It's a frustration that many have voiced over people either driving vehicles on the lake that have broken through the ice, or ice shanties that break the surface as temperatures warm.
While the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is charged to respond within 48 hours of a vehicle breaking through the ice, the same is not said for other structures, namely ice shanties, that do the same. Admittedly, cars do pose greater hazards in the fluids that can contaminate the water, but ice shanties have the ability to stay on the lake until the first weekend of March.
Tom Reck with the Little Muskego Lake Protection and Rehabilitation District expressed frustration with a camper that initially broke through the ice about four weeks ago during the district's board meeting Thursday night.
"We can't have people dumping their junk in our lake because we end up being the ones cleaning it up," he said. "We need to set a precedent to show that it's not OK and try to force people to be responsible."
The pop up camper had broken through the ice at the entrance of Idle Isle Bay in January, but colder temperatures had frozen the camper partially submerged. According to Reck, it appeared that the owner, who has a posted address on 6th Street in Milwaukee, attempted to raise the camper with a homemade structure to lift it.
"In the meantime, it looks as though they were still fishing out there and using it," Reck explained.
However, the 50-degree temps last week resubmerged the camper, prompting a call to the DNR from Reck to see what could be done to remove it.
However Kaitlyn Kernosky with the DNR told Reck that they could only fine a person if the structure was left on the ice after the first weekend in March, which is the standard order for all ice shanties on Wisconsin lakes. The fine is $263 and is a one-time citation.
He said the DNR made it seem as though a shanty could fall through the ice prior to then and that no action would be taken until after the first weekend of March, but by then it would be too late.
Reck asked the district to approve a fine that they could impose as well, but members cautioned that further research would need to be done to see if they would have the authority to do so. The board approved a $400 fine if the structure isn't removed within 24 hours after a break-through, which is the equivalent of a one-year lake district fee. An additional $400 would be imposed if the structure is not removed in 30 days.
The district will in the meantime look to the City of Muskego and the Muskego Police Department to see what measures they could be taking to fine offenders.
"We need to make it clear that owners are responsible for these things, and that they need to clean them up whether it's March or not," Reck said.