Oconto County Board OKs White Potato Lake district

Panel will levy tax to fight Eurasian milfoil
Warren Bluhm

The Oconto County Board on May 19 approved creation of an inland lake district dedicated to protecting and preserving White Potato Lake, the county’s largest inland lake.

An inland lake district is a specific form of local government with the power to levy a property tax to cover lake management projects.

Ken Dolata, head of the county Land and Water Conservation Department, told the board that a petition was submitted to the county in March, asking to form the new district. Further, he said a public hearing was held April 19 at the Brazeau Town Hall for affected property owners.

Most of the comments favored the proposal as a way to share the cost of protecting the lake from invasive species, specifically Eurasian milfoil, Dolata said. Opponents were concerned about the prospect of more taxes and more government.

The district is comprised of all the frontage property around the lake.

Bob Wittman, chairman of the White Potato Lake Management Committee, told the county board that Eurasian milfoil was found in the lake in 2018 and began spreading

The group has hired university students, harvesting firms and herbicide companies, he said. They have also tried a GoFundMe account, asked local lake associations for help, asked landowners for donations and conducted raffles and fundraising events, Wittman said.

“I realize that individuals’ struggle to raise funds can be overwhelmingly burdensome, and I recognize that donations and fundraising can dry up,” he said. “I feel it would be in the best interest of our community to form a lake district that will include all the area landowners to collectively take responsibility in sharing the cost of protecting White Potato Lake for current and future generations, instead of relying on a few dozen individuals and volunteers who have thus far exceeded their time and efforts to provide funding for the cost of invasive species detection and harvesting.”

Wittman said the district will be “government by the people of the lake.” He was appointed to serve on the White Potato Lake District Board of Commissioners, along with Gwen Schaefer and Mark Wildenberg, at least until the new district’s first annual meeting. The panel will also include one county board supervisor and one member of the Brazeau Town Board, to be appointed by those respective bodies.