Frequently Asked Questions

Does the town have a deadline to distribute the Lake District special charge proceeds to the RKLD Board?


Question – “The special charge for the Lake District is collected by the county from the property tax bill and then distributed to the towns as their share of the property tax revenue.  Does the town have a deadline to distribute the Lake District special charge proceeds to the RKLD Board?”

Answer – Yes, the statues do provide for interest and if the statutory conditions are satisfied, a penalty:

74.31  Failure to settle timely. If the taxation district treasurer or county treasurer does not settle as required under ss. 74.23 to 74.30:
(1) Interest charge. The taxation district or county which has not settled shall pay 12% annual interest on the amount not timely paid to the taxing jurisdiction, including this state, to which money is due, calculated from the date settlement was required.

[The referenced sections 74.23 to 74.30 relate to whether the taxing jurisdiction has a January 15 or February 20 settlement date – the February settlement date is for towns that have adopted an ordinance that allows property taxes to be paid in installments]

(2) Penalty. The taxing jurisdiction, including this state, to which money is due may demand, in writing, payment from the taxation district or county which has not settled. If, within 3 days after receipt of a written demand, settlement is not made, the taxation district or county shall pay the taxing jurisdiction, including this state, making the demand a 5% penalty on the amount remaining unpaid.


Is raising the lake level a good idea?


Question – “I keep hearing talk of possibly raising the water levels on the lake. Which I don’t think would be a good idea with a lot of house to close to the lake. So my question is has anybody looked into dredging the lake and making it deeper that way? I feel doing this would bring a lot more people to the area improve the boating and fishing, and this would bring more people to the campgrounds and not only help other businesses on and around the lake but possibly add more businesses?”

Answer – In simplest terms, the Lake District is asking for DNR to amend their operating orders for Lake Koshkonong that would allow the gates at Indianford to be closed sooner than current orders, providing 7.2 inches of more water in the lake at a time of season when low water and drought is routine (late summer & fall).

We believe this benefits the fish habitat, keeping the wetlands wet thus discouraging invasive species, and improving both navigation and safety on our big lake.

If the RKLD loses the Contested Case Hearing and the current DNR orders prevail, is that the end to keeping more water in the lake?

State law provides for an appeal process. The hearing judge could rule in favor of the DNR, or could issue a compromise, or could rule in favor of the RKLD. Under each ruling, a party to the hearing could appeal the judge’s decision.

Another answer is, our 7.2 inch request is far below the Ordinary High Water Mark (OHWM). By state statute, encroaching on the OHWM could be considered a “Takings” issue. As you mentioned below, there are homes that sit close to the lake, far too close by current zoning regulations, however, even those homes sit above the OHWM. None of those homes would face flooding because of our request. None of those homes would have water inundating their yards.

You might be asking, why raise the level 7.2 inches? Why not 12 inches? Why not 3 inches?

The answer is, our PhD experts from the UW determined that 7.2 inches achieves our goals for the habitat and recreation. Realistically , anything higher cannot be achieved because the elevation of the spillway at Indianford is lower than the elevation of the lake bed. What this means is, water is ALWAYS flowing over the top of the spillway (except under the most extreme drought conditions, and in that scenario, Horicon Marsh and points North in our watershed are near bone dry. It would be near impossible to hold back more than 7.2 inches in the lake, given the construction of the Indianford Dam.

Another answer is, our 7.2 inch request is far below the Ordinary High Water Mark (OHWM). By state statute, encroaching on the OHWM could be considered a “Takings” issue. As you mentioned below, there are homes that sit close to the lake, far too close by current zoning regulations, however, even those homes sit above the OHWM. None of those homes would face flooding because of our request. None of those homes would have water inundating their yards.

How do read the USGS lake level graph? Does 776.00 mean the lake is 6 feet deep on that day?

You have made a very insightful observation and the simple answer is – there is not a direct correlation to the water level order and how USGS reports lake level.

USGS is very misleading – and then local news outlets parrot what USGS says, which only further exacerbates the misunderstanding of the public.

The sea level measurement referred to is measured in tens – 776.1 – in tens to 777.0.
However, the difference from 776.0 to 777.0 is also a foot. As you know feet are measured in inches – 12 inches is a foot.

