Dear Friends of Clean Lakes,
Clean Lakes Alliance has accomplished a lot in 2014, thanks to the support of donors like you. In this issue of Waves in the Watershed, we’ll share the latest progress towards clean lakes and healthy communities. Here are some highlights:
- Money for the Lakes
Working with our partner, Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy, we helped secure funding to improve stormwater quality at a critical gateway to the Yahara lakes by helping to pass the City of Middleton stormwater utility referendum. The utility will provide dedicated dollars for stormwater management, reducing the amount of phosphorus and sediment that ends up in the lakes.
- Work on the Farms
In 2013, farmers in our watershed completed an impressive 2,983 acres of conservation practices that protect soil and water quality. This fall, work on the farms is still underway, but our farmer surveys indicate plans to cover between 5,000-8,000 acres in conservation practices, financed in part by the Yahara Pride Farms cost-share program. Stay tuned for official numbers this winter!
- International Recognition
In November, Clean Lakes Alliance won the North American Lake Management Society’s Technical Merit Award for Public Education and Outreach, and received international attention for our community engagement efforts that include a first-of-its-kind lake monitoring program, a highly successful farmer-led conservation model, and a suite of effective outreach and education programs.
Read on to learn more about the work that you help make possible, and make a donation to increase your commitment to important initiatives like these.
We owe our success to the dedication of the Friends of Clean Lakes, and the financial support of all of our donors. As always, thank you for your dedication to cleaning up our lakes — here’s to another great year!
The CLA team
Table of Contents:
Projects – Rural Initiatives – Strategic Implementation
Watershed Engagement – Watershed Engagement Update
Development – Frozen Assets – Become a Friend of Clean Lakes
Policy – Economic Impact and Policy
Partner Spotlight – Dane County 2015 Budget – Natural Heritage Land Trust
This fall, Yahara Pride Farms, CLA’s agricultural affiliate, has been busy promoting innovative conservation practices that protect soil and water quality. We are proud to report that we are on track to meet or exceed our goals for 2014:
Cost-Sharing for Ag Conservation Practices
Goal: Assist with the implementation of at least 6,000 acres of conservation practices.
Actual: Farmers have indicated plans to implement between 5,000-8,000 acres of conservation practices this fall, according to our cost-share interest surveys. We continue to work over the next several weeks to make these goals a reality.
Yahara Pride Farm Certification
Goal: Complete at least 15 farm walkovers.
Actual: We have completed 17 farm walkovers, including some still in final reporting phase.
Goal: Increase number of YPF agribusiness and community partners from 16 supporters.
Actual: We currently have 26 agribusiness and community partners through grants, sponsorships, and in-kind donations.
Ag Innovation Days
The second annual Ag Innovation Days brought in over 100 farmers, equipment dealers, agency workers, agronomists, and other partners to share knowledge about the soil, water quality, and economic benefits of using conservation practices. New this year, attendees were able to see an emergency manure spill response demonstration and learn how to control, contain, comply, and clean up a manure spill to minimize environmental risk. Both days also featured cross-sectional soil digs on fields planted with cover crops so attendees could see first-hand how cover crops improve soil health. Thirteen exhibitors and field experts attended to share their expertise on conservation practices and equipment as well as manure management methods.
The event got widespread media coverage, including some insightful and in-depth post-event coverage by Beacon Reader and the Wisconsin State Farmer. Thank you to our sponsors, Badgerland Financial and MSA Professional Services, and to all the exhibitors, presenters, and attendees that made these days out in the field so rewarding and productive.
Cost-Share Interest & Certification
So far this year, 46 farmers have expressed interest in the Yahara Pride Farms cost-share program. This interest covers 6,876 acres of cover crops, 325 acres of vertical manure injection space, and 1,050 acres of strip tillage – all of which will protect local water quality by keeping valuable soil and nutrients on farm fields. We are also proud to announce that 17 farms have been, or are in the process of becoming, Yahara Pride Certified! The certification program is designed to recognize good conservation practices already in place, and to identify areas where additional, alternative, or improved practices will benefit soil quality,crop yield, and ultimately reduce phosphorus inputs to our waterways. Visit the Yahara Pride Farms website for more information about our farm certification program.
