The demographic trend for northern Wisconsin and Sawyer County continues to point to an older population, meaning fewer workers available in the workforce.
Those who follow Wisconsin demographics are familiar with this scenario and on Friday, Nov. 8, an even clearer picture of the future was offered during an online presentation by Dan Barroilhet, research analyst for the state administration department's Division of Intergovernmental Relations.
Barroilhet gave his presentation during the annual meeting of the Sawyer County/Lac Courte Oreilles Economic Development Corporation (SC/LCOEDC). For over 30 minutes Barroilhet reviewed the outlook: for much of northern Wisconsin deaths exceed births, women under 30 are having fewer children, more women are having their first child at age 30 and older, but as a group they are not having enough children to compensate for the declining births among mothers under 30.
Barroilhet predicted that Sawyer County would likely continue to grow in population but not neighboring counties. Population losses around Sawyer County will have an impact, as Sawyer County does
not live in a vacuum, he said.
Today only two counties in the state have populations with 25% of residents age 65 or older, but projections show that in 15 years 34 counties will have 20% or more of its residents age 65 or older. By 2035 there will be a noticeable increase in residents age 75 and older.
The aging population will result in fewer workers being available in the workforce. Barroilhet said 84% of those age 25 to 54 are in the workforce but the percentage begins to drop noticeably over age 60, then shows fewer than 7% in the workforce in their 70s.
Asked whether climate change would impact net migration to or away from the state, Barroilhet said demographics are based on historical data and as of now no reliable data is available to make projections about migration related to climate change.
Asked about the trend of retirees moving to northern Wisconsin, he noted that even as some retirees move into the area others are forced to leave because their retirement income is insufficient to live in their northern counties.
During the SC/LCOEDC annual meeting progress reports were made in seven different areas: business improvement district (BID) for the City of Hayward, county inmate training, fundraising/sustainability, broadband, marketing, placemaking in Hayward and housing.
James Netz, president of the Hayward BID, said his board is looking at creating new events for the downtown area, conducting fundraising for the BID and building a website.
Lynn Fitch, president of the SC/LCOEDC, said as of January there would be new initiative to help jail inmates learn construction skills. The effort will begin with classes in construction math and then will move in March to an actual building project at the LCO women's transitional housing site off County Highway B. Fitch said other counties are interested replicating the program.
Bruce Paulsen, chair of the fundraising/sustainability effort, said SC/LCOEDC is close to accumulating enough funds to hire either a part-or full-time executive director, and he announced there would be a fundraising effort beginning next spring asking donors to make a three-year commitment. He said one donor has already made that commitment.
Paulsen also said there are efforts underway to seek state grants to extend broadband in the county, including the north side of Grindstone Lake, the southeastern sides of Nelson Lake and LCO and to Highway OO from Highway 63 to the OO Trailhead.
Jessica Wagner Schultz discussed efforts to expand social media marketing and partnering with school districts to make students aware that there are opportunities for the graduating students who wish to stay or, if they do leave, opportunities if they decide to return.
It was also noted that only 15% of those whom the SC/LCOEDC is reaching are under 30 years of age. That means the organization needs to broaden its use of social media beyond Facebook, which appeals to older users, in order to reach a younger population.
Jim Miller reviewed the 2019 placemaking effort, noting that better signage is one of the biggest needs identified by the project.
Mike Stamp, Hayward market president for Peoples Bank Midwest, also discussed preliminary efforts by Paulsen and himself to engage with two different housing developers. Stamp said he moved here a year and a half ago and found it difficult to find affordable housing. He said while bigger homes are being built, there are insufficient units for lower-and middle-income workers.
Speakers at a Nov. 8 Department of Natural Resources informational meeting urged the Natural Resources Board and state Legislature to set a stricter standard for the amount of the major pollutant phosphorus considered to be acceptable in Lac Courte Oreilles.
Last Friday's meeting was conducted at the Bass Lake town hall by the DNR's Dan Housel of Black River Falls, with DNR water quality specialist Kristi Minehan as presenter. About 45 people attended, with 12 of them testifying orally.
