Dane County Office of Lakes & Watersheds
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Dane County Water Body Classification Project

Phase I – technical assessment (2004 – 2005)

Photo of Grass Lake

When the Lakes and Watershed Commission conducted public meetings on various amendments to the shoreland zoning ordinance in 2003, a number of groups and individuals expressed concern that a "one-size-fits-all" approach to regulation and planning may not be the best for protecting and enhancing Dane County's water resources. In 2004, Dane County received a DNR Lake Classification grant to conduct a Water Body Classification Study including all navigable lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams within its boundaries. The County requested that the Dane County Regional Planning Commission take the lead in preparing the analysis and drafting the technical report. In April 2005 the Water Body Classification Study Phase I final report was completed and distributed to local units of government, public resource management agencies, and private conservation and environmental groups. The executive summary, complete report, and accompanying maps from Phase I, along with presentation handouts are available for download elsewhere on this page.

Photo of Black Earth Creek

The water body classification study classifies lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams according to their current level of development and sensitivity to development. The result provides a range of protection, restoration, and enhancement strategies as well as various management actions that can be taken depending on the circumstances surrounding a particular site. In this manner a classification system allows water resource plans, policies, and programs to be tailored to the needs of the resource as well as the priorities of the community. It also provides a framework for guiding program resources, promoting cost-sharing opportunities and partnerships among various agencies and groups, as well as directing their efforts where they will have the greatest beneficial impact.

Phase II – management program (2005-2009)

Based on a review and recommendation by the Lakes and Watershed Commission, Dane County applied for and received another DNR Classification grant to develop a Phase II management program, building on the Phase I technical foundation.

TPhase II included public education about the Phase I study, broad community and stakeholder input to develop objectives and strategies appropriate to each water body class (including both regulatory and non-regulatory approaches) that build on the Dane County Comprehensive Plan, and focus group discussions with economic advisors to assess the possible negative and positive impacts of the proposed shoreland performance standards.

The Dane County Lakes and Watershed Commission received additional public input on a draft report in November 2009, and submitted the final report to the Department of Natural Resources in December 2009.


Partners in preparation of the Water Body Classification Project were the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Dane County Office of Lakes and Watersheds, Dane County Planning and Development, and Dane County UW-Extension. The Dane County Lakes and Watershed Commission served as the Oversight Committee for Phase II management program development.


The Lakes and Watershed Commission decided that its first step following submittal of the Water Body Classification Report to DNR would be to focus on Dane County shoreland zoning ordinance amendments required by recent changes to the state shoreland zoning rules (NR 115). This ordinance amendment work is being overseen by a joint subcommittee of the Lakes and Watershed Commission and the County Board’s Zoning and Land Regulation Committee.

Contact Brian Standing, Dane County Planning and Development at 267-4115 for more information.


Full Text – final report

Excerpts – final report


2009 Presentations and Documents





Yahara Waterways Trail Guide The Yahara Waterways Water Trail Guide is a great resource for exploring our area waters.