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message from Dane County Executive

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.

Partners divert 13,600 pounds of phosphorus from our lakes in 2016

Message from Clean Lakes Alliance for the 2016 State of the Lakes Annual Report

Seven years ago, our community came together and formed an alliance to improve the health of our lakes. Together, we are reigniting a movement to revitalize our lakes and beaches. Driving the movement is a vision in which the lakes are the center of our community.

Today, citizens, businesses, government agencies, scientists, policymakers, and farmers are working as one to advance new and common-sense solutions. Just look at what we’ve already accomplished together.

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Nutrient Concentration System

Dear Friends of Clean Lakes,

Clean Lakes Alliance is very proud of the progress our community has made towards enacting the Yahara CLEAN Strategic Action Plan for Reducing Phosphorus. Dane County has been a leader in supporting clean water since the start. Just this past year, a $12-million, county-funded initiative to remove phosphorus-laced sediment from 33 miles of Yahara streams over five years helped further our common goal of healthy lakes.

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2014 Ag Innovation Days

Did you know groundwater levels are actually rising in the northern end of the Yahara Watershed? This video by UW-Madison’s Water Sustainability and Climate Project taps into the benefits of groundwater in agriculture. How does groundwater affect yields? Can we achieve “more crops per drop”? In what ways is crop production affected by changes in weather, land use and farming practices?

Turns out the benefits of higher groundwater can outweigh the costs – and groundwater could even be dynamically managed to benefit crops. Watch the video above to learn more.

Cover Crops in the Snow

In Wisconsin the harvest is wrapping up, but a farmer’s job doesn’t stop when the crops come off. Milking, feeding and caring for animals is a constant, regardless of the season. This also means manure to manage and store.

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Farm Tour

When many of us think composting, we think about throwing a banana peel or two on the heap. But composting has a place in agriculture too – three farms in the Yahara River watershed are implementing manure composting practices and seeing major benefits.

“The initiative Yahara Pride Farms has taken shows that farmers can do the composting process,” said Andy Skwor, agriculture team leader at MSA Professional Services Inc., a Midwest-based consulting firm.

We spoke with Andy last week about this exciting project to test both the costs and environmental benefits of windrow manure composting.

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Jeff Endres Yahara Pride Farms ag innovation day 2016

Soil is a farmer’s best asset. It provides the nutrients for crops to grow and prosper. To enrich their soil, farmers use various conservation practices to ensure the vitality for generations to come. One such practice is utilizing cover crops, which are grown to improve the soil rather than for profit.

Jeff Endres, chair of Yahara Pride Farms, is doing his best to protect the soil on his farm. Endres planted a pea and barley mix in mid-August after he harvested his winter wheat this July. After he finishes harvesting his corn this fall, he will plant barley. He has found these cover crops to improve his soil and help with the future crop.

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You can’t see it— but more than a third of Dane County cropland has one. It’s considered one of the best practices farmers can use to prevent water quality issues due to nutrient runoff. And this practice is growing: by more than 11% in Wisconsin from 2014 to 2015 alone. Learn more about farm nutrient management planning.

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Press release courtesy Yahara Pride Farms

Yahara Pride Farms was honored by the The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, during its fifth annual U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards ceremony May 11 in Chicago. The program recognizes dairy farms, businesses and partnerships whose sustainable practices positively impact the health and well-being of customers, communities, animals and the environment. Yahara Pride Farms received the award for Outstanding Achievement in Resource Stewardship.

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Dane County Rural Initiatives

The Dane County Land Conservation Division helps landowners plan, design, and implement conservation practices, with the goal of protecting water quality and conserving soil in Dane County. 

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