The Courte Oreilles Lakes Association (COLA) and the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribe are advocating for a limit of 10 micrograms per liter of total phosphorus (10 parts per billion) in the lake, stricter than the existing standard of 15 ppb.
The goal is to "set criteria that are appropriate and protective" of the uses of the lake, Minehan said.
Lake LCO is classified by the state as an Outstanding Resource Water and is one of five lakes in the state that contain a "two-story fishery" of both warm-water fish and cold-water fish.
The main issue is "low dissolved oxygen in the main basin which has led to fish kills" of the cold-water species cisco and whitefish, Minehan said. Those fish also are a food source for larger species in the lake: muskies and walleyes.
Lake LCO has "30 years of really good data which has been valuable for us to work with," Minehan said. "The Lac Courte Oreilles Tribe has done a lot of work, and COLA and DNR staff as well."
Besides dissolved oxygen, cisco and whitefish need cold water temperatures —
66 degrees Fahrenheit for whitefish and 73 degrees for cisco, Minehan added. They can swim and move in the entire lake for much of the year, but when warm summer temperatures arrive, the fish "get squeezed" into a smaller cold-water layer and fish kills can result.
Minehan said surface waters in the lake have warmed three to four degrees since 1975. As phosphorus-fueled algae die and decay, they use up oxygen. Also, lake sediment can release phosphorus and metals, which also use oxygen.
A DNR analysis states that Lake LCO "has lower oxygen levels than other lakes with a similar amount of phosphorus. That indicates there are other things going on here that are causing the lower dissolved oxygen (DO). It looks like the DO has been pretty marginal since at least 1975."
Sediment studies also have shown there is very high iron in the deep basins and a lot of organic matter, both of which use up oxygen, Minehan added. "Additional sediment studies are needed. The warming water is a factor in how much habitat those fish have to survive."
Minehan said phosphorus levels in shallow Musky Bay have "really improved" and curly leaf pondweed has decreased since 2012, "thanks to all of the efforts of you folks. It's showing healthy plant communities and it is no longer considered impaired." If any one of the deep basins does not meet the phosphorus criterion, then the whole lake will be listed as impaired, Minehan added.
"Whichever criteria is promulgated in the end, implementation is completely voluntary," Minehan added. The locally-advocated level of 10 micrograms of phosphorus per liter "sets a goal, but it doesn't actually make improvements in the water itself. That's where your actions come in. The folks in the watershed have done all kinds of good work; that needs to continue to see those improvements in the lake."
The DNR "doesn't have authority to require any implementation or compliance actions," Minehan said. "All of the different sources in the watershed that might be contributing to phosphorus, including cranberry operations, are considered federally to be nonpoint sources and the DNR doesn't have authority to require any reductions in discharge if this rule (10 micrograms per liter) were to be passed."
Ben Crary, an environmental engineer with LimnoTech, testified that, "There is dissolved oxygen impairment in Lac Courte Oreilles."
The DNR's proposed alternative of keeping the status quo of 15 micrograms of phosphorus per liter is "rejecting the mechanism" of impairment," Crary said. "The DNR is telling us that more phosphorus in Lac Courte Oreilles will not affect dissolved oxygen.
"Lowering phosphorus will reduce algal growth and decay and minimize oxygen depletion," Crary said.
Alf Sivertson, Lake LCO shoreowner and attorney for COLA, said the LCO Tribe's treaty rights include natural habitat protection. "The state does not have the unfettered expression to exercise its management prerogative to the detriment of the tribe's treaty reserved rights. Preserving the fishery is crucial to the tribe."
Sivertson also recited a letter from the Hayward Area Chamber of Commerce in support of the stricter phosphorus standard for the lake.
Kevin Horrocks, president of COLA, said their mission is to protect and preserve the lake. "Arguing over numbers is pointless," he said. "The lake is suffering. If you want to see the canary in the coal mine, look at the dead fish floating in the lake. The lake is failing. It's not going to get better on its own, and if we don't do something, we will lose the two-story fishery.
