It’s been a long time coming, but the city of Whitewater is about to go through an unfamiliar change that will affect the community for a long time.

The Whitewater Common Council has finally gone forward with the drawdowns of Cravath and Trippe Lakes.

The city is planning to start the drawdowns of both lakes on July 8 after years of debate, planning and preparation. The city has been discussing broad plans to recondition the lakes for more than a decade.

“The specific drawdown project, we learned that it was possible probably more like eight years ago,” city manager Cameron Clapper said. “It’s just been something we’ve been waiting for the right opportunity to try to move forward on.”

The amount of weeds, along with the build-up of sediment, invasive species and various elements including phosphorus has become an increasing problem in both lakes. Higher concentration levels of these elements have decreased the overall oxygen levels.

The gradual additions of the sediment build-up combined with the overall shallow waters of the lakes are making life more difficult for the lakes’ inhabitants. Cravath Lake’s deepest point is 10 feet, while Trippe Lake’s deepest point is just eight feet.

“What we lacked was a good understanding from the Department of Natural Resources as to what we could do,” Clapper said. “And then also, we took advantage of a transition in leadership from the Parks and Recreation Department, so I hired a new Parks and Recreation Director [Eric Boettcher]. On his first day, I gave him this project and said ‘by the way, in addition to park programing, you’re going to be heading an effort to restore the lakes’…Those were the two changes that kind of helped us springboard into this project.”

It is not that Cravath and Trippe Lakes are new, either. Both lakes have been around since the mid-1800s to provide power to gristmills and paper mills. Gristmills are grinding mechanisms that grind cereal grains into flour and other powders. Paper mills are factories that produce paper from vegetable fibers.

The original gristmills and paper mills in Whitewater during the mid-1800s led to the city’s overall growth, and Cravath and Trippe Lakes have maintained important functions to Whitewater over the past 150 years. The lakes are imperative to the city’s economy as well as leisure activity for citizens.

With the increased buildup of sediment, elements and other factors, the lakes in recent years have been used less and are overall not as effective to both the lakes’ inhabitants and the city itself.

Populations near and around both lakes have generally increased over the past 50 years, and future measurements project the populations will only grow from here.

Before the city begins drawing down both lakes, future projections said that an additional 46 pounds of phosphorus will be added to Cravath Lake from residential land use, while an additional 32 pounds of the same material will be accumulated in Trippe Lake from residential land use by 2035.

Other material such as copper and zinc will also continue to pour into the lakes, although these will not be as prevalent from Whitewater residents. Most of the added copper and zinc comes from commercial and industrial use.

A result of all of these added materials along with other factors have decreased the lakes’ overall water clarity since 2004.

However, most of the materials at the bottom of the lakes are soft along with relatively flat bottoms, which have helped the biological activity maintain as stable as possible despite all of lakes’ other issues.

With the drawdowns starting in the summer later this year, the city is hoping to change the lakes for the greater good of the aquatic life and Whitewater’s citizens.

“One of the hopes of this is to have it be more recreational use,” parks and recreation director Eric Boettcher said. “Hopefully this will correct some of the problems with the weeds, so that will be a definite benefit for the community to have more use of the lakes…Now there’s lots of times of the year where it just doesn’t look very nice, so we’re looking to beautify the area as well.”

Whitewater councilperson Carol McCormick said on the Daily Jefferson County Union that individuals might not even notice the drawdowns because of the repeated droughts and low water levels to both lakes.

The city is planning on gradually drawing down the lakes at one inch per day until they become creeks. Once that happens, the city plans to mechanically dredge the lakes. Whitewater is also seeking to dredge the areas near both Cravath Lake Park and Trippe Lake Park.

The mechanical dredge requires heavy equipment to scoop and remove all of the sediment and extra materials that have settled in both of the lakes over the years. The counterpart to the mechanical dredge would be the hydraulic dredge, which requires a dredge that sits on the water and physically pumps all of the excessive materials through a pipeline to another location.

“The benefit of the dredging is to make certain areas of it deeper, and also make it more usable,” Boettcher said.

Boettcher also said one big advantage of mechanically dredging the lakes is that it will cost the city a cheaper price. But it does not change the fact that mechanically dredging the lakes will cost the city in the range of $2 to $3 million.

The actual drawdowns cost approximately in the range $800,000 to $1 million. Whitewater runs on a budget that estimates around $9 million, so the entire project could cost as most as $4 million.

“There’s going to be debt,” Clapper added.

Another concern the city has with the drawdowns would be a distinct smell that would encompass areas around Cravath and Trippe Lakes. Boettcher said last year that he talked to residents in the Muskego area who had to go through the drawdown with Little Muskego Lake. The people living on the lakes noticed the smell, but faded away roughly after one week.

