Healthy Lakes program provides grants for native plantings

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Reduce the cost of a new rain garden or native planting by up to $1,000 per practice

Would you like to save 75% on the cost of a new rain garden or native planting? The Healthy Lakes program, run by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and UW-Extension Lakes Program, provides 75% cost-sharing to help improve water quality and wildlife habitat along lakeshores. Eligible applicants include municipalities, lake associations, and others. For example, a group like a lake association can apply on behalf of multiple landowners, and a rain garden or other practice can be installed on each person’s property. The grant provides 75% cost-sharing on each project, up to $1,000 per practice, and up to a total of $25,000 per project per year. If six property owners along a lake wanted to install rain gardens, the lake association or municipality could apply for $6,000 to install these six projects. Projects may include any of up to five different practices, which are described below.

350 square-foot native planting

Create a contiguous 350 sq.ft. native plant garden near your lakeshore to filter runoff and provide habitat. Plantings must be at least 10 feet wide and should be located as close to the waterbody as possible. Funds can be used to hire a contractor or to buy plants for a do-it-yourself project. Suggested planting designs are available at

Rain garden

These are low areas in the landscape, either natural or man-made, that capture runoff from large areas, or concentrated water flow from gutters. The rain garden is planted with a variety of prairie and wetland species. They typically range from 150-600 square feet in size.

Fish Sticks

They aren’t just for dinner! This practice involves adding large trees to the shallow water in front of your lakeshore property. Trees are taken from upland locations and are cabled to large, live trees on the shoreline. Fish Sticks projects reduce erosion and provide habitat for invertebrates, turtles, fish, shorebirds, and countless other animals.

Infiltration trenches

These areas absorb runoff water and allow it to soak into the ground and be filtered by the soil. This practice is common under roof driplines and adjacent to hard surfaces like driveways or patios.

Diversion structures

These simple structures stop runoff and divert the flow to a more desirable area where it can soak into the ground. As water flows over land, it picks up soil, fertilizers, chemicals, and other pollutants. If this water is allowed to soak into the ground before reaching a lake or stream, most of these pollutants can be filtered out.

Danielle Bell's Woodland Ephemeral Pond - First Place 2018 Scenery

Photo credit:
Danielle Bell, “Woodland Ephemeral Pond”, First place Wild Ones 2018 Photo Contest – Scenery

The Healthy Lakes program is a great way to improve the health of your lake, and beautify your property at the same time. Visit to learn more about eligibility, see planting designs, and get all of your questions answered!

Have additional questions? Contact Patrick Goggin, [email protected]

By Paul Skawinski, UW-Extension Lakes Outreach Specialist and Wild Ones Central WI Chapter President

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