Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Dane County Land & Water Resources Department

Yahara Lake Level Recommendations

The Dane County Board adopted the resolution 2018 Res-227 which called for the creation of 1) a technical report to identify ways to address flooding on the Yahara chain of lakes and 2) a task force to make policy recommendations.

Technical Report

A technical work group met from October 18, 2018 to January 25, 2019 to evaluate lake level conditions, model various scenarios that include predicted climate changes, and identify short- and long-term approaches to improve resiliency for future events. The work group compiled their findings into a technical report.

Additional analysis was conducted in 2020 to review summer minimum and midrange operation.

Task Force

The task force began meeting on February 4, 2019 to review the technical report findings and make policy recommendations. Task force meeting details and information are posted on Legistar. Make sure to select "Yahara Chain of Lakes-Lake Levels Task Force" and "2019" from the drop downs to see the full meeting schedule.Task Force meetings and public input led to the following recommendations:


Progress towards each recommendation is detailed below.

Public Engagement
The purpose of this webpage is to provide updates on progress made toward task force recommendations.  In addition, quarterly updates are presented at the joint Lakes & Watershed Commission and Environment, Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee meetings:

Sediment Removal
The efficient movement of water in the Yahara River may be reduced by sediment accumulation.  On April 9, Executive Joe Parisi announced the first phase to remove sediment will be between Lake Monona and Lake Waubesa.  This location, one of six sites along the Yahara River, is a $2 million initiative to improve water flow, flood storage capacity, and fish and wildlife habitat in the Yahara Lakes. Visit our Yahara River Sediment Removal webpage for more information.

Dam Management
Operations continue to be coordinated between DNR, Dane County (owner of the Tenney, Babcock and LaFollette dams), and the City of Stoughton (owner of the Stoughton Dam).  To lower water levels, Babcock Dam and LaFollette Dam have been open in full flow condition since August 2016, with the exception of one week in the spring of 2018, when flow was reduced in an attempt to bring water levels up to summer minimum levels.

Aquatic Plant Harvesting
In the 2019 budget, the county added two new harvesters to its fleet to cut and remove aquatic plants to help increase the flow of water out of the Yahara system.  The Aquatic Plant Management webpage describes this program in more detail and shows the currently locations of the harvesters.

Lake Levels
The county continues to implement tools that may be available to lower lake levels to DNR designated seasonal minimum levels and works to maintain lakes at that level.

Lake Level Management Guide
The Lake Level Management Guide for the Yahara Chain of Lakes (PDF) was updated in 2019.

Stormwater and Infiltration
The Stormwater Technical Advisory Committee continues to meet to determine how to best implement the recommendations in the Stormwater Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) Report (PDF).  Agendas and minutes for the TAC are posted on Legistar under the Lakes and Watershed Commission. 

The following land purchases/grants by Dane County will help reduce sediment and phosphorus runoff in the Yahara Watershed.

Dane County Emergency Management will purchase Water Inflatable Property Protection devices for use in future flood events.

Additional Task Force Details

Video/Audio Meeting Recordings:

Public Comment

The task force held a public comment period during the meeting on March 5, 2019 at 5:00 pm. The minutes for that meeting are posted on Legistar.

Comments Received (black boxes are redacted addresses):

Yahara Lakes Water Level Advisory Group

The Yahara Lakes Advisory Group was convened in 2001 (YLAG) and 2012 (YLAG2) to develop recommendations on how to best manage the Yahara chain of lakes as a system. The group examined the operation, physical constraints, and changing hydrology of the Yahara chain of lakes to make water level recommendations that balance public and private interests.