Waves in the Watershed – Volume I, Issue 1

Welcome to Waves in the Watershed, an in-depth newsletter for donors of the Clean Lakes Alliance (CLA). Waves in the Watershed will come out every two months and will detail the progress that the CLA is making toward our goal of reducing phosphorus in the Yahara watershed by 50% by 2025 and in engaging the community in our efforts.

Please note – the Lake-o-Gram will continue to be delivered to the inboxes of over 7000 individuals who have expressed a general interest in the CLA’s initiatives and events. The Lake-o-Gram is a brief digest that promotes upcoming events and volunteer opportunities and includes highlights and snapshots of what we’re working on. 

In Partnership,

The Clean Lakes Alliance Executive Team
Don Heilman, James Tye and Elizabeth Katt-Reinders

Watershed Engagement

Citizen Water Quality Monitoring Program

In mid-December, the CLA sent summaries of data collected between May and September of 2013 to the Citizen Water Quality Monitoring Program volunteers. The pilot year was a great success; we trained and equipped nine volunteer teams stationed on four lakes. These volunteers — along with the CLA team and WE Badger volunteers — collected and recorded data 276 times during the season. These included 23 phosphorus samples and 50 E. coli samples, three of which resulted in additional beach closures that would have otherwise gone undetected. The teams also recorded observations from the color of the water to the presence of weeds, wildlife, and swimmers.

The program is more than just an exercise in watershed engagement; the data plug into a central database where they are available for the use of regulatory agencies, such as the Department of Natural Resources.  The volunteer data provide an enhanced view of the water quality of our lakes and can help improve the quality of decisions made.

We were fortunate to have such dedicated volunteers for our pilot year. When asked, “What got you interested in being a citizen monitor?” one volunteer team wrote, “We are new to living on a lake. I was interested in the changes we see.” Another team wrote “We are interested in any projects that can help identify…ways to improve the lake quality.” Others simply expressed their excitement about the program and desire to support it through being a monitor. All responders replied that they would recommend the program to others.

To our volunteers and partners, including Public Health of Madison & Dane County, City of Madison Parks, the Friends of Clean Lakes and scientists Dr. Richard Lathrop and Jon Standridge who provided their time and expertise, and to our donors— thank you!


In 2013, 290 volunteers donated over 2800 hours to the CLA. Our Renew the Blue initiative, which includes water quality monitoring, trash pick ups along the lakeshore, clearing invasive species and planting native seeds, was especially popular. Lands’ End, Thermo Fisher, Spectrum Brands and American Family Insurance each participated by turning out large groups of employees to spend a work day for the lakes. To schedule a Renew the Blue volunteer day and participate in a meaningful cleanup and beautification project on the lakeshore, contact volunteer@cleanlakesalliance.com or call 608-255-1000.

Frozen Assets Volunteers needed

Frozen Assets :: Snow Train is a cocktail party benefiting the Yahara Lakes by raising funds for the CLA and our endowment at the Madison Community Foundation. The event is produced by Friends of Clean Lakes, a volunteer auxiliary organization that supports the CLA. Frozen Assets will be held on Saturday, February 8th, 2014 at the downtown US Bank Building on the Capitol Square, East Washington Avenue entrance.

Tickets are available for purchase on our website.

We are still looking for additional volunteers for Frozen Assets to greet guests, check in guests and check coats, and to help facilitate our live auction and end of night wrap up. We will need six volunteers to help out from 4:45 p.m. – midnight and 19 volunteers for the 6:30 p.m. – midnight slot. A meeting will be held prior to the start of each time slot to go over duties. Food and non-alcoholic beverages will be provided during the event.

If you are interested in volunteering please contact our Watershed Engagement Coordinator, Katie Van Gheem at volunteer@cleanlakesalliance.com with “Frozen Assets Volunteer” in the subject line. Please include the following first & last name, shirt size, email and phone number. Please also include the names of friends you will be volunteering with, if applicable. Please sign up to volunteer (and experience Frozen Assets :: Snow Train for free) by Friday, January 31, 2014.

Yahara Lakes 101

Since the inception of Yahara Lakes 101 in May of 2013, our science cafe series has brought in eight speakers and over 300 attendees. The audiences have engaged with topics from lawn care and urban phosphorus runoff to fish, aquatic plants and invasive species. The event is produced in partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, with Foley & Lardner LLP generously serving as hosting sponsor. Our expert presenters have hailed from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the United States Geological Survey and the University of Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene.