"The excessive plant growth is throughout the lake," Horrocks said. "The lake has a lot of stakeholders who are trying to step up and save it. We would expect the least from the DNR. What we've seen so far is stalling, waiting, adding hurdles, not doing anything for the lake. Nearly half of the impaired lakes in the state are that way due to excessive phosphorus. Yet you fight and deny the same problem that we've got. We've measured it, studied it; we know it's true.
"We're trying to save the lake and what we need from you is at least a stake in the ground," Horrocks said. He disputed the DNR's contention that curly leaf pondweed in Musky Bay has been reduced; he said there is still 50 acres of the weed there. Also, the phosphorus in Musky Bay is still 20 ppb, well over the state average, he added. The cranberry grower on the east end of the bay voluntarily installed a closed-water system on a marsh and that's why the phosphorus level in the bay decreased, Horrocks said.
Circle Road resident Mark Laustrup said the water quality has declined since he moved to the area in 2007.
Victory Heights resident Steve Umland said he looks at Musky Bay every day. He thanked the adjacent cranberry grower for putting in the closed-water system, stating, "It's made an unbelievable difference in the bay. I can put my boat out whenever I want." He urged that local cranberry marsh discharges be reduced further.
Mike Persson, an LCO shoreowner and chairman of the Hayward Lakes Chapter of Muskies Inc., said the current musky population on the lake "is probably the lowest it's ever been. This is related in part directly to the phosphorus level in the lake and primarily in Musky Bay. Musky spawning on the bay is unsuccessful now because the bottom of the bay is covered with silt and decaying plant debris, and this is the direct result of phosphorus.
"I don't understand why the DNR is fighting so hard against lowering the phosphorus level," Persson added.
Lac Courte Oreilles Drive resident Edmund Packee said, "fishing today is lousy compared to what it once was, in numbers and size." He said he doesn't support lowering the phosphorus level from 15 ppb to 10 ppb, because he doesn't see any biological difference in the two levels.
One source of high phosphorus is the "high water level they (the county) have been holding the lake at," Packee said. The result is bank erosion, he said.
Also, motorboats with propellers "disturb the sediments down to 20 or more feet, putting phosphorus into solution," Packee said.
Bog segments have floated into Anchor Bay and ruined spawning grounds for various fish, Packee added.
The tribal perspective
Brian Bisonette, director of the LCO Tribal Conservation Department, said he's seen a lot of changes in the lake in 58 years. "As a child, we were still getting our drinking water out of Lac Courte Oreilles. We were dependent on the fisheries and everything the lake offered. Half of the lake is on the LCO Reservation.
"We feel that not lowering the phosphorus level to 10 pbb will adversely affect the tribe's right under the Treaty of 1837 and potentially could necessitate federal litigation," Bisonette said.
"Preserving the LCO fishery is crucial to the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribe," he said. "We still reference this lake by its original name, Odawa-zaga-iganing (Lake of the Ottawa). Historically this precious body of water provided the Aninshinaabe with all the resources needed to sustain the community. Fish species were bountiful and considered gifts from the Creator.
"From a tribal perspective, it is nearly impossible to quantify the loss of this LCO habitat and resource. Lac Courte Oreilles members still harvest fish, hunt waterfowl, trap and gather aquatic medicines."
Paul Sutton said there needs to be more research on what's happening to the lake and said high lake levels have contributed to it. Starting in the 1960s to 19 70s, nutrients have run off into the lake from impervious surfaces and lawns, he said. Motorboats stir up phosphorus in the lake and invasive species have been introduced.
Fish kills in the lake have been "happening long before the recent ones," Sutton added. Also, "We don't know the implications of putting a number to the phosphorus level. There are so many things happening that cause it, that it's scary."
Retired U.S. Navy veteran Kathleen O'Cull of Hayward was honored as Veteran of the Year by LCO AmVets Post 1998 during the 44th annual Lac Courte Oreilles Veterans Day Pow Wow at the LCO Ojibwe School Monday, Nov. 11.
