New Idea for Controlling Monona Bay Algae-Dredging

By: Zac Schultz
By: Zac Schultz

Madison: Most people have heard of or seen the strange looking creatures in Monona Bay. They're called Solar Bees, and the city is giving them a free test ride to see if they can limit the algae problem.

"If they do work we'll think about actually investing in buying them next year," says Mayor Dave Cieslewicz.

Chris Cook says the Solar Bees might keep the algae down in a localized area, but he says there's only one long-term solution. "My idea is a little more comprehensive and is ultimately the final solution and that's to dredge. Dredging can be a very expensive project. It can be $50–100 million to do it, but it's more of a permanent solution."

Cook says Monona Bay's shallow depth and warm waters are combining with 100 years of soil runoff to make a perfect incubator for algae. He says dredging will solve that. "When you have a deeper lake it's going to be cooler and again more healthy."

Cook says he can keep the costs down by not having all the sediments hauled off to a landfill. The idea is to pump the sediment into something called a geotube and actually place them in the bay to make a wetland area. "Geotubes are used side by side to create a sediment containment area and that created a wildlife sanctuary for birds."

The Mayor is counting on the Solar Bees for now, and he has his own long term plan to limit runoff by building rain gardens. "We hope it works of course, but if it doesn't it's not as if we're not trying other long term strategies."

Cook says that's all fine, but the only way to stop the algae is to get rid of the sediments that are already in the bay.

Cook says there may be state and federal grants available to help dredge the bay, especially if any tests show there are hazardous chemicals in the sediment.

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