La Crosse County Board spars over spending $500,000 to increase Lake Neshonoc dredging before nixing the measure

Neshonoc 5 2
Neshonoc Lakeside Camping Resort. (Explore La Crosse Photo)

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — The La Crosse County Board dredged up a variety of issues Thursday night debating whether to spend $500,000 from the county’s general fund to expand dredging of Lake Neshonoc before board members sank the resolution.
The measure, which required a two-thirds vote to approve because it was an unbudgeted expenditure, failed on a tally of 15 yeas to 13 nays and one non-vote after extensive discussion.
Among the arguments to OK the additional dredging were statements that the J.F. Brennan Co. already has dredging equipment at the lake for work in progress.
Doing the additional dredging now would save the expense of taking the equipment back out.
Arguments against increasing the dredging by another 15 percent included an assertion that most of the benefits would be for lake residents to accommodate larger boats.
In between were claims that the dredging is necessary because continuing farm runoff, especially after recent torrential rains, is increasing sediment in the lake. Counter arguments to that were contentions that it would be better to spend money on conservation efforts upstream.
Much of the maintenance for the county’s 606-acre lake falls to nearby West Salem and the Neshonoc Lake District. The dredging might have to be done again in 20 years, officials said.
“We’ll always have to maintain that lake if you want a lake” instead of a marsh or swamp as it fills in, said board member Jack Pogreba. “It helps the Lake Neshonoc District and West Salem, but we’re just assisting them.”
It will cost more to dredge in 20 years, he said, adding, “We own it; we have to maintain it.”
Supervisor Ralph Geary suggested looking at the expenditure over a 20-year span, which would break down to $25,000 a year. Noting the money the generates in recreation, tourism and taxes, he said, “It’s a cost-effective way to reduce sediment.”
Board member Pam Viner acknowledged the value of the lake, but said, “I don’t see putting $500,000 into it when you would have to do it again (in 20 years). I can’t in good conscience vote for this when 500 people on French Island have no water to drink” because of PFAS contamination.
“I’m in full support of Lake Neshonoc,” board member Tina Tryggestad said, adding that she could not support the expenditure in part because “we were told … it would benefit more … larger boats,” when a recent count found that 90 people in La Crosse are homeless.
Board member David Hundt took issue with suggestions that the dredging would benefit mostly landowners along the shore.
“Fifty person of the people who use the campground — it’s a large, beautiful campground —are from outside of the county,” said Hundt, who also noted that many of the people who use the lake paddle boarding and other activities every morning are from La Crosse, Onalaska and other municipalities.

“I don’t want to play off of French Island,” he said.
Supervisor Peggy Isola said, “I would be more comfortable … with conservation and preventive measures. … This is a little like putting a finger in the dike —when will it end?”