Lakes Drawdown Update – Water Issues Dominate Council Meeting

By Al Stanek
Whitewater Banner volunteer staff
whitewaterbanner@gmail.com
February 19, 2021

Whitewater area citizens will be able to get an update and offer questions and comments on the Cravath and Trippe Lakes drawdown project at a phone-in and online public meeting scheduled for this Wednesday (February 24).

Whitewater’s Cravath and Trippe lakes, connected by dams near the former American Legion Building on Wisconsin Street, have become overgrown with algae and weeds over the years and the multiyear project is designed to restore them closer to their original condition and offer increased recreational opportunities.

Information on how to access the 5:30 February 24th meeting can be obtained through this Banner link or by visiting the City of Whitewater website at www.whitewater-wi.gov/Calendar; paging down to February 24 on the calendar, highlighting the Lakes Drawdown Meeting and hitting “more details.” For those not familiar with using the “Zoom” link online meeting tool, make a note of the meeting ID number and passcode and dial any of the toll-free phone numbers. You will be asked to enter the meeting number and passcode on your phone keypad to listen in to the presentation. When the public comment period begins you will be advised how to “raise your hand” to be called on and then on how to “unmute” your phone if you are interested in putting forth a question or comment.

At a preview of the public information opportunity at the February 18th Common Council meeting Whitewater Parks and Recreation Director Eric Boettcher had both good news and bad news regarding the effort. Boettcher pointed out that Cravath Lake in the downtown area had drained essentially as expected and that “syphons” on the eastside’s Trippe Lake continue to allow flow even in sub-zero conditions. He added, however, that it is more than likely that additional syphons will need to be installed in Spring to enable Trippe Lake to drain sufficiently before dredging can take place next Winter.

The Trippe Lake “syphons” are underwater intake grates placed several feet below the main dam’s water entry point. They are connected to 12-inch tubes that direct the flow over the dam and ultimately into neighboring Cravath Lake. Boettcher explained that when enough of Trippe Lake is drawn down as expected later this year a controlled burn of the remaining plant life on both lakebeds will be conducted and both lakes will be dredged of some of the accumulated silt. The plan is to begin refilling the lakes in the Spring of 2022. The original plan had called for refilling this year.

In other water related issues the Common Council discussed the appropriate sizing of the proposed new water tower on the City’s southwest side and took initial steps to acquire a one-acre parcel just over the “bridge to nowhere” on Indian Mound Parkway. The project is intended to stabilize water pressure and replace the capacity provided by the Starin Park Water Tower and an adjacent ground level reservoir that were both constructed in 1889. City Manager Cameron Clapper and council members were quick to point out that there are no plans to remove the Starin Park Water Tower. The 131-year-old structure (believed to be the second oldest in the state) is often referred to as “Witches Tower” because of local legend connecting it to alleged paranormal events. Councilman Jim Allen jokingly advised that “the witches have a 99-year lease on the tower.”

On a somewhat related matter the Common Council voted to make an offer to purchase a home adjacent the City Water Plant on Fremont Street. The house at 336 North Fremont Street is between the Water Plant and another home owned by the city and backs up to Starin Park. The Council decided to pursue the opportunity only if an appropriate price can be negotiated.

The February 18 Council meeting also featured an update on plans to close existing Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) Districts in hopes of being able to again use that development tool. The plan includes being able to use the final year of the revenue from the City’s largest TIF District to fund efforts to make housing more affordable in Whitewater and possibly provide funding for housing rehabilitation. The opportunity is the only one of three potential uses that advisors say the City has available under a state authorized TIF District extension program. Numerous other Wisconsin communities have reportedly taken advantage of this program. It is expected to generate somewhere around $2 million for community development.

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