Onterra, LLC Mission Statement

Our goal is to provide our clients with the information and guidance necessary to collaboratively produce a lake management plan that is both realistic and environmentally sound.  Each plan is created to meet the needs of the lake group, foster continued stakeholder education, and promote responsible lake stewardship.

Comprehensive Lake Management Planning

A comprehensive management plan ensures that the lake is managed at the ecosystem-level by including components addressing native and non-native aquatic plants, lake water quality, watershed impacts, and fisheries.  Stakeholder participation and education, including a written riparian survey, is a critical component in the success and implementation of this type of plan.  If applicable, a comprehensive lake management plan also encompasses an aquatic plant management plan.  More on Onterra’s planning process can be found under “Onterra’s Planning Process” below.

AIS Monitoring/Control Strategy Development

Onterra works with many lake organizations to develop realistic and effective aquatic invasive species management programs, along with designing and implementing the appropriate monitoring strategies to evaluate the management action.  Onterra’s objective data collection, analysis, and reporting aims to present data in a format that is understandable to lake stakeholders while also including the appropriate scientific rigor to satisfy agency regulators.  

Onterra has helped many clients obtain WDNR grant funds to partially fund the management and monitoring aspects of a control strategy.

Diagnostic / Feasibility Studies

These types of projects are designed to diagnose a particular problem within a lake and then determine feasible alternatives to correct or minimize the issue.  For example, a study may be conducted to diagnose if internal nutrient loading is a significant source of phosphorus that is fueling nuisance algae blooms.  If internal loading was a problem, information would be gathered to determine the feasibility of completing an alum treatment at the lake.


Paleoecology allows us to examine a lake’s history through its bottom sediments.  Specifically, a sediment core is collected from the lake and sectioned at one-centimeter increments for analysis.  Through geochemistry, Lead-210 dating, and identification of algal fossils, especially diatoms, a lake’s past nutrient levels, plant occurrences, and sedimentation rates can be determined.  Understanding a lake’s history leads to better decision making for the lake’s future management.

The collection of a top-bottom core is included in most comprehensive management planning projects.  This analysis includes examination of the uppermost layer of sediment in the core as well as a section found 30cm or deeper.  The top section represents recent conditions on the lake, while the bottom section represents lake conditions prior to European settlement.  Understanding the condition of the lake prior to human impacts aids in the creation of a realistic and implementable management plan.

Grant Writing

Many of the projects we develop with our clients are eligible for matching funds through the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources Surface Water Grant Program.  In most cases, Onterra will complete the grant application materials at no charge to the client if the client agrees to use Onterra as their consultant provided that the project is funded.  If the project is not funded, the client is not obligated to complete the project.

Onterra Planning Process

The primary objective of every lake management planning project is to create a realistic and implementable plan for our client.  We believe a plan fulfilling that objective must include a thorough understanding of the waterbody and the folks who use and care for it; therefore, an effective lake management planning project must include ecological and sociological components.

To develop an understanding of the lake’s ecology, we conduct studies and compile information regarding the lake’s water quality, native and non-native vegetation, morphology, fisheries, and watershed.  Current and historical information is utilized to understand cycles and trends. 

The sociological side of lake management is a bit more difficult, but just as an important as the ecological side.  Gathering information about the people who care for and use the lake is accomplished through a written riparian survey, facilitation of public meetings at the start and end of the project, and through the use of a sub-committee called a planning or steering committee.  The stakeholder survey’s target population is primarily the lake’s riparian owners.  In some situations, the population may be expanded to include the lake’s watershed or some municipal boundary like a village or city.  In all cases, the intent of the survey is to gather general demographics, but also comments and opinions from lake stakeholders to gain important information regarding their understanding of the lake and thoughts on how it should be managed.  This information is critical to the development of a realistic plan by supplying an indication of the needs of the stakeholders and their perspective on the management of the lake.

The planning committee membership represents a cross-section of the lake group in age, length of property ownership, and pre-determined ideas concerning the condition and the management of their lake.  The committee serves as the primary link between the lake group and Onterra ecologists during the planning process.  The committee’s first task is to help Onterra customize the riparian stakeholder survey to meet the specific needs of the lake and the lake group.

Following the completion of the data collection and analysis phases, Onterra staff meets with the committee to detail the results, discuss the conclusions and initial recommendations, and answer committee questions.  The overarching objective of this first meeting is to fortify a solid understanding of the lake among the committee members.  The second planning committee meeting begins with a discussion of the challenges facing the lake and the lake group.  Challenges can be positive, like maintaining good water quality; or negative, like controlling established AIS populations.  The challenges are converted to goals that the lake group would like to meet in the management of the lake and their organization.  Management actions are then developed that will allow the group to meet their goals.  The final step is to tie the goals and management actions together with action facilitators and a timeline.  The facilitators are responsible for implementing the management actions within the stated timeline and can be made up of individuals or groups of individuals, such as a committee.  The completion of this final step signifies the creation of the implementation plan, which is the basis for the lake’s management activities.  The implementation plan is then presented to the group as a whole.  On most occasions, it is well-accepted because essentially the lake group itself has developed the plan through the planning committee.

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