Join us for this ONLINE edition of Clean Lakes 101 to learn about some of the ongoing lake improvement initiatives spearheaded by Dane County.
In this month’s talk, we’ll hear from Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and key staff members John Reimer and Kathy Kuntz as they review some of Dane County’s ongoing lake improvement initiatives in the Yahara Watershed. The Dane County Land and Water Resources Department leads and collaborates with organizations and agencies on innovative watershed scale approaches to improve water quality. These approaches vary in size and scope and include new technologies, research, and partnerships.
Suck the Muck: Breakthrough research in 2014 by Dane County in collaboration with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), discovered that phosphorus concentrations in the stream sediments of Dorn Creek (northeast of Lake Mendota) are seven times greater than nearby crop fields. Much of the stream sediment is known as legacy sediment, deposits formed by erosion from farm fields accumulating over decades of farming. In the case of Dorn Creek, this sediment has existed since the late 1800s. For Lake Mendota, if the accrued legacy sediment remains at the bottom of the streams, it was calculated that it would take almost 100 years for the phosphorus to continue to leach out of the sediments and enter the lake. In order to reduce phosphorus concentrations and improve water quality decades sooner than 100 years, Dane County developed an innovative project to remove the phosphorus-laden sediment from the streambeds within the Yahara Watershed.
Yahara River Sediment Removal: Currently, water comes into the Yahara lakes faster than it goes out. Therefore, after repetitive and heavy rainfall events, the lake levels increase and can lead to flooding. The efficient movement of water through each lake is undermined by sediment build-up in the Yahara River. While sediment movement is a naturally occurring process, the accumulation of sediment in the Yahara River and lakes is greatly increased by human activity, including urban development and winter sand operations. Today, two inches of rain takes more than two weeks to leave the Yahara lakes system due to its sluggish nature.
Land Preservation: Dane County Parks has more than 12,000 acres of land that staff, volunteers, and partner organizations work to protect, improve, and restore. These restoration efforts include seed collection, controlled burns, forestry management, invasive species control, and land purchases.
Climate Change: In April 2020, Dane County issued an ambitious and comprehensive economy-wide climate action plan (CAP). The CAP lays out strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all sources by 50% by 2030 with the ultimate aim of net zero emissions by 2050. Benefits of achieving CAP objectives go beyond climate—many of the strategies outlined in the CAP also yield substantial benefits to our lakes.
County Executive Joe Parisi has called Dane County home his entire life. Joe sought out public service as a way to give back to a community that has given so much to him. Joe was first elected as County Executive, the chief elected leader of Dane County, in 2011 after six years in the State Assembly and eight years as Dane County Clerk. Joe’s priority is to ensure that everyone in our community has access to the opportunity to succeed. He believes investing in people pays big dividends. Joe knows this can work because he experienced it. As a teenager, Joe dropped out of high school. He was encouraged to return to education through a community program by people who believed in him. So he worked to earn his GED and went on to MATC (now Madison College) and graduated from UW-Madison with a degree in sociology. Now Joe believes it is his turn to give back to ensure that our children’s generation has access to the same opportunities that were available to him.
Kathy Kuntz, CC-P, is the Director of the Dane County Office of Energy & Climate Change. Kathy has more than 25 years of experience influencing consumers, businesses, and whole communities to adopt sustainable practices and technologies. Her work spans energy and water efficiency, transportation, waste reduction, beneficial electrification, and renewable energy. Prior to joining Dane County Kathy led Cool Choices, a nonprofit that worked with businesses and local governments to encourage sustainable practices.Prior to that, Kathy led Focus on Energy, Wisconsin’s statewide energy efficiency and renewable energy program.
John Reimer (Dane County) is the Assistant Director of the Dane County Land & Water Resources Department. He specializes in water resources engineering and management. His areas of expertise include water level management, flood assessment, lake and river restoration, and stormwater management. He enjoys communicating complex water resource information and is dedicated to improving Dane County’s resilience to flooding and water quality problems.
This event will be held online via Zoom. The online talk is free and open to the public. A link to access the talk LIVE will be sent to all registered attendees ahead of the event.
Clean Lakes 101 is a series of educational events open to the public and a great chance for residents to learn more about the science behind the issues that affect our lakes. Each month we feature a different expert to make the science accessible and interesting to non-technical audiences. The series is produced in partnership with the UW-Madison Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and UW-Extension Lakes, with presenting sponsors First Weber Foundation and Johnson Financial Group, hosting sponsor The Edgewater, and supporting sponsor National Guardian Life Insurance Company.