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Study: Clean lake could mean $36.6M more for local economy

Students researched economic impact  of algae blooms on Menomonie area lakes

posted Aug. 7, 2015 12:00 a.m. (CDT)
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by / Pamela Powers. bio | email

MENOMONIE — A clean lake could have a $36.6 million positive impact on the Menomonie area economy, with about 3,000 more UW-Stout students choosing to stay in Menomonie over the summer, according to a study presented by college students.

A group of 10 students from across the U.S. participating in the Linking Applied Knowledge in Environmental Sustainability Research Experience for Undergraduates program, or LAKES REU, spent the past two months under the guidance of UW-Stout professors researching algae blooms and their effects on Tainter Lake and Lake Menomin.

LAKES REU is part of a three-year project funded by a $282,000 National Science Foundation grant.

Excess phosphorus on those lakes is caused by phosphorus pollution in the watershed of those bodies of water. The city and the state Department of Natural Resources are working to try to reduce algae on those lakes, and city officials are considering dredging to help the issue. 

Students shared their findings Wednesday in Menomonie.

Megan Isaacs, who is studying economics at the University of Redlands in Redlands, Calif., said interviews with Menomonie business people and residents and UW-Stout staff and students helped determine the economic impact.

“They also predicted a 46 percent summer job growth,” Isaacs said, noting that is about 1,500 summer jobs.

Melanie Ford, who is studying anthropology at the University of California, Riverside, said research she did indicated there is a significant absence of positive discussion about Lake Menomin’s effect on surrounding businesses. Many business owners see the lake as having a negative impact on their operations, she said.

“I was really surprised by the absence of them looking at the lake as an asset,” she said. “There is a little fatalism in talking about the lake.”

The study also examined how landowners feel about shoreland ordinances. Eniola Afolayan, an anthropology student at the University of Mary Washington in Fredricksburg, Va., said many property owners don’t want to abide by shoreland zoning rules. 

“Efforts to clean up the lake have to become more voluntary and cooperative,” she said. “Everyone needs to take responsibility.”

Nels Paulson, a UW-Stout professor and LAKES REU director, said this is the first year geology was looked at as an impact on phosphorus. It showed older rocks have more phosphorus compared with younger ones.

Contact: 715-556-9018, pamela.powers@ecpc.com, @MenomonieBureau on Twitter