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BRYAN FAUST/Herald photo

Only days after the sheet of ice covering Lake Mendota melted, a subcommittee of the city Commission on the Environment, composed of politicians and experts, met to discuss a plan to improve the quality of water in Madison lakes Thursday morning.

Ald. Greg Markle, District 15, initiated the ordinance after deciding it was time to clean up Lakes Mendota, Monona and Wingra last year, according to committee Chair Jon Standridge.

“The goal is clearer lakes that are better for recreation,” Standridge said.

According to a resolution, there is a potential for “significant health risks” to people and animals due to unsafe water conditions in the lakes. Madison lakes generate millions of dollars through tourism and recreational use, the resolution said, and, therefore, the condition of the lakes needs to be improved.

The resolution asked the City of Madison to develop a plan to improve the water quality by 25 percent in Lakes Mendota, Monona and Wingra by the year 2020. The progress of the lakes and plans for improvement must be updated once a year, Standridge added.

“If we can treat 25 percent … we can reduce the pollution [in the lakes],” Markle said.

The city’s engineering department was “forced” to create a document illustrating how to clean up the lakes, Standridge said.

Water and Resource Specialist Genesis Bichanich constructed a guide describing everything being done to the lakes in Madison and what could be done to improve their quality in the future.

“The city is doing a lot of stuff already,” Standridge said. “This is looking good.”

According to Standridge, there are many different factors that can affect the quality of lakes. Most of the nutrients flow into the lake through stormwater, he added, while the lake can be cleaned up through weed cutting and “SolarBee” devices.

“SolarBees,” one of many aspects of the project, are floating, solar-powered devices that will slowly circulate lake water by drawing the water up through a pipe and re-distributing it in different directions.

Increased circulation of lake water prevents blue-green algae and increases oxygen in the water. This environment supports the growth of zooplankton, “good algae,” which are food for fish, the report said.

North Dakota Pump Systems, Inc. has offered the City of Madison a free trial run of the SolarBees for Monona Bay. If the technology is successful, the proposal calls for the purchase of five SolarBees by the end of 2006, which would total $200,000.

Research, tools and the technology necessary to complete a cleanup of the lakes will add up to a large budget and the need for city funding.

If the City Council passes this initiative, they will have to “take it seriously” and understand the budget the ordinance requires, Markle said.

The Common Council will review the plan to improve the quality of the lakes at the end of May.

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk also announced funding for Madison and other municipalities to improve the quality of “urban stormwater” entering lakes Thursday, according to a release.