The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources seeks public comment until Nov. 12 to obtain feedback on proposed water quality criteria for phosphorus in Lac Courte Oreilles, a “two-story” coldwater fishery lake in Sawyer County. A public hearing is scheduled for Nov. 8.  

The proposed language can be found on the department’s proposed permanent rules site by looking up the rule’s Board Order number WY-09-17: 

The phosphorus criterion for Lac Courte Oreilles is currently set at 15 micrograms per liter, which is equivalent to the statewide criterion for other lakes with coldwater fish.  The department is seeking comments on whether the criterion for this lake should be reduced to 10 micrograms per liter or kept at the current level.  

Through the years, Lac Courte Oreilles has been the subject of much study and discussion as to whether low dissolved oxygen and diminished habitat for coldwater fish is linked to phosphorus or other factors, such as certain properties of the sediment or warming water temperatures. The DNR, the Courte Oreilles Lakes Association, and the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribe have conducted several different analyses of lake data collected over the past 30 years. These analyses differ in their conclusions on whether setting a lower phosphorus criterion is appropriate. 

A public hearing will be held on Friday, Nov. 8 at 10 a.m. at the Bass Lake Town Hall, 14412W County Highway K in Hayward. 

Written comments may be submitted at the public hearing, by mail to Kristi Minahan, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Bureau of Water Quality, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707 or by email to or Questions about the rule or requests to be added to an email distribution list on this topic may also be directed to Kristi Minahan at (608) 266-7055.  

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