For a comprehensive update on our rural initiatives, read the latest issue of Yahara Pride Farm’s Forward Farmer newsletter.
Our Strategic Implementation Committee works to identify and prioritize projects that will directly reduce phosphorus loading to the Yahara lakes. Read below to learn how we have been implementing the Yahara CLEAN Strategic Action Plan for Phosphorus Reduction in recent months.
Focus on sediment in the Dorn Creek watershed
The committee has identified the lower part of the Dorn Creek watershed where it joins with Sixmile Creek for further research and project development. The Lower Dorn Creek has changed significantly in the last couple of decades: floods have detoured the creek off track and into a farm-side ditch line before reentering the creek bed several thousand feet to the east. This has caused the waterway to lose its meandering way and wetland-cleansing effect. In addition, a delta of phosphorus-laden sediment has accumulated at the reentry point and is poised to wash into Lake Mendota under the stress of a significant rain event.
One possible solution would be to divert the water back into its original channel and dredge excess nutrients from the current channel to keep the phosphorus-laden area out of circulation. This project would also be a great chance to study the wetland’s future potential to trap sediment, especially since it is located in an agriculturally-dominated watershed. We are glad to share that Dane County included $60,000 for sediment removal in Dorn Creek in its 2015 budget and that CLA has pledged an additional $25,000 to move the project forward.
Using LiDAR to prioritize water quality improvement efforts
LiDAR (“light radar”) detection combines long-term crop rotation data and soil type data to locate areas that are highly vulnerable to erosion and phosphorus runoff. Once an at-risk area is identified, the tool combines all relevant information to guide users toward best management practices. This technology is cutting-edge; as such, field verification is still underway.
CLA is working with partners to use LiDAR to maps areas where soils are both high in phosphorus and vulnerable to erosion. This will help identify cost-effective phosphorus-reduction projects and inform location-specific best management practices.
We’re wrapping up a successful year of engaging urban residents and getting more people involved in clean lakes efforts. We were especially proud to be able to present the results of our 2014 lake monitoring program at our Yahara Lakes 101 series and at the North American Lake Management Society International Symposium, where we won an award for our public education and outreach efforts. As always, we have a lot going on — read below for updates.
The last volunteer event of 2014 was co-hosted with UW-Arboretum and held on November 1st at the Wingra Oak Savanna – we had a great team! Volunteers removed woody shrubs to help restore the natural savanna ecosystem. We have hosted eleven events since mid-June, involving eight businesses, seven site partners, 274 volunteers, and 942 hours of donated time. We always enjoy getting outdoors with volunteers to protect our lakes by improving our lakeshores. Thank you!
Citizen Lake Monitoring
In 2014, nearly 1,000 water quality data collections were performed by forty-four volunteers who donated over 420 hours of their time! We were consistently impressed with the dedication and hard work of our volunteers, and thrilled with the data they collected. We analyzed the data sets and presented the results at both the November 13th Yahara Lakes 101 event and at the North American Lake Management Society International Symposium. We’re excited about the success of the two pilot years, and are currently working with partners and planning ahead to what 2015 and 2016 might bring.
Lake User Surveys
As you may know, CLA interns and volunteers conducted 1,500 face-to-face interviews of local lake users over the summer. Northstar Consulting and CLA staff are preparing a report summarizing the key findings about public perceptions and the economic value of our lakes to the community. We are currently working to fund the second phase of this important study.
Urban Leaf Initiatives
We continue to promote our leaf-management baseline survey: 1,400 online surveys have already been completed as of early November. The objective of the survey is to document baseline conditions and ask citizens how they deal with leaf removal on their properties. Leaf-management practices have a big influence on the amount of phosphorus entering our lakes, so it is important to educate everyone about the best practices available. The survey will be available online through November 30th – please take the survey today and share the link with friends and neighbors. We also held a Healthy Lakes Yard Tour to help educate residents on lake-friendly yard care. At the event, we had the privilege of accepting a grant from the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin to support our leaf management initiatives. Read Madison Commons’ excellent coverage of the event.
