A message from Joe Parisi, the Dane County Executive, for the 2016 State of the Lakes Annual Report:
Two years ago, I put $60,000 in the county budget to analyze the water quality and phosphorus content of miles of streams that feed into our Yahara lakes. A year of research later, the findings are stark: if we don’t remove sludge from the bottom of these streams, it will take 99 years to see a 50% reduction in phosphorus that finds its way into our lakes.
Dane County will invest $12 million over the next four years to remove 870,000 pounds of this phosphorus – Dane County’s boldest, most tangible effort yet to improving the health and vitality of waters so integral to our economy and quality of life. This breakthrough project is the cornerstone of this year’s $10 million lakes clean-up county budget.
The data says what’s been done to date has worked at reducing what nutrients go on the land, when they’re applied, and most importantly, keeping them there. County staff and farmers have implemented conservation practices on 90% of the acres in the watershed and nutrient management plans have been completed on 75% of cropland. Soil testing shows farmlands in the watershed are on average already two times better than state standards for phosphorus.
We’re making progress, but we can’t reach our goal without getting at what’s already in the water. The project will return the stream bottoms to the way they were in 1890, allowing for new fisheries and healthy habitats for wildlife.
A significant component of what hurts our lakes is already in our waters. This budget starts the work of getting it out, removing 125 years of accrued sediment. Kevin Connors and his team of engineers at our Land and Water Resources Department should be commended for crafting such a common sense solution.
This message was originally published in May of 2017 for the 2016 State of the Lakes Annual Report.