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DNR to plug old industrial pipes to block gobies

By Northeast Region June 9, 2017

Contact(s): Rob McLennan, DNR water resources supervisor, 920-424-7894; Ed Culhane, DNR communications, 715-781-1683

MENASHA, Wis. - Department of Natural Resources engineers are working with SONOCO US Mills Inc. on how best to permanently seal three very old but unused industrial pipes in an effort to keep invasive round goby fish from entering Lake Winnebago. The work will begin as soon as possible.

The pipes were discovered after the DNR recently used a yellow-green dye in the Menasha Lock Canal to determine if there were any way gobies or other aquatic invasive species might reach Lake Winnebago.

During the operation a DNR spotter pilot observed the non-toxic dye emerging into the river from three pipes that pass beneath SONOCO US Mills Inc. A spokesman for the company said the pipes have not been used for any industrial purposes since at least 1991. The original mill on the site was built in 1898 but these pipes are unlikely to be that old.

This aerial photo from a DNR spotter plane shows the non-toxic dye passing from the lock canal, which connects to Lake Winnebago, to the Fox River, which connects to Little Lake Butte des Morts.
This aerial photo from a DNR plane shows the non-toxic dye passing from the lock canal, which connects to Lake Winnebago, to the Fox River, which connects to Little Lake Butte des Morts.
Photo Credit: DNR

While it is not known whether round gobies - an invasive and harmful species - could actually traverse 200 yards of underground pipes, gaining the six feet of altitude necessary to reach the lock canal, the possibility cannot be ruled out. So this underwater passage way needs to be shut off.

"It's important to make sure this potential pathway for aquatic invasive species is sealed for good," said DNR water resources supervisor Rob McLennan. "The current issue is the prevention of gobies but in the years to come other, perhaps even more threatening species may need to be blocked from entering Lake Winnebago."

McLennan said the effort to protect Lake Winnebago from aquatic invasive species depends most heavily on an informed and involved public. It is critical that lake and river users do not transport water or any aquatic organisms from one water body to another. This is especially important in Neenah and Menasha where the dams separate the waters of Little Lake Butte des Morts, where gobies exist, from Lake Winnebago.

In Menasha, the waters of Lake Winnebago are separated from the waters of the Lower Fox River and Little Lake Butte des Morts by a narrow island that is about three quarters of a mile long. The island is actually part of the dam regulating flows from Lake Winnebago. On one side of the island is the lock canal which is part of Lake Winnebago. On the other side of the island are the waters of the Lower Fox River which connects to Little Lake Butte des Morts.

Last Revised: Friday, June 09, 2017

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