For those of you that weren't around in the 1970's when the Columbia Generating Station was built, here's a few FACTS:
>The power company (WP&L) was told by the Public Service Commission -who was in charge of those type of permits at the time- that they didn't need any permits to build in the wetland because it "wasn't in the floodplain." So the power company started construction of the cooling lake.
>The DNR determined that they were building below the ordinary high water mark on a navigable water (the Wisconsin R), so a permit was needed.
>The Wisconsin R is also a Federal navigable waterway so the US Corps of Engineers also needed to approve the project. Construction of the cooling lake was stopped by DNR in mid-project.
>The original cooling lake plans called for it being twice as large as it is, covering the entire wetland almost to the river. What is now the western (riverward) outer dike was built before construction was stopped. It supposed to be a "training dike" about in the middle of the proposed larger cooling lake to promote circulation of the cooling water, so it does not have the clay core to prevent leakage, that the rest of the outer dike does.
>During DNR investigations, it was determined that the wetland where the cooling lake was supposed to be built was used by Wisconsin R and Lake Wisconsin walleye and sauger for spawning, similar to the Fox R and Wolf R. It was also used for spawning by northern pike, and musky.
>The wetland was found to be home to several threatened or endangered species of birds, reptiles and amphibians. During the DNR public hearings -several weeks worth- regarding the permit, the DNR survey results were presented.
The power company countered with the recreational and economic advantages they would provide:
>They offered to build a walleye hatchery, which DNR turned down because a natural "hatchery" already existed.
>They said they would provide land for a county park with camping, etc. The county didn't want the development or maintenance costs.
>They said that the undeveloped property would be open for public use including hunting. Hunting and public access has become increasingly restricted because of safety concerns.
>They said they would allow sport fishing and recreational boating on the cooling lake. Boating is restricted to carry-in access, and no gas motors because of cooling water quality concerns.
>They talked about the species of fish that THEY WOULD PAY TO STOCK, and DNR told them that most of them wouldn't do well because of projected water temperatures, use of chemicals to maintain cooling water quality, and lack of habitat.
In the end, the permits were issued for a reduced-size operation -the original plans called for up to 5 generating units, the larger cooling lake, and an fly-ash disposal area that would have wiped out most of the wetland (also a spawning marsh) north of the power plant.
Part of the permit gave fisheries survey and management authority to the UW-Madison for several years. The researchers established the first "refuge areas" where fishing wasn't allowed because the fish concentrated there. Some of those areas were expanded by the power company because perceived trespass and safety problems.
When the DNR got full management authority, the fisheries manager from Poynette was in charge. Over time, several predictions made by DNR during the permitting hearings were fulfilled:
>The largemouth bass that were originally stocked failed to reproduce adequately or survive well due to high water temperatures and poor habitat.
>Flathead and channel catfish became the dominant gamefish. They were stocked by DNR, came in through the "make-up water" channel that connects to the Wisconsin R, and stocked illegally by the public.
>Gizzard shad that came in through the "make-up water" channel that connects to the Wisconsin R and/or were stocked illegally by the public became the primary forage fish.
>Illegal stocking accounts for all of the exotic fish species found there including the pacu (misidentified as a piranha) and the "Amazon catfish", and several of the sport fish.
The striped bass-white bass hybrid -Wipers- was introduced into Lake Columbia by the DNR fisheries manager from Poynette, in cooperation with the power company. The power company initially paid for the fingerlings that were stocked, which had to be hauled up from private fish farms in Arkansas. Wipers are difficult and expensive fish to propagate.
Later the power company reduced their financial support, and would only pay for fry which had to be reared to at least fingerling size to survive stocking. DNR tried to raise the fry to fingerling size at a DNR hatchery with very limited success. To my knowledge, the power company refuses to pay for any more stocking.
My guess is that DNR won't/can't put much money into a limited use specialty fishery such as Lake Columbia. The viable alternatives might include:
>Put public pressure on the power company to live up to their verbal commitment to stock fish.
>Get local funding from fishing clubs, etc.
[This post was last edited on 3/24/14 at 11:37 AM]