Valerie Barber, a Post 1998 member and U.S. Marine Corps veteran, introduced O'Cull and recited her biography, as follows:
Kathleen grew up in Northlake, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. She is the daughter of Robert and Helen O'Brien, and has one brother, Robert Jr., and one sister, Diane Rose.
As a child, she made frequent trips to the Hayward area. She liked fishing, exploring the woods and drawing the animals and trees she saw there. She wanted to be a scientist, to explore the unknown and see new things.
Kathleen is married to Thomas O'Cull and has one son, Thomas Jr.
In 1984, Kathleen enlisted in the Naval Reserve with her 18-year-old son, Thomas. They both wanted to be part of the Pacific fleet, but the Navy put a little distance between them. Thomas was attached to the Navy command at Adak, Alaska, and Kathleen was attached to commands at Midway Island and Hawaii, which included duty at NAS New Orleans, Hickam Air Force Base and Barber's Point, Hawaii.
In 1990, she was part of the staging for Desert Shield/
Desert Storm at Midway Island and was required to inventory and upscale everything on the island to prepare to support more than 5,000 incoming personnel and their associated equipment. She also qualified for, and was issued, a harbor pilot's license at this time.
In 1991, she was assigned to the port mortuary and personal effects departments at Dover, Delaware, and Fort Dix, New Jersey. She worked there with the pathology personnel, identifying the remains of service members killed in action, and, sadly, writing the letters notifying the families.
She also volunteered with the Red Cross and as a member of a First Response Team, administering medical care to wounded who were flown directly from Saudi Arabia to McGuire Naval Hospital.
She was transferred later in the year to NAS Charleston, North Carolina, and assigned to the Naval Liaison Office, which was bringing service members and their equipment back from Saudi and Kuwait. This office also formally greets returning service members and assists with their families' needs.
In August of 1991, Kathleen returned to her unit, NAF Midway Island, and served as training and supply chief.
From there, she went to NAF Glenview, Illinois, where she was awarded the Sailor of the Year in 1992.
In 1993, she was advanced to chief petty officer and affiliated to NR SPAWAR HQ, a satellite and undersea surveillance command, where she was assigned as the command chief, and served at duty stations in England, Wales and Scotland, as well as NAS Damneck, South Carolina, Norfolk, Virginia, and NOPF, San Diego, California.
In 1996, Kathleen was deployed to NOPF NAS Whidbey Island, Washington, where she supervised the decommissioning of NAF Adak, Alaska, and the transfer of all members back to Whidbey Island.
In 1997, Kathleen was selected to serve on the REDCOM 13 Admirals Staff, covering the area from Wisconsin to New Orleans. She was assigned as an analyst chief working with Reserve Centers within REDCOM 13 Command.
From there, in 1998 Kathleen became affiliated with a newly formed unit, the NR NAVSTA Rota, Spain, as the command chief.
In April of 1999, she advanced to senior chief and served as the acting operations officer, setting up training, berthing and transportation for Rota, Spain.
Senior Chief O'Cull continued to serve as maintenance officer for three Air Support Divisions: the128th Air Refueling Wing of the Wisconsin National Guard, the 434th Maintenance Detachment of the Indiana National Guard, and the 139th Logistics Detachment of the Missouri Air National Guard, until her retirement in December of 2005.
Her decorations include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, five awards of the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal, the Reserve Good Conduct Medal, the Overseas Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Rifle and Pistol Expert Ribbons and the Humanitarian Acts Medal; as well as letters of commendation from the admiral's staff, the Air Force and Navy National Guard and the Red Cross.
Kathleen also worked for Alberto-Culver for 30 years, developing and testing skin and hair care products. She was awarded 14 patents for new products.
Senior Chief O'Cull currently lives in Hayward with her husband, Thomas, and their three furbaby dogs, Buddy, Rico and Reggie. She is an active volunteer with the Northwoods Humane Society, takes many native arts classes with LCO College Extension and continues to serve her community with grace and love.