Middle Lock and Dam and Mooney Dam Repair Completed in 2015-Article By Ted Eastlund

Repairs to Middle Lock and Dam and Mooney Dam Completed in 2015

During the summer of 2015, both Bayfield County’s Middle Lock and Dam on the Eau Claire River between Upper and Middle Eau Claire Lakes, and Douglas County’s Mooney Dam located where the Eau Claire River drains Lower Eau Claire Lake’s Mooney Bay, underwent significant repairs. Both dams were originally constructed of logs to impound and propel felled logs downstream during the late 1800s. They fell into disuse after logging ceased. Both of the existing, more permanent, dams were built in 1938 by the federal Works Project Administration during the Great Depression.

cartoon of the eau claire lakesMiddle Lock and Dam received repairs to crumbling concrete surfaces, improvements in riverbanks and restoration and improvements to the rare historic public lock. Repairs began around the first week of June and most was finished in time for safe portaging during the Town of Barnes Vatten Paddlar Canoe and Kayak Race on July 11. Repairs were by Pember Companies, Menomonie, Wisc. at a cost of $131,500 with close supervision by the county’s chosen engineering firm of Cooper Engineering of Rice Lake.

Middle damMiddle dam.2


BEFORE: Coffer dams on the right, the rust colored sheet pilings driven into the sandy river bottom, were put in place at start of construction to de-water the repair work site, one side at a time, so that a lake draw down was avoided.

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Working on the lock’s concrete surface.                   Exposed rebar ready for applying new concrete


The rare and historic, Middle Lock & Dam now has a repaired and improved lock for small watercraft navigating upstream or downstream around the dam. It is available for public use and operated when needed. It is truly a historic lock, only six-feet wide and manually operated by boaters and for small watercraft use only. A new metal railing was constructed along the lock for added safety. Extensions to the metal bars for opening and closing the gates now place the metal bars at railing level for more easy operation. They are secured and will no longer fall into the deep lock. New lock operating instructions are now publicly posted. It promises to become a special recreational destination now more than before.

Dam site repaired Norway boat in lock

AFTER: Finished, ready for use again.

Norway Friends at dam

Tourists from Norway watch with interest as the lower gate is opened and a boat with a child is guided by her father from the lock into the river below the dam

Repairs included a concrete pier landing running along the dam’s lateral abutment alongside entire length of the lock under the bridge as well at river’s edge upstream and downstream. In addition there is a public beach a short distance upstream.


Repairs to Mooney Dam

The Mooney Dam located at the Douglas County Mooney Park was extensively repaired starting the last week in July and finishing September 8.  Repairs were by Yahnke Company at a cost of $241,958 with close daily supervision by a representative from the county’s chosen engineering firm of SEH, St Paul, Minn.

Concrete surfaces were crumbling but more importantly deep cores into the concrete of the north lateral abutment showed extensive degeneration and crumbling. Repairs included extensive replacement of both abutments along the spillway, surface repairs throughout the dam, new dam stop logs and removing trees and bushes from both earthen sides, new steps and a new safety fence on the walkway above the dam.Lower 2Lower dam


more work on Lowermore work on Lower

Work started on the north wing dam using a 41 ton Cat hydraulic excavator. This machine drove across the downstream river just below the dam to get to the small confined space within which it had for working.


Work was delayed a week because of failure to sufficiently dewater the north coffer dam. This was due to the saturated sandy soil and the pressure of the water leaked up under the sheet piling. After installing a string of points into the sand to continuously remove water, the space became de-watered.


After replacing both wing dams of the lateral abutments, and surface repairs of the lateral and central piers, surface repairs to the south lateral abutment proceeded as a final part of the repairs.


New fencing for the public walkway over the dam, new public steps to river’s edge.



Local Control of Shore-line Zoning

Local Control of Zoning

The past Wisconsin legislative session resulted in changes to the regulation and implementation of shoreland zoning which remove County control of and puts the State in control of some of the most critical zoning issues. This “one size fits all” approach removes local control of this critical responsibility and thus has the potential to reduce frontage requirements to the state minimum of 100 feet and threatens the Barnes Overlay District which became a formal part of the Bayfield County Zoning Ordinance in 2009. Such changes would significantly threaten the pristine nature of our lakes
We have joined in an effort to return control of the shoreland zoning to the county where it belongs and to stop implementation of reduced lakefront minimum lots sizes until new legislation is effective.
Such an effort requires time, expertise and money. We are supporting the Plum Lake Association in the engagement of attorney Bill O’Connor from the Wheeler law firm in Madison. He has developed a short term strategy for defeating the state takeover of shoreline zoning lake front minimums so that no more property is split up before we can repeal the legislation. He will also draft legislation which will be introduced in the short session of the legislature this fall. In addition, Mary Panzer of Panzer Public Affairs and a former Republican Senate Majority Leader has been engaged. She has substantial depth of contacts in state government and a relationship with many people in the legislature and the administration. She has begun lining up support and the preliminary results are excellent. These efforts will hopefully lead to a broad base of bipartisan support for this bill.
At this time donations are needed for legal and lobbying retainers. We would encourage each of you to make donations to this effort by sending a check payable to Plum Lake Association, Shoreland Zoning (a 501c3 organization and therefore qualifies for a tax deduction). Send this check to “Plum Lake Association”, P.O. Box 193, Sayner, Wisconsin, 54560.
Thank for your consideration. We see this as an action that returns local control to such critical issues and help to ensure the continued pristine nature of our lakes and surrounding environment.