On January 9th, 2014, Dr. John Magnuson’s presentation attracted one of the largest audiences to date, filling the Bluephies cafe at the Verex Plaza. He addressed the effects of climate change on Dane County lakes, including impacts on ice cover, fishes and water quality.

We learned that ice breakup now occurs two weeks earlier than in 1852, and that ice freeze now occurs about two weeks later than in 1853. That is 18 days shorter ice duration per 100 years. We also heard about the temperature preferences of fishes present in the Yahara lakes. Fish that have a cooler temperature preference face pressure from climate change; some are being sandwiched in between cooler depths that are low in oxygen, and water closer to the surface that provides oxygen but is too warm. We learned that the fish most likely to go extinct in our lifetimes from climate change and excess nutrients in Lake Mendota and Monona is the Cisco, or Lake Herring.

Dr. Magnuson also addressed the question, “How do we deal with change and variability as a community?” Events like snow kiting festivals, for example, are no longer being held in Madison since we cannot know in advance whether the date chosen can promise a frozen lake. Since winter is part of our sense of place, “loss of winter” impacts recreation and the economy.

If you have yet to attend a Yahara Lakes 101 presentation, please join us for Dennis Frame’s presentation on manure management and innovation in agriculture on February 13th. Meet and greet begins at 7:30 a.m. with the presentation at 8 a.m. in the Bluephies cafe at the Verex Plaza, 150 East Gilman Street. Please pre-register on the CLA’s website; admission to one event is $10 for the general public and free to all 2014 CLA donors. Coffee, pastries and fruit are provided.

Project Implementation

Fall Field Demonstration Days

In late October, the CLA hosted its first annual Fall Field Demonstration Days with our agricultural affiliate organization, Yahara Pride Farms (YPF). The demonstrations, held in Waunakee and Springfield, brought together over 230 producers, implement dealers, government workers and other stakeholders. While the in-field demonstrations were the main purpose, the event was also a great chance for attendees to network and connect with each other through informal conversation.

The demonstrations showcased four main conservation practices: cover crops, strip tillage, vertical tillage and vertical manure injection. This fall alone, YPF members have used these practices on 2,955 acres of land, which has the potential to prevent nearly 1.5 million pounds of algae from growing our lakes. Given the positive response of demonstration attendees, we expect to see these numbers increase in coming seasons.

This event and others like it help the CLA advance its goal of cutting the Yahara watershed phosphorus load in half by 2025— thank you to all who helped make it a success.

National Wildlife Federation grant

In January of 2014, the National Wildlife Federation awarded the CLA a grant and recognized Yahara Pride Farms (YPF) as an outreach cover crop champion and YPF’s chair, Jeff Endres, as a farmer cover crop champion. The award targets local and regional cover crop leaders who can provide region-specific information and farming knowledge to farmers and crop advisors. It also gives YPF access to a network of agricultural professionals and outreach organizations in the Mississippi River Basin and provides resources for outreach efforts.

Not only do the grant and titles give YPF new resources to move forward, but they also provide recognition for what we have accomplished.  The grant recognizes the value of our efforts — cover crop cost share programs since 2011, collaboration with the University of Wisconsin Extension for the cover crop test plot, demonstration days, watershed-wide conferences, and other outreach events and endeavors. We are proud to call ourselves Cover Crop Champions!

Completion of Lake Kegonsa project

In fall of 2013, the CLA played a role in the completion of a major Lake Kegonsa project targeting storm water runoff.  Thanks to the involvement of partners including the Friends of Lake Kegonsa, Yahara Pride Farms, Dane County, the Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District and the landowner, a major runoff problem was identified and quickly resolved. A strong farmer-to-farmer network was key to the speedy action of all partners, which means that the benefits to the community — improved water quality — were delivered with minimal delay. We hope to see this project serving as a model for similar projects in the future.

In the news

Did you see the January 8th cover story in the Capital Times? The CLA’s agricultural affiliate, Yahara Pride Farms, was featured in a story highlighting the phosphorus reduction efforts of YPF’s more than 80 members and their involvement in the Yahara Watershed Improvement Network, and it raised the profile on Wisconsin’s innovative adaptive management practices. The hard work and dedication of everyone involved deserves this recognition; please take a moment to read the article online for a great introduction to the issue and highlights of YPF’s work.

We are also proud that the Wisconsin State Journal has included the lakes on its editorial agenda for 2012, 2013 and 2014, due in part to the attention the CLA has brought to the issue. Thank you to our local media for keeping the lakes in the spotlight!