In 2015, Frozen Assets, CLA’s signature event, will feature a free outdoor festival during the day—the Frozen Assets Festival—as well as the annual evening fundraiser. The event will take place on Saturday, February 7th, 2015 and will be presented by Lands’ End and hosted on the frozen shores of Lake Mendota by The Edgewater.
The event promotes the year-round importance of the Yahara lakes to local quality of life and encourages all members of our community to get out and celebrate Madison’s frozen assets.
The Edgewater’s lakeview plaza will be transformed into winter festival grounds, complete with free ice-skating, a snowman decorating contest, handcrafted s’mores, and local hot chocolate. KEVA Sports center will provide winter sports, including a hockey slap-shot contest on the lake.
The first-ever Igloo Walk, a one-mile fun walk on the frozen Lake Mendota, will start and end at the Frozen Assets Festival. The casual, snowshoes-optional trek will be open throughout the festival and will feature a capitol-replica igloo and warm refreshments. Special family discounts apply; please pre-register online.
The theme is Chill Out. The venue is the Edgewater with sweeping views of the frozen Lake Mendota. Early-bird tickets are now available to 63Club members. Not a member yet? Become one today. We’ll send you a special-access code.
Think you can guess when Lake Mendota will freeze? Mendota Freeze is a fun, free contest that launches on December 1st each year and continues until Lake Mendota officially freezes. Be ready to enter… the first accurate guess gets the grand prize!
Become a Friend of Clean Lakes
Friends of Clean Lakes (FOCL) is the friend-raising and fundraising arm of the Clean Lakes Alliance. FOCL is working to secure sponsors for Frozen Assets and to develop CLA’s individual contribution base by seeking new Friends of Clean Lakes, Friend renewals for 2014, and new members for the 63Club. The 63Club is a way to recognize those who commit to supporting the CLA through a recurring monthly donation – join the club! As of October 31st, CLA has reached 84% of our 2014 goal of $100,000 in individual contributions.
Help us reach our goal and become a Friend today.
Economic Impact and Policy
This fall, CLA worked with Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy to pass a referendum to create a storm water utility in Middleton, and we’re happy to announce that on November 4, the voters of Middleton passed the referendum with overwhelming support. The utility will secure a dedicated funding source for stormwater management, thereby reducing phosphorus and sediment loading to Middleton’s waterways, and helping improve water quality in the City of Middleton, the Pheasant Branch Creek watershed, and the Yahara watershed as a whole.
2015 Dane County Budget
On November 17th, the Dane County Board of Supervisors passed the 2015 County Budget, which boasts $10 million dollars for lakes and phosphorus reduction efforts in our county. We are grateful to have a County Executive and County Board who prioritize our lakes and reflect those values in the budget. This budget brings unprecedented partnerships that leverage resources and efforts, and include public and private entities alike, including Sand County Foundation, Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District, Clean Lakes Alliance, and Yahara Pride Farms.
We thank County Executive Joe Parisi and County Board Chair Sharon Corrigan for their leadership on the 2015 budget, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with the County to protect and improve water quality in the Yahara River watershed.
Natural Heritage Land Trust
At CLA’s November Community Board meeting, we learned about how the missions of the Groundswell Conservancy and CLA overlap. NHLT executive director Jim Welsh, who is also a member of CLA’s Community Board and Economic Impact and Policy Committee, gave a brief presentation. NHLT helps landowners and communities meet their land conservation goals, and has conserved more than 9,000 acres of important land and water resources since 1983.
Recently, NHLT has been able to acquire and donate over a mile of frontage on the Yahara River to the City of Stoughton, connect downtown Mazomanie to the Wisconsin Heights Middle and High School with a safe path alongside Black Earth Creek, and much more. NHLT does important work in the Yahara River watershed and beyond – we appreciate the relationship that has developed between our organizations.