So what happens is the media reports 776.55 as the lake being 6.55 FEET deep. This is technically incorrect.

776.55 is a sea level measurement and thus measured where the surface of the lake is at – not the depth. The lake bottom topography changes.

The right way to report lake levels is how RKLD posts the number –
776.55 is summer level
775.75 is winter drawdown level
778.0 is county slow no wake on river
780.0 is high water
(USGS erroneously reports this as “10 ft”)
781.5 is flooding.

We don’t blame the public for being confused.

Has anybody looked into dredging the lake and making it deeper that way?

See links here

In 2010, 3 public hearings were conducted with DNR and US Army Corp. of Engineers participating with RKLD. The hearings were conducted at the Fort Atkinson HS library, the Anchor Inn, Newville and the Buckhorn Supper Club, Charley Bluff. Perhaps you attended one of those 3.

If not, then know someone made a suggestion to dredge the entire lake, to lower the bottom, rather than raise the top (lake level), as you suggested below. Our engineers determined that to lower the lake bottom 1-2 feet rather than raise the lake level 7.2 inches would cost roughly $200 million. The scope of the project would rival the construction of the Hoover Dam.

RKLD did receive a permit to conduct an experimental dredge near the North Shore boat landing for the purpose of determining how quickly a large footprint would refill with sediment. (Details are posted at the link above).

Is there a Lake Koshkonong water level log for April, 1959?

There are no official records for water levels on Lake Koshkonong prior to 1987, when the USGS gage was installed on Bingham point. So we have to take a look at discharge in the Rock River and the correlation between discharge in the river and the elevation of Lake Koshkonong to estimate the stage on Lake Koshkonong for April 1959.

To give you the bottom first, I estimate that the April 1959 flood had about 73% of the discharge of the 2008 flood, and probably reached a Lake Koshkonong stage of approximately 13.0 feet, gauge height, or 783.0 according to the “old” NGVD 1929 elevation datum. As you know, the 2008 flood reached a gauge height of approximately 15.1 – meaning that the April 1959 flood was probably about 2 feet lower in height than the 2008 flood.

The Indianford dam gauge was installed in May 1975, so that won’t help define how big the 1959 flood was. The USGS Watertown gauge was operating in the 1950s, but so far upstream that it might not be representative of the discharge that was going to Lake Koshkonong. However, the Rock River at Afton gauge between Janesville and Beloit has a more similar watershed area to Koshkonong and the Afton gauge has been in operation from 1914.

The peak daily discharge at Afton was 12,100 CFS on April 10, 1959. The peak daily discharge for the 2008 flood at Afton was 16,500 CFS on June 22, 2008. The peak discharge at Indianford dam was 14,800 CFS, also on June 22. So the 1959 flood was large, but the 1959 flood discharge was only around 73% (12,100 / 16,500) of the 2008 flood discharge.

To estimate the Lake Koshkonong elevation for the April 1959 flood, we can make the assumption that the hydraulics of the Rock River have not changed much at high flood discharge (probably a good assumption) and the ratio of the 1959 to 2008 flood at Indianford was about the same as it was at Afton (probably a reasonably good assumption considering the size the watersheds). So our estimate of the 1959 flood at Indianford is 73% of the 2008 flood, or 10,800 CFS. The stage on Lake Koshkonong that corresponds to 10,800 CFS is approximately 13.0 gauge height, based on the USGS discharge records at Indianford and the gauge records for the Lake. 13.0 gauge height corresponds to 783.0 using the “old” NGVD 1929 datum.

When we have extreme low water/lake levels, such as the winter of 2012, should we worry about the lake refilling in time for summer boating season?

What goes down must come up
Some folks may be wondering whether Lake Koshkonong water levels could be lower than desirable in the spring and summer of 2013 due to the unusually low water levels that we are experiencing now. As we have discussed in several of the annual meetings, Lake Koshkonong is a “wide spot in the Rock River”. This means that the Lake, as large as it is, does not store a large amount of water compared to the volume of the floods that come down from the entire Rock River watershed upstream. If you look at the water level records at the USGS Lake Koshkonong Gage for the past 60 days, you’ll see that even minor rainstorms and small increases in the discharge of the river have produced upward “spikes” in the water level record. These discharges that we’ve seen over the last month or two are very small compared to typical spring floods. Although an extremely severe drought in the spring of 2013 as possible, we believe it is almost certain that water levels will rise in Lake Koshkonong and the Rock River next spring, as they always do.

