BELOIT - Municipalities across Wisconsin could find another tool in boosting water quality with floating wetlands in stormwater ponds and lakes.
The City of Beloit is part of early talks on a new bill by Rep. Amy Loudenbeck that could increase access to grant funding for water quality projects. In 2017, the city dealt with a large algae bloom at the Riverside Park Lagoon, and Public Works Director Laura Williamson said floating wetlands could help prevent any future blooms for the city's water table.
Currently the city has yet to see any algae blooms this year, she said.
Floating wetlands can be a useful tool to boost water quality and prevent harmful algae blooms. The floating wetlands target excess nutrients in the water, the main contributor to aquatic weed growth in ponds, lakes and lagoons.
They look like a small island or bog made up of a buoyant structure that supports plants growing through the base of the structure with roots entering the water to absorb surface-level nutrients. According to data provided by Floating Islands West, a manufacturer of the floating wetlands, 250 square-feet of floating island is equal to one acre of natural wetland surface area.
"The technology is passive, but the impact is powerful," Loudenbeck said.
In June of 2016, Williamson, then with the Rockford Park District, oversaw the installation of a floating wetland area at Levings Lake. Twenty floating islands are in place and the district hopes to add an additional 11 to maintain water quality at the lake, according to the Rockford Park District website.
"We had an algae bloom in one of our ponds and we looked at sustainable ideas on how to work through some of those blooms," Williamson said.
Williamson said the concept could be used at the Riverside Park Lagoon.
"It's certainly something that's an option for us to do," she said. "I think it would be great and it's certainly another option to be sustainable. It's a best management practice for improving water quality."
The legislation would allow for projects like these to receive state grants to build floating treatment wetlands as they go through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) permitting process.
Williamson said she is scheduled to meet with Loudenbeck's office next week to discuss the proposed legislation.
The bill is currently circulating for cosponsors in the Legislature.