spearheaded by the committee instead of the town board.

The JRLC brought two representatives from Jefferson County to the Nov. 9 meeting to discuss what work has been completed on the Miljala Channel and what needs to be done.

Director of Jefferson County Land and Water Conservation Department Patricia Cicero explained the overall goals of the project are reducing erosion in stream; reducing sediment, phosphorus and bacteria to the channel and lake; and reducing the amount of dredging required in the future.

Cicero said the navigation channel, that was created in 1957 to provide lake access to a new residential development, had a hydraulic dredge completed in 1998 when a barge removed 6,000 cubic yards of sediment. Since 2005 there have been five dredges completed ranging from 130 to 700 cubic yards using a backhoe. She said in 2009 a turbity curtain was placed to hold back sediment; however, the sediment has overtopped the curtain since the channel has not been dredged since 2016.

The director said based on the most recent water quality sampling found approximately 135 cubic yards of sediment had been deposited into the Miljala Channel. She said assessments determined most of the sediment is sand that is being transported to the waterway during storm water flows.

The sampling also looked at levels of phosphorous and bacteria. Cicero said the majority of the soluble phosphorous is likely coming from stream bank erosion, wetlands, stagnant water in the upper reaches of the stream, and runoff from farm fields and residential lots. As for bacteria, it was determined higher levels was the result of storm events and septic systems are not a major source. The county director said a higher presence of bacteria was found after storm events that occurred after extended dry periods. This data suggested a growth of persistent bacteria in the soil, she said. Furthermore, bacteria is coming from wildlife, manure spreading in and near the watershed, and uncollected pet waste.

To combat the sediment, Cicero suggests the Miljala Channel is dredged as soon as possible. She said the cost of the dredging will continue to increase based on the rise in sediment levels and the fact the sediment is overtaking the turbidity curtain.

One of the long-term solutions to decrease the sediment is creating a two-stage ditch in the channel. Cicero explained the normal flow of the stream would continue to stay in the bottom, low-flow channel. On each side of the low channel will be a slightly raised shelves and above those would be slight inclines up to the shoreline. She explained when there are storm events, the two-stage ditch it creates a place for excess water to go instead of eroding the shoreline.

The director said in an effort to move forward with the projects, the Rock Lake Improvement Association applied for a pair of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources grants. The first grant would be in the amount of $9,901.61 for the $14,783 project with the remainder of the cost split between several entities. The project funded by the money would be for practice determination. Cicero said this would solidify the solution to the channel challenges with landowner input, stakeholder engagement meetings, topographic surveys, and geotechnical soil sampling and analysis.

The second grant would pay for a construction plan with the DNR chipping in $8,800 of the $14,201 overall cost with several entities again funding the remainder of the project. Cicero said the construction plan would entail stakeholder engagement meetings, completion and review of preliminary designs and plans, compiling bidding documents, and obtaining estimated construction costs.

She said if the grants are received, work on the Miljala Channel could begin in 2023.

Other board action:

• Prior to the official monthly meeting, a public hearing and special meeting of the electors was conducted. Residents voted to approve the 2021 tax levy of $457,978 and the 2022 highway expenditures of $170,249.08. The electors also approved to continue the additional tax levy of $150,000 to pay for outstanding road reconstruction and maintenance debt. There was no public comment during the special meeting.

•Took no action with the Lake Mills EMS contract. With the EMS and the city unable to come to an agreement for an updated contract, Chairman Thomas Buechel recommended the town stay with the current contract until the municipality can see “where city and EMS negotiations go.” He said it does not make sense for the town to negotiate with the EMS separately.

• Approved increasing the wages effective Jan. 1, 2022 for the town’s road and lake patrol officers to $25/hour for officers, $26/hour for sergeants and $27/hour for chiefs. The reason for the pay increase is due to the town finding it more challenging to find officers who are willing to give up part-time hours to work full-time for the town.

• Rescinded the town ordinance regarding slaughterhouses. The ordinance is now obsolete since slaughterhouses are now regulated through the USDA and state.

• Approved the updated ward maps based on a request from Jefferson County administration.

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