High water is causing our shoreline trees to tip over. What can I do?

This is a relatively common occurrence in floodplain forests as these trees have very shallow root systems (pancake roots) that do not go deep and in the sandy substrate at this location, would not be very strong even if they did. When these sandy substrates are saturated or inundated they are not stable and tree drops result. The best remedy is to armor your shoreline.

Are the gates at the Dam being operated properly?

RKLD is mandated by the WDNR to send a daily report on gate positions, inflow from Jefferson measured at Fort Atkinson and outflow at Indianford. Additionally, DNR monitors USGS telemetry stations to confirm the accuracy of our reports. RKLD complies diligently to the DNR operating orders.

Would flooding be worse if the RKLD is successful in adding 7 inches to the DNR operating order?

The district’s 2003 petition to propose a higher summer target water elevation on Lake Koshkonong is intended to improve navigation on the Lake, and in particular to improve boat access in the many areas of shallow water adjacent to the shoreline. The District’s petition was supported by extensive technical analysis that showed that 1) the work that the District has recently completed in repairing the gates at Indianford dam would result in closer conformance with the existing target water level order, and hence would produce slightly lower water levels in the future than we have experienced in the past, 2) operation of the dam in response to the proposed operating order would produce higher water levels in low flow conditions but would not increase flood elevations or the elevation of the Ordinary High Water Mark, and 3) the proposed water level would not damage wetlands or agricultural interests adjacent to the Lake or River.

As bad luck would have it, severe flooding has occurred in several of the years subsequent to our petition to DNR. Some District residents have asked whether flood levels would be exacerbated if the revised operating order with higher summer target water levels were authorized. This is certainly an appropriate question. The answer is that flood elevations would not be increased if the proposed water level operation order were implemented.

The reason for this is the contrast between the volume of water occupied by the proposed water level increase and the very much larger volume of water contained in a large flood on the Rock River, combined with the hydraulic characteristics of Indianford dam. Specifically, if the Lake water elevation was at the proposed target — 7″ higher than the current operating order target, the increased volume of water of water in the lake would be approximately 6000 acre-feet — 7 inches over approximately 10,000 acres. In comparison, the 2008 flood volume that flowed through the Rock River was over 1,000,000 acre feet. Because the flood volume is so much larger than the storage “lost” in the lake due to the proposed operating order change, the water level in the lake at the beginning of a flood has little effect on the peak discharge that moves out of the Lake.

In summary, the proposed summer target water level increase is an infinitesimal fraction of the typical flood flow, meaning that peak discharge in the Rock River would be unaffected, and the Lake levels at flood time would be controlled by the inoperable crest of the Indianford dam and the Rock River downstream, and not the gate settings associated with the revised operating order.

If the RKLD loses the Contested Case Hearing and the current DNR orders prevail, is that the end to keeping more water in the lake?

State law provides for an appeal process. The hearing judge could rule in favor of the DNR, or could issue a compromise, or could rule in favor of the RKLD. Under each ruling, a party to the hearing could appeal the judge’s decision.

Can fishing be improved on Lake Koshkonong?

By eliminating the DNR winter drawdown and nominally raising the summer water levels, turbidity will be reduced and clarity will be improved. Improved water quality will promote submergent aquatic plants that support fish habitat.

The RKLD also supports more aggressive fish stocking from the Bark River Fish Hatchery. Until water levels are resolved though, the current DNR orders do not warrant RKLD investment.

I heard back in the 1950s man-made islands in Lake Koshkonong were once proposed. Will islands ever become reality?

Once the water level issue is resolved, the RKLD will recruit the wetlands clubs and the Audubon society to lobby the DNR and the US Army Corp. of Engineers for approval of man-made, uninhabited, protected islands. These islands would protect migratory birds from predators and improve fish habitat. Islands would also serve to break wind fetch, reducing natural erosion of lake shorelines, not to mention the aesthetic beauty of isolated islands.

