DNR awards $6.5M to restore and protect Wisconsin's surface water

Patrick Kilbey, Marquette County Conservationist, and Healthy Lakes & Rivers Landowner Participant, Karyn Niin Kitigade, standing in front of Karyn's native shoreland planting. Photo Credit: Wisconsin DNR

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource (DNR) 's Surface Water Grant Program has awarded over $6.5 million in grant funding to nonprofit organizations, lake associations and municipalities throughout Wisconsin. Funding will help restore and protect our state's surface water resources in 2023 and beyond.

This year, the program received 446 applications from eligible applicants requesting over $7.2 million. The projects are incredibly diverse, including work on outreach and education, management planning, habitat restoration, runoff and pollution reduction, and aquatic invasive species control. The projects selected for awards leverage a substantial amount of local funding and promise to make an important contribution to our natural resource legacy.

"Wisconsinites love their lakes and rivers, and our passionate, local stewards are uniquely equipped to lead efforts to protect and restore their local waterbodies with financial and technical support from the DNR," said DNR Surface Water Grant Program Manager Laura MacFarland. "I am inspired daily by their dedication and the good work they do."

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Each year the program supports many local and regional partnerships working to improve water quality. For example, Marathon County, in collaboration with the Big Eau Pleine Citizen Organization, the Eau Plaine Partnership for Integrated Conservation and others, continue to improve water quality in Lake Wausau and the Big Eau Pleine Reservoir. 

Funding from the Surface Water Grant will help them increase community engagement, promote and implement better land management practices on agricultural lands, and improve shoreland habitat.  

Healthy Lakes and Rivers grants were awarded to 28 organizations to implement five simple and inexpensive practices that improve habitat and water quality. These organizations engage private shoreline owners and assist them with the installation of fish sticks, native shoreline plantings, water runoff diversions, stormwater infiltration systems and rain gardens. To learn more about this subprogram, visit www.healthylakeswi.com.

Lastly, 163 groups will receive support to participate in the Clean Boats, Clean Waters program. Local advocates will focus on education and outreach to empower watercraft users to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species between water bodies. This easy-to-understand grant is one of the most popular in the program.