Eau Claire Lakes are Alive With Baby Loons, Once More

Jim Bakken, Loon Ranger for Upper Eau Claire, reports June 30, 2015, that this year’s first loon chick on Upper Eau Claire Lake was born a few days ago on an artificial nesting platform in Upper Eau Claire Lake across from Deer Grove Resort on wetland property owned by Sue & Ron Jansen.The nest is located across from the cabin of  Bob Cochrane and Denny Scharlemann in easy view of his spotting scope. The incubating loons have been watched and monitored, eagerly awaiting the hatching.

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Loon with Chick, Upper ECL. Photo by Jim Bakken June 28, 2015. Olympus Camedia 10X zoom.

From Jim, we learn that he “located the chick Friday June 26 and found it again Sunday June 28 taking a ride on one of its parent’s back. It hatched sometime between Sunday June 20 and Friday June 26. While observing the chick, it slid off the nest into the water and performed a few short dives.”

“While there, a couple of bald eagles flew over, causing the parent to sound an alarm. After that the chick was basically attached to the side of the adult. The adult loon seemed quite content to hang around my pontoon boat; maybe it felt some protection by the pontoon since eagles were in the area.”
Two artificial loon nesting platforms were built for Upper Eau Claire Lake two or so years ago by Greg Martin and the Eau Claire Lakes Conservation Club. They were placed at the south shore by Bob Cochrane and on the island at the north end by Greg Martin and loons have been nesting on them producing chicks. The platforms remain in place over winter to avoid disturbing walleye spring spawning beds which could occur if platforms were removed in the fall and put in place in April each year. Conservation Club members Greg Martin and Bob Cochrane repair the platforms annually, having to replace broken white poles placed there to deter the swooping bald eagles from killing the chicks, to repair damage caused by other animals and, as happened this year, to fix and secure mooring when one broke away from the island and floated to the opposite shoreline.Last year Upper’s loon pairs were driven off their nest eggs on both platforms by swarms of black flies, abandoning their eggs. Loons laid a second egg clutch on the platform at the north end and two chicks survived until the lake iced over last year.
In June, the usual Mooney Bay nesting loons were not seen and a nest with eggs not found, the old one being hidden and partly overgrown with vegetation. On July 4, Buzz and his daughter discovered a new loon nest near the beaver lodge, a new site this year. The loon was incubating eggs.
The bay had been silent with rare to no loon vocalizations for what seemed like weeks. The night of July 4 loon calls were heard again and the next day loons with chicks on the Bay, off the nest were seen. On July 5 the loons and two chicks were first seen on the waters of Mooney Bay with nearby kayaks, canoes and pontoons periodically through the day. One was likely hatched July 4 and the other shortly before.Both chicks, featureless little fuzzballs with a pointed head, were happily on their mom’s back, one more forward, more visible and usually motionless and the other often protected under her right wing but clearly more active, on and off mom and in the water most July 5.The partner loon was often nearby and spotted offering a shiny little minnow to the aft chick who was lured from under mom’s wing, while the other sat motionless in full view nearer to her neck. Papa loon dipped the minnow several times under water before apparently releasing it to the chick who was also in the water.Ted Eastland reported that he couldn’t tell if the chick was being taught to pick it up in the water or was presented the minnow directly to its beak. As the pair moved away very close to each other and the loons on the mom’s back ,Ted saw a turtle head moving along within 15 feet of them. He has not seen bald eagles in the area and hope this continues since. In 2012 and in 2013, the chicks were killed by a bald eagle.

Thom Storm, Loon Ranger for Sweet Lake, reports that there are currently two chicks with their parents on Sweet Lake and that they hatched on Sunday June 14 .Ingemar Ekstrom reported that Sandbar Lake has no nesting pair but that the lake depth is improving over the years and habitat is again developing so there is hope for the future.Patti Joswick of Tomahawk Lake reports that on June 11 two eggs were on the one nest on the lake and they were being incubated. Subsequently, a loon was seen on the lake but chicks have not been seen. She assumes that the eggs may have been swamped by a passing speed boat observed around June 12 pulling people in a tube or eggs or chicks lost by predation or other reason. No chicks have been seen.

Loon Rangers are volunteers who are assigned to a specific lake to monitor the numbers of loons, nesting pairs, chick production, chick mortality and outcome, visiting loons, dates of first arrivals in the spring and migration departure to the Caribbean in the fall. The volunteer Loon Ranger for Upper ECL is Jim Bakken, for Middle ECL is Lee Wiesner, and for Lower ECL is Ted Eastlund, recently joined retired, Loon Ranger Buzz Pickering who was a Loon Ranger for three decades but is still following the loons, their nest and chicks. The Loon Ranger for Sandbar Lake is Ingemar Eckstrom, for Tomahawk Lake is Patti Joswick. For Sweet Lake the Loon Rangers are Cindy & Thom Storm.
Loon Rangers report their data every year to Loon Watch, Northland College, Ashland, Wisconsin, a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to protecting loons and conducting loon research in Northern Wisconsin
Periodic reports and news about the loons and their chicks on the Eau Claire Lakes Chain of Lakes will be posted on this website. If you wish to join a group of interested persons, lake cabin owners and neighbors who receive email notification of our local loon news and are called the “Loon News Junkies” contact tedeast@centurylink.net to be placed on the Loon News Junkies email list.

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