The Land & Water Resources Department has received numerous calls over recent weeks from concerned lake property owners and boaters on low lake levels.  Currently, Yahara lake levels are near summer minimum and within DNR water level orders. Dane County’s long-term goal is to minimize flood risk through sediment removal in the Yahara River but this activity has not contributed to lower lake levels.  The lake levels are lower than normal this time of year due to dry weather and low amounts of snow melt in the spring. 

Presently, all dams (Tenney, Babcock, and LaFollette) on the Yahara Chain of Lakes are closed as much as possible with minor flow being released at the dams to support aquatic life in the Yahara River.  The Yahara Lakes are expected to stay near summer minimum water levels in the absence of any significant rainfall.  Dane County Land and Water Resources will continue to monitor weather, lake levels, and make adjustments as necessary to stay within DNR water level orders.  Please visit Dane County’s Lake Levels web page, which provides real-time data on both lake levels and the controlling dam structures.  Due to lower water levels for the start of the summer season, boaters should use caution on the lakes.  To assist boaters with navigation within the Yahara River Chain of Lakes, buoys are now in place marking slow no wake zones, channel markers, rock hazards, and swim areas.

With the start of the summer boating season, Memorial Day weekend extended hours at Tenney Lock on Lake Mendota will be offered from May 26th through May 29th. The Tenney Lock provides navigation between Lakes Mendota and Monona on the Yahara River Chain of Lakes. The remaining two locks at Babcock on Lake Waubesa and LaFollette on Lake Kegonsa remain closed to navigation due to reduced outflow leaving the Yahara Lakes.

The Tenney Lock is a popular recreation facility accommodating approximately 10 thousand boaters annually.

The extended schedule is as follows:

Friday 5/26         9:00 AM to 11:00 PM

Saturday 5/27    9:00 AM to 11:00 PM

Sunday 5/28       10:00 AM to 10:00 PM

Monday 5/29     10:00 AM to 8:00 PM

Dane County is ready for the start of the summer season with an expanded aquatic plant harvester fleet already hitting area lakes to help keep aquatic plants clear for the kick off of boating season. Aquatic plant harvesters travel on the county’s lakes, cutting and removing pounds of invasive aquatic plants, like Eurasian milfoil, to keep waterways clear and navigable for boating, fishing, and swimming.   

Also, Dane County’s pier pickup program has started.  In partnership with the City of Madison, Town of Westport, City of Monona, Lake Waubesa Conservation Association, Village of McFarland, and Friends of Lake Kegonsa Society, will have a shoreline barge crew working to pick up aquatic trash and debris from residents’ piers through August. The pick-up will collect only aquatic vegetation and other debris that have washed up on shore about every other week for each lake. They will not pick up yard waste, brush or household waste. Aquatic plants must be placed on the pier by Monday at 7:00 a.m. on the designated pick up week. Please visit online for the pickup schedule.

Dane County is also reminding boaters to help protect waters from aquatic invasive species. Before entering and after leaving a water access, boaters are reminded to inspect and remove aquatic plants, animals, or mud from boats, trailers, and equipment. Also, drain all water from a boat’s bilge or livewell by removing drain plugs.

About Dane County Land & Water Resources Department

The Dane County Land & Water Resources Department works to protect and enhance Dane County’s natural, cultural, and historic resources. It provides the county’s residents with a broad array of accessible, high quality resource-based recreational services and facilities, and supports residents, communities, local governments and other agencies and organizations in their resource management and protection activities.

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