June 25, 2010 7:51 AM
You might notice black booms around the swimming areas at Bernies Beach and BB Clarke Beach this summer. These are experimental installations designed to see if they can work to keep algae scum away from the swimming area. These projects are part of a larger effort to study alternative ways of dealing with tough summertime lake quality issues.
I've been concerned for some time about the number of closures we get each year on our Madison beaches due to poor water quality. In response, our City Engineering Division together with the State Department of Natural Resources and the county put together these plans. Beyond the simple booms, other things we're testing include a rain garden and prairie sod at Vilas beach. You might wonder how that would help with bacteria levels at the beach. The answer is that gulls perch on the roof of the beach house and the runoff from that roof will now be channeled into the rain garden and kept away from the lake. The prairie sod is designed to keep geese off of an eroding bank allowing the bank to stabilize and reducing erosion into the lake.
These are relatively small and inexpensive trials, but combined with much bigger projects like manure digesters being planned by the county and new phosphorous rules recently enacted by the state, they could result in significant improvements in our lakes.