Wisconsin Lakes

We Speak for Lakes

WI Lakes

Planning, Protection, and Management


By Wisconsin Lakes staff

Wisconsin’s surface water grant programs—administered by the Department of Natural Resources—help lake groups and local units of government fund important local lake projects. Over the last few decades, these grant programs have provided the state important information about many of our lakes, the challenges they face, and successful projects that have assisted lake communities in reaching their lake goals. But most importantly, matching state dollars with local government, lake group, and volunteer hours has increased the capacity of lake communities to tackle lake projects.

Wisconsin Lakes has led several initiatives to increase funding, expand eligibility, and defend existing lake grant programs. We are dedicated to protecting the grants that assist organizations in managing and protecting Wisconsin lakes.

For detailed information on the different types of grants available, their purposes, application deadlines, and more, the WI Dept. of Natural Resources manages a helpful page that answers many questions. Here’s a synopsis, however, of the main lake grant categories:

Lake Planning Grants

Lake planning grants fund a variety of projects such as watershed analyses, nutrient budgets, aquatic plant surveys, habitat and recreational use analyses, and educational programs. This type of grant is available for small scale and large scale lake projects. Social surveys often follow in larger-scale lake management planning projects. Local governments and qualified lake groups are eligible to apply for grants.

Lake Protection Grants

Since 1994, lake protection grants have provided funds to local governments and qualified lake organizations to help implement lake management plans, purchase property and conservation easements, restore wetlands and shorelands, and for development of local regulations and ordinances.

Aquatic Invasive Species Grants

Aquatic invasive species (AIS) grants provide funds for qualified lake groups and local governments to conduct AIS education and prevention programs, develop AIS plans, contain new invasive species populations, and manage existing invasive species (such as purple loosestrife and Eurasian water milfoil). Several counties have used AIS grant funds to establish AIS coordinator positions within the county; these staff have been used to conduct AIS research, conduct education programs, and coordinate citizen volunteers for prevention activities.

Lake Classification Grants

Counties are eligible for these versatile grants that organize lakes into similar groups and tailor management approaches to meet the needs of lakes within each class. Grants can be used to gather a wide variety of lake data, tailor shoreland management, recreational use, AIS prevention or management, etc.

Traditionally, lake classification has been used primarily to set up different shoreland development standards for different classes of lakes, but the utility of this tool was greatly reduced when the Wisconsin legislature removed the ability of counties to regulate shoreland zoning by imposing a statewide standard for all lakes.

Still, classification can be a tool to understand the different types of lakes in a county, and can also be used to set up recreational use classes, and potentially AIS management. The lake classification process allows counties to gather data about their lakes’ physical features–such as lake type, size, watershed area, aquatic plant surveys, sensitivity to pollution and other development.