Cravath and Trippe Lakes are fairly small as well, so it helps that Whitewater is drawing down two lakes that will not affect an immense amount of people. There are about 6,500 people residing near the lakes.

Both lakes are very similar in overall length as well. Neither fully reaches one mile in length and both are almost equivalent in shoreline length. Cravath Lakes’ shoreline is 2.8 miles long, while Trippe Lakes’ shoreline is 2.7 miles long.

The lakes’ shorelines are also very irregular, thus correlating to the shallower waters both lakes possess, and allows for more flexible forms of wildlife.

If everything goes properly, the entire project will not be complete until around 2022. Both lakes will not be used at all in the spring of 2021 when the city hopes both lakes refill in a timely manner.

While the long-term events of this project seem promising, it does not appear that way for the aquatic life in the short term. The city is hoping it gets the drawdowns finished by the end of September so that the amphibians can properly go into hibernation.

“The reason we do [the drawdowns] slowly is to allow fish and wild life to move up and further downstream,” Boettcher said. “If we keep drawing down past the first week of October, that’s what the DNR says they don’t want us to do because then that affects the habitat.”

While some wild life will survive, it is imminent that thousands of other forms will not.

“With a project like this, we will lose some habitat,” Boettcher said. “You’re going to have some fish die out, you are going to have some loss of some of the habitat. But the hopeful benefit of doing the project long term, you’re going to see a healthier habitat.”

Other forms of the lakes’ inhabitants, including ducks, geese, bald eagles and pelicans will also be heavily affected. Clapper noted that some bald eagles on Trippe Lake are currently nesting.

“I don’t know how fast the behavior for those birds change,” Clapper said. “They’ll definitely be short on supply of habitat for a couple years, so it may take a little while for that to recover as well.”

In addition to the inevitable loss of wildlife, Clapper noted that this process will not be perfect.

“If we were not finished dropping the lake down all the way by then [end of September], if something happened either rain or something weather prevented us from getting all the way down, we would have to stop anyway and then start drawing down water levels again the following year,” Clapper said.

Once the lakes begin to refill, both Cravath and Trippe Lakes will have better shorelines and more fishing holes. The fishing holes will make for a more pleasant habitat for the fish to navigate through, something both lakes have been lacking for quite some time.

However, once both lakes are refilled, the project will not be done completely. Thousands of fish will have to be restocked as well as any forms of native species and aquatic plants that are imperative for both lakes to refunction.

“When we open up the lakes again, when they refill with water and we’ve been able to remove some of that sediment, the lakes will be more accessible overall,” Clapper said. “Not only will they be beautiful from the perspective of how they look from the downtown area, but they’ll be greater opportunities to do things on the lakes and have events on the lakes.”

The city is anticipating that the future fresh lakes will draw more citizens and lake enthusiasts in particular, including fishing and kayaking.

Most of the citizens that use Cravath and Trippe Lakes are there for community events and relaxing purposes. Somewhat surprising is that both lakes are least used for picnicking and kayaking/canoeing. Despite the thousands of fish in both lakes, fishing is not a very popular option either. About 32 percent of people surveyed say they prefer to fish over anything else.

“All of those things we’d love to do right now but can’t because of that sediment that’s built up over time,” Clapper said. “If we don’t take additional action either before or after this project to address some of the sediment issues we have, which come directly from erosion upstream from agriculture and farmers plowing too close to the stream that feeds the lakes, if we don’t address that, then we’re ultimately not solving the problem.”

Despite all of the possible issues Whitewater will potentially run into, there is a lot of optimism within the Common Council that the drawdown project will make things better for the city.

“I am very confident,” Clapper said. “I feel as though this has been a long time coming, and these lakes are an asset…We just need to be proactive as a community and regularly looking at ways to keep them healthy.”

Boettcher also said he feels similar to Clapper’s hopes.

“I’m pretty confident that this will definitely help,” Boettcher said. “This is also how I view it as a start. It’s not an end-all…This is something that we’re going to want to continue to work towards to improve our lakes.”

It might have felt like an eternity for the city to make a decision, but the lakes’ fate is in the hands of the people that love them the most. Now, they have the opportunity to be the saviors of the lakes that have meant so much to the Whitewater community for the past century and a half.

“At the end of the day, I think we’re further strengthening the community’s identity and further improving an existing asset that really is part of who we are,” Clapper said.

Come July, the drawdowns will mark a new beginning for Cravath and Trippe Lakes, and arguably even a fresh start for the city of Whitewater.











Posted by Tyler Job, filed under Uncategorized. Date: May 14, 2019, 11:27 pm | No Comments »

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