Onalaska working to find way to clear out boat-damaging plants

While river-based plants are seen on Onalaska’s crest, the city is trying to see less of them.

“Motors can’t handle the weeds that clog up, and people are actually telling our hotels that they’re not coming back because of it,” explained Onalaska Mayor Joe Chilsen.

“This is a huge cash cow for the area when it comes to tourism. Summer or winter there’s a lot of money that comes through because of this resource,” said co-owner of Schafer’s Marine Services Mark Knapmiller.

However, the city cannot just clear out the plants that are clogging up motors.

“There are certain species of birds and fish that need the habitat to live,” explained Hallie Rasmussen of Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.

Groups like the DNR, National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, and others have teamed up to propose seven areas where they can cut down the greenery for safe passing.

“We can’t just harvest all the aquatic vegetation, we need a balance between the wild and recreation use on the river and Lake Onalaska specifically,” added Rasmussen.

While the proposed cutting needs to be signed off on before started, it also needs to be funded.

“We’re trying to get a number of people like tourism and other entities in on this so it’s not too heavy a burden for anybody,” elaborated Mayor Chilsen.

The cost also depends on how often the plants are cut.

“Aquatic vegetation grows really fast, sometimes up to an inch a day so it doesn’t take that long to grow back so the more we can cut it the better for the travel corridors,” explained Knapmiller.

With some planning and funding needed to be done, Mayor Chilsen continues to listen to ideas to clear out the lake.

“If anyone has great ideas on how we can make this happen and come up with funding on a yearly basis, I’m all ears.”

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