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Critical habitat designation proposed for parts of Eau Claire Lakes chain

Parts of 11 lakes in Douglas and Bayfield counties along the Eau Claire chain would get special protections under a proposal announced today by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Parts of 11 lakes in Douglas and Bayfield counties along the Eau Claire chain would get special protections under a proposal announced today by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

The DNR is proposing Critical Habitat Designation for parts of Birch, Bony, Cranberry, Devils, Lower Eau Claire, Middle Eau Claire, Robinson, Shunenberg, Smith, Sweet and Upper Eau Claire lakes.

The plan is to protect key areas for fish spawning and shoreland wildlife, said Alex Smith. Most of the areas are in undeveloped or lightly developed shorelines along the lakes.

"For the most part we've identified these as walleye spawning areas, and we want to prevent someone from dumping rip-rap or something else into the water along these shores to protect the best spawning areas remaining on these lakes,'' Smith said.

Under the plan the DNR could deny or modify permits for shoreline development and restrict docks and other changes such as fill, dredging, irrigation, culverts, weed removal and dams.

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The DNR also seeks to protect areas of important weed beds and shoreline vegetation that prevents erosion.

The DNR uses critical habitat designation to improve fishing and hunting opportunities and the natural beauty and ecosystems of lakes and streams.

The DNR has set an open house and meeting for May 15 at 9 a.m. at the Barnes Town Hall, 3360 Co Hwy N., Barnes, in Bayfield County, to take public comments on the proposal, with formal testimony starting at 11 a.m. A final proposal could be ready in August.

For more information, or to view the areas being considered for designation, go to http://dnr.wi.gov/lakes/criticalhabitat/ or call Alex Smith at (715) 635-4124.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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