The Door County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved accepting a state grant that will help fund an assessment of the drawdown of the Forestville millpond.
The grant from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources includes more than $9,200 in funding, matched by close to $4,600 from the county Soil and Water Conservation Department budget.
The assessment will begin this summer with a study of water samples from the millpond, said county conservationist Greg Coultherst, the Soil and Water Conservation Department head. The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh will take the samples, Coultherst said, and they will then be evaluated at a state lab.
That will be followed by a report to be completed next year, Coultherst said. The grant expires in December 2024, he said.
The county wants to assess the effects of the two-year drawdown on invasive species and other environmental factors, Coultherst said. The assessment has been planned since 2019 as part of a schedule for the drawdown developed by the county and DNR, he said.
The drawdown of the pond began in 2019 after a two-year study by the county and DNR found high phosphorous levels and low levels of dissolved oxygen. The pond, contained by a dam on the Ahnapee River, includes about 65 acres of shallow water and is under both county and private ownership.
The county has faced opposition to the drawdown for years, including from the Friends of the Forestville Dam group.
Friends group member Christine A. Reid and another resident spoke at Tuesday’s meeting and criticized the Soil and Water Conservation Department, urging the County Board to hire an outside firm to conduct the assessment.
Supervisor Vinni Chomeau, who represents the Town of Gibraltar and part of the Village of Ephraim, said it’s important to have a realistic picture of what the drawdown could accomplish.
“Sometimes I think it’s been a long time and I think people have lost sight of the expectations of a drawdown,” she said.
Chomeau added that the drawdown was never going to solve all of the issues at the pond – “that’s like turning back the ecological clock 100 years,” she said – but that it was intended to help. The pond is the result of a series of dams built at the same location over the last 140 years.
The board voted 20-0 to accept the grant. Supervisor David Enigl, who represents the Village of Egg Harbor and parts of the towns of Egg Harbor and Jacksonport, was absent.
County could receive roughly $1.4 million total from opioid settlements
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the board approved a resolution that will allow the county to enter into national settlement agreements with five companies that are defendants in a lawsuit over their role in the opioid epidemic.
Under a previous settlement reached in 2021, Door County will ultimately receive about $795,000, county corporation counsel emeritus Grant Thomas said.
Thomas said based on his rough estimates, the county could receive about $675,000 in additional funding under the new settlement. The exact dollar amount can’t be determined at this point because the number of municipalities participating in the settlements hasn’t yet been determined, Thomas said.
The county is exploring using funds from the settlements to fund the operations of a proposed sober living facility, county administrator Ken Pabich said.
A Sturgeon Bay man who said he is a recovering alcoholic and former Marine and has experienced homelessness in Door County was among those who spoke in favor of the sober living facility proposal at Tuesday’s meeting.