Urban Efforts

The CLA’s Citizen Action Committee convened for the first time on May 8th, 2013. The committee exists to motivate and support citizens to take actions that protect and preserve water quality, in order to advance the goals outlined in the “Yahara CLEAN Strategic Action Plan for Phosphorus Reduction”.

The committee is currently working on initiatives to be implemented in 2014 in multiple neighborhoods across the watershed to address urban phosphorus reduction. The initiatives will include partnerships throughout the community to address leaf management and storm water control, as well as erosion on residential and commercial properties. Stay tuned for more updates in future issues of Waves in the Watershed.



Earlier this month, the CLA responded to concerns and questions about spills at the Waunakee manure biodigester and potential impacts on the lakes. Please visit our website to read our response and other position statements on policy issues impacting the Yahara watershed.

Legislative update

New legislation has been recently introduced to the state legislature regarding phosphorus reduction compliance in Wisconsin. The CLA has been working with stakeholders and lawmakers to address our concerns for impacts on the Yahara watershed, and we will keep you updated with any progress or updates on this legislation.

Welcome to new Community Board Members

This January, five new board members were selected for the Clean Lakes Alliance Community Board, further strengthening and diversifying the board. We are pleased to welcome Lauren Azar, Fred Klancnik, Paul Robbins, Eric Schmidt and Robert Weber, and to feature their biographies, photos, and of course their favorite thing about our lakes below.


Until early September 2013, Lauren Azar served as the Senior Advisor to the Secretary of the United States Department of Energy (DOE).  After the DOE, Azar opened her own law firm, Azar Law LLC, where she is providing a variety of services including business, regulatory and policy advice as well as traditional legal services.

Serving as the DOE Secretary’s Senior Advisor from 2011 to 2013, Azar worked closely with and advised the Secretary on the electric industry and on the institutional barriers to developing the Nation’s electric infrastructure. Among other things, Azar co-led the negotiations among nine federal agencies to overhaul their evaluation of transmission projects of regional and national significance. She represented the DOE in President Obama’s initiative to streamline federal permitting. Azar regularly engaged with state public utility commissioners on issues of mutual interest.

From 2007-2011, Azar was a Commissioner at the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW). As a Commissioner, she regulated the electric, natural gas, telecom and water industries in Wisconsin. As the first President and co-founder of the Eastern Interconnection States’ Planning Council, Azar organized the states and Canadian provinces east of the Rockies and obtained a $14 million grant for the Council to jointly spearhead the planning efforts over the entire Eastern Transmission Interconnection. In 2009, Azar served as President of the Organization of MISO states a non-profit organization of representatives from each state that is included in the Midwest Independent System Operator.

Prior to her appointment to the PSCW, Azar was a partner in a corporate law firm where she practiced for 13 years in the area of electric and water utilities, representing both ratepayers and utilities.  While representing utilities, among other things, Azar helped to create the nation’s first stand-alone transmission company, to site a 210-mile extra-high voltage line in Wisconsin and Minnesota, and to purchase a nuclear power plant. She also practiced environmental law focusing on water law and contaminated properties.

Azar speaks throughout the nation on the issue of electric infrastructure development. She was named one of the Best Lawyers in America for 2007 in the area of energy law. As a Commissioner, Azar led the development of and co-authored Harnessing Wisconsin’s Energy Resources: an Initial Investigation into Great Lakes Wind Development. She co-edited and co-authored the Wisconsin Environmental Law Handbook, Fourth Edition, July 2007. She has authored several articles for the National Business Institute.

Azar received her Bachelor of Arts Degree from Rutgers College and a Master of Arts in Philosophy from Northwestern University. She also has a Master of Science in Water Resources Management and a law degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


Fred Klancnik is the Founder and Principal Engineer of Capstone Engineering Design, LLC providing advisory, planning and preliminary engineering design services to clients on land and waterfront development projects. He is currently serving as a senior advisor and technical consultant on the Hoakalei Resort development, a 700-acre mixed-use community located just west of Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.

Klancnik is also an Adjunct Professor with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, serving as a lecturer for the coastal engineering course, participating on research projects and mentoring a senior capstone project focused on the rehabilitation of a 100 acre lake on the grounds of Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home in Soring Green, Wisconsin.  He has also served as a course instructor at the UW Department of Engineering Professional Development this past year, leading a one-day Marina Design Course and lecturing on master planning waterfronts along our nation’s rivers and lakes for a Shoreline Protection Course.  He will be leading a one-day Marina Design Course at the international Marina and Boatyard Conference in Fort Lauderdale at the end of January and will speak on the subject of harbor revitalization at the World Marina Conference in Istanbul in June, 2014.

