‘It’s all we can do’: Lake weed harvesters help water flow at maximum level

Lake Monona crested Sunday, and officials are expecting lake levels to slowly go down Monday as crews removed aquatic plants over the weekend to help water flow out of the chain of lakes, according to a release.

Dane County lakes staff worked around the clock over the weekend to mitigate any additional flooding from last week’s record-breaking rainfall, officials said.

County staff used 10 lake weed harvesters to remove over 270 loads of aquatic plants over the past several days, according to the release. That doubled the flow of water leaving the chain of lakes, so more water is leaving the Yahara chain than what’s entering, allowing lake levels to stabilize.

“It’s all we can do, but obviously it’s proving successful, because we’ve almost doubled the flow along the river just by cutting plants,” said Jeremy Balousek, the water resource engineering division manager for Dane County.

Dane County’s Land and Water Resource Department assistant director, John Reimer, said underwater plants create friction which prevents water from flowing out as quickly as possible.

“By removing the vegetation, we improve the flow,” Reimer said.

Balousek said dams on the lower part of the Yahara chain have been fully open since early summer.

As of Monday, after Sunday night’s rainfall, Lake Mendota is up three quarters of an inch, Lake Monona is down a half an inch and Lake Kegonsa is up 1.3 inches, officials said.

Balousek said rain is still a concern, but the river is flowing at its maximum, so lake levels should be all right. However, rain could cause flash floods.

There are five sandbagging operations, one in Monona and four in Madison.

Officials are reminding residents to stay vigilant and informed on weather updates and flooding closures.