Why does the RKLD oppose the DNR’s winter draw down

The DNR imposes drawdowns to control overabundant aquatic plants. However, Koshkonong has very few aquatic plants, so a drawdown damages the few we have. And exposing the mudflats created by the winter drawdown risks inviting invasive species. Also, any fisherman will tell you the winter drawdown is detrimental to ice fishing.

Who owns the beach on the shoreline of privately owned lakefront property?

Is it trespassing to walk along the beach across other’s property? Can a boater who owns no land moor his boat anywhere he wants on the lake, including right in front of my lot?”

Under Wisconsin Law, the public owns up to the ordinary high water mark (“OHWM”), but the riparian owner has the exclusive access to the area between the OHWM and the water’s edge. Answer: A member of the public is not trespassing if he has his feet wet. But is trespassing if on dry land. The boater cannot moor his boat (other than temporarily with an anchor) because only a riparian owner can place a structure (including a pier, boat lift, mooring buoy, etc) on the lake bed.

Does shoreline armoring protect against erosion?

Armoring of shorelines along Lake Koshkonong provide wave energy dissipation that greatly reduces the erosive nature of moving water. The majority of shorelines along the lake are currently armored with riprap or other rigid structures. This armoring provides a protective barrier for shoreline erosion and also provides some habitat for wildlife. The on-going Lake Study being conducted by RKLD and WDNR indicates that armoring of wetland shorelines has allowed these wetlands to begin the reclamation or outward expansion of these important wetland communities that will benefit the wildlife that call Lake Koshkonong home.

How does flooding affect the wetlands around the lake?

Flooding effects that occur in the Rock River and in Lake Koshkonong can vary depending on amplitude and duration. The term “flood” has various technical definitions but in a normal sense means when the water level overtops the normal bank or shore elevation. This elevation varies from the upstream to downstream ends of the lake but for practical purposes is about a water elevation of 779 to 780 mean sea level. When the water levels reach this stage, uplands and wetlands around the lake become inundated. If the inundation occurs for a long enough duration during the growing season it can affect the ability of vegetation to either germinate if it occurs in early spring or maintain viability if it occurs in summer, generally speaking.
The wetlands surrounding Lake Koshkonong have evolved in what can be described as a normal flooding event circumstance. The Rock River water levels reach or surpass the flood elevations on an almost annual basis, therefore the plant communities in the riparian wetlands are of a composition that includes plants that can withstand regular inundation and also live in moist-soil conditions after the flood water recede. Unfortunately, these plant communities around Lake Koshkonong contain relatively monotypic stands of vigorous and sometimes invasive species such as cattail, common reed and river bulrush. Select areas of these riparian wetlands contain a more diverse plant community but these are at a higher elevation than the shoreline wetlands so they are less affected by flood events.

What is the size of the watershed draining into Lake Koshkonong?

The watershed that drains into the Rock River and ultimately Lake Koshkonong is about 1,900 square miles and is called the Upper Rock River Watershed. The Upper Rock River Watershed downstream boundary is at Fort Atkinson . A smaller subwatershed that includes the lands that drain to the Rock River between Fort Atkinson and the Indianford Dam contain another 400 square miles for a total of approximately 2,300 square miles.

What does Ordinary High Water Mark mean?

The Ordinary High Water Mark (OHWM) can be described as “the point on the bank or shore up to which the presence and action of water is so continuous as to leave a distinct mark either by erosion, destruction of terrestrial vegetation, or other easily recognized characteristic.” The OHWM is the boundary between riparian owned uplands and the publicly owned beds of natural lakes.

I live on Blackhawk Island. At what level are we in danger of flooding?

780.0. Most springtime levels can reach roughly 778.12, which is about 22 ½ inches below flooding in low areas such as Blackhawk And at 778.12, we are also about 23 inches above the DNR summer target water level.

What is the Lake Koshkonong Wetland Association?

The LKWA is a private club, funded by membership dues. Their monthly meetings are held at the DNR offices in Janesville and are closed to the general public.

Are those annoying bugs on our shore every weekend called lake flies or sand flies?

Is there anything we could do to get rid of them, since the kids hate when they land all over them? They don’t seem to bite, they are just a nuisance.

