A group of area hunters and outdoor enthusiasts have jumped into the ongoing effort to save Corbett Lake.
Safe Hunters for Tomorrow helped finance $5,000 toward three new floating fountains installed recently at the waterway in OJ Falge Park. Spinning impellers agitate the water, and SHOT members hope this action adds oxygen to the water and decreases vegetation and sediment in the waterway.
“We are hoping to get the vegetation and sediment layer cleaned up to improve fishing opportunities for youth and for people in the community who do not have a boat,” SHOT Secretary/Treasurer Joel Taylor said.
SHOT members and Ladysmith resident Tom Hutnik recall fishing the waterway when they were young. Few use it now as its surface clogs up each summer with floating vegetation, rendering it mostly unusable for fishing, boating, paddling and other uses.
Sediment, low water quality and low oxygen are cited as contributors to the lake transforming into the equivalent of a floating bog each summer.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the 26-acre Corbett Lake has a maximum depth of 4 feet. However, the actual size and depth of the waterway may be much greater than the statistics posted at the DNR’s web site based on local anecdotal information about the amount of muck on the lake bottom. It is 10-12 feet deep in places, especially the bay immediately south of the library.
Ladysmith resident Ray Carlson, who has volunteered countless hours toward improving the waterway is hopeful. He pointed to a long-range management plan for the body of water that calls for ongoing monitoring of oxygen levels, sediment depth and other water quality measurables.
“It looks like the fountains are going to work well,” Carlson said.
The lake has a fishery that includes panfish, large-mouth bass and north-ern pike.
An original survey shows Corbett Lake was originally just a stream. The lake was formed following the construction of a roadway that blocked the flow of a creek between the old Corbett Mill site and the Flambeau River, based on old maps and archived DNR documentation.
An 1888 Rusk County plat book map shows Corbett Lake in existence as well as a roadway that is likely now named College Avenue. This creek flows from the south side of the lake to the Flambeau River.
The road likely blocked the creek off and the wet-land filled with water leading some to deduce what is filling the lake is coming from storm water from the city.
A naturally formed creek running from Bruno Lake to Dump Lake to the marshy wetland northwest of current Corbett Lake was diverted long ago into a manmade trench dug just south of the railroad tracks to the Flambeau River. This resulted in less water entering the wetland.
Attempts have been made to improve Corbett Lake water quality over the years, including constructing cascading water ramp, installing an aeration system and improving a dam at the south lake exit to gain more control over water levels.
Most recently, city officials pondered dredging the lake before balking at a possible $1 million cost and problematic, especially with how and where to dispose of more than 100,000 cubic yards of lake bottom sediment.
A DNR lake management report also concluded discontinuing snow disposal on the eastern side of the lake due to additional road salt chlorides this activity feeds into the lake, negatively affecting water quality.
Corbett Lake stormwater inflow comes from a relatively small 192 acre surface area, according to DNR information.
Soundings done years ago on the lake by the Soil Conservation Service determined there could be up to 14 feet of muck on the lake bottom.
The fountain location sites were picked through an informal lake survey showing its deepest points, according to Taylor.
“We are trying to encourage organisms that eat vegetation and keep the oxygen levels high enough in the water so fish can survive,” Taylor said. “Right now it is a dead lake.”
Taylor called the project “a good opportunity” to give back to the community and increase the usefulness of a waterway in the city within walking distance of many Ladysmith residents.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources staff helped conduct vegetation studies.
Taylor said SHOT members will likely seek grants to help finance weed harvesting and fish stocking.
The city is funding the electrical service that powers the fountains. It will also marks the fountain sites as the water agitation will result in open water and thin ice in those areas during winter.
Taylor and SHOT members are not sure how long it will take before results are seen. He added the results of fountains are based mostly on anecdotal information.
“Historically there used to be a lot of fish in the lake, and we would like to get back to the way it was,” Taylor said. “Hopefully people in the community will be able to walk down there and fish one day.”