Opening Fox Locks has critics worried
about exotic species invading Lake Winnebago
By Peggy Breister
April 15, 2004
It’s easier to keep exotic species out of lake systems
than to treat them once they get in, says a fisheries
biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
This summer, Wisconsin is expected to finalize an agreement
with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to turn over the
Fox River Locks to state control. Critics worry opening
the locks might allow exotic species to invade area lakes,
including the Winnebago system.
The process of renovating and re-opening the locks is
expected to take 12 to 20 years to complete, said state
Sen. Carol Roessler, R-Oshkosh.
The Winnebago system fishery has many characteristics
that make it stand out, said Kendall Kamke of the DNR.
It has a phenomenal walleye fishery, there is encouraging
news in rehabilitation of the sauger and the sturgeon
resource is the envy of the United States, if not the
world, he said.
“We are very proud of what we have here,” Kamke said.
“It’s a great asset, aesthetically, economically and recreationally.
Having said that, I would feel much more comfortable knowing
there is at least one more barrier between the Great Lakes
and the Winnebago system.”
Once something gets into the Winnebago system, he said,
it has the ability to spread to other systems, including
the Wolf and Fox rivers.
Roessler said the lock at Rapide Croche would remain
closed and a lift or crane would carry boats through the
lock. Kamke said an additional closed lock might help
keep exotic species out of the lakes.
A couple of years ago, the DNR thought white perch had
somehow made their way through the Rapide Croche lock
and dam, he said.
“It turned out to be a false alarm,” Kamke said, “but
it opened a lot of eyes to say ‘is one fire wall enough?’”
His main concern is the havoc exotic species can wreak
on a system. He’s also worried about the difficulty of
getting them out once they’re in. The state tried to keep
zebra muscles at bay, but zebra muscles are now a fact
of life in the Winnebago system.
Kamke echoed the concerns of local anglers about the
lack of details in the locks plan.
“Quite frankly, it’s going to cost a lot of money just
to open the locks without another firewall in there,”
The benefit of opening the locks also is questionable,
Kamke said. The Army Corps of Engineers closed the locks
in the early 1980s because of a lack of commercial traffic.
Three locks remain operational.
“I would like to see a cost/benefit analysis,” Kamke
said. “I don’t think even when they were open that they
had much traffic.”
Numbers presented are sometimes misleading because one
boat on a round trip passing through 17 locks on the system
would count as 34, he said.