They are in the family of Midge Flies, hatch from the lake. Call a local business for outside insect control and you will effectively reduce their numbers.

Who opposes the Lake District ’s request for nominally higher, stable water levels?

The WI Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Lake Koshkonong Wetlands Association (LKWA)

If the new water level target is at 776.8, wouldn't the wetlands between their new rip rap and the old shoreline be filled with water, and halt the re-vegetation?

Behind the rip rap, sediment has been building up to a depth of 6 to 12 inches. It does that during higher water periods and wave action. Sediment is carried by the waves over the riprap and dropped and trapped by the riprap, which is what causes the build up of soil.

What is the Lake District and What are their Powers?
What is the Lake District and What are their Powers?
How big is the RKLD?

The RKLD numbers more voting-eligible constituents than either Edgerton or Fort Atkinson, the nearest city governments.

What is the Rock Koshkonong Lake District and why is there a charge on my property tax bill?

The Rock-Koshkonong Lake District (RKLD) is an elected, local unit of government formed under Chapter 33 of the WI State Statutes. A property tax special charge funds lake management activities. Board meetings are held monthly at STH 59 and CTH N and are open to the public.

Did I see photos where the lake is inundating floodplain forests?

That is not lake water inundating the floodplain forest. It is the natural watershed from Koshkonong Creek.

I am in Jellystone Park in the town of Koshkonong.Part of the campground pays the Lake District assessment and part does not. I do. What do I get for my money?

I am in Jellystone Park in the town of Koshkonong. Part of the campground pays the Lake District assessment and part does not. I do. What do I get for my money? Do I have lake rights and use of the lake that people who don’t pay get? If so could you explain my rights?”

The Rock County Board established the Lake District boundaries in 1999, after a public hearing. Much like a school district, boundaries are not drawn perfectly – sometimes a boundary is marked by a street, excluding those from attending a school that may indeed be closer to those same residents. This is the situation with Jellystone
Since the boundaries were established in 1999, the campground has expanded, and apparently, there are now camp sites beyond the Lake District boundaries. You may want to petition your campground board to attach the entire campground to the RKLD boundary. Unfortunately, the RKLD does not have the power to annex new territory like a city can annex.
Your “rights” to use the lake are protected by the WI Public Trust Doctrine – which irritates many WI residents that WI cannot tax IL residents and other out-of-staters at a higher rate. I believe the Public Trust Doctrine should never be reversed.

Be proud that you are one of more than 4000+ Lake District residents dedicated to improving the safety, recreation and ecology of WI’s 3rd largest inland lake

Is the only thing the wetlands owners really care about is their duck hunting clubs?

In some shoreline locations, a water level of 776.8 will promote submergent vegetation, such as sago pondweed. Ducks eat the roots or tubers of Sago. Thus, the 7.2 inches of additional water level the Lake District is requesting (776.8) is beneficial to both boating safety and duck habitat. In other shoreline locations, 776.8 will promote favored emergent wetland plants. The mistake the DNR and the LKWA are making is placing a value judgment of one species (emergent) over another species (submergent). Both Sago and Bulrush are desirable native wetlands plants.

The DNR appears to have a bias in favor of the duck hunters. Is that true? Ideally, the winter drawdown would have been set for early October but was delayed until November 1 to accommodate duck hunters navigating across the lake in their skiffs. – Ken Johnson, Lower Rock River Leader, DNR – South Central Region

Who orders and removes the slow-no wake during high water conditions?

ock County Ordinance 25.01 was enacted back in 1994 to establish a slow no wake restriction applicable on all navigable waters in Rock County. To summarize the ordinance, the Town Chairperson, City Manager, or Mayor may declare sections of the water within the respective town or city as hazardous.
Then the Town Chairperson, City Manager, or Mayor submits a written request to the Sheriff that the specific section of water be restricted to slow no wake.

The Sheriff and the Town Chairperson, City Manager, or Mayor (or their designee) then post notice of the slow no wake restriction at all public access points within the jurisdiction of the County. Enforcement of the slow no wake under 25.01 is by the Sheriff’s Department.

To remove the slow no wake, a written request must be sent to the Sheriff lifting the restriction on the specific waterway.