Klancnik began working as a Principal Engineer with JJR and SmithGroup, Inc. in December of 1985 and was elected President of JJR in 1999. As JJR’s first Civil Engineer, he worked closely with his partners in achieving significant growth as an inter-disciplinary firm and received national recognition for integrated design and engineering excellence. Prior to joining JJR in 1986, Klancnik was the Chief Civil Engineer and Director of Project Management of Warzyn Engineering, Inc., a 200-person consulting engineering firm located in Madison, Wisconsin.

What’s the best thing about our area lakes?

“I love both the long view of the sunrise over Lake Mendota from our deck (Middleton Hills) and watching all of the water recreational activities while walking along the UW Lakeshore Path and the Downtown Lake Monona shoreline path from Law Park to Olin Park.”


Dr. Paul Robbins is the director of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he guides the institute in serving as a world leader in addressing rapid global environmental change. He has a depth of research experience in environmental policy and issues and leads current Nelson research and outreach efforts in Yahara lakes water quality.

Dr. Robbins has years of experience as a researcher and educator, specializing in human interactions with nature and the politics of natural resource management. His research addresses questions spanning conservation conflicts, urban ecology, and environment and health interactions. He has done extensive fieldwork in rural India, where he has focused his work on the politics surrounding forestry and wildlife conservation in Rajasthan, India, as well as recent research examining the wealth of biodiversity (frogs, birds and mammals) in commercial coffee and rubber plantations throughout south India.

Dr. Robbins has also led national studies of consumer chemical risk behaviors in America, including research on the abiding passion of Americans for their lawns and mosquito management policies in the Southwest. He is author of the foundational textbook Political Ecology: A Critical Introduction and numerous research articles in publications that address conservation science, social science, and the humanities. His book Lawn People: How Grasses, Weeds, and Chemicals Make Us Who We Are is recognized as one of the most accessible books on the environmental politics of daily life.

Dr. Robbins previously led the School of Geography and Development at the University of Arizona, which he helped establish and served for two years as director. A University of Wisconsin-Madison alumnus with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, he also holds a master’s degree and doctorate in geography, both from Clark University. He was raised in Denver, Colorado.

What’s the best thing about our area lakes?

“As a UW alum, who lived away for decades, it was surely the lakes that brought me back. Watching a pack of coyotes traversing the lake ice, just before dawn the other morning, to hunt rabbits in my yard, I was struck with how much I love the way the lake is ever-changing, from day-to-day and season-to-season. The light changes every time I look, along with the seasonal denizens. But what’s the BEST thing about our area lakes? That they are the PEOPLE’S lakes. Ice fishers, paddlers, luxury boats, inflatable rafts, Hoofers, brave-if-foolhardy swimmers, students, skaters, researchers, Hmong fishermen… coyotes. These lakes are so much more Everyone’s than any of the lakes I know around the country and the world. And to have them be the people’s lakes here, in the heart of a bustling city, an urban center, that’s all the more special. I love these lakes.”


Eric Schmidt, M.B.A., is an Owner and Managing Director of CG Schmidt.  He is the youngest of 10 children, and has been involved with the family business since 1991 where he worked as a laborer on construction crews.  He has continued to move up through the company, managing their toughest projects ranging from the world-renowned Milwaukee Art Museum to $100 Million Hospital Campus Master Plans.  In 2011, Schmidt moved to Madison area to manage the company’s local operations, and to lead CG Schmidt’s Geographic Expansion Initiative.

Schmidt holds a Bachelors of Science, Construction Administration degree from University of Wisconsin-Madison, as well as a Masters of Business Administration degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  He has served on University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee EMBA Board of Directors, he is an advisor to the Board at Marquette University High School, and is a Trustee for the Madison Country Day School.

Schmidt lives in Madison with his wife Karie, a Nurse Practitioner at UW Clinics, and his two children Madelyn (5 years old) and Zachary (8 months old).

What’s the best thing about our area lakes?

“The best thing about our area lakes is that we have them! They are a defining characteristic of our greater Madison Community and Dane County. Many metropolitan areas struggle to create a lasting identity. Madison is blessed in that we have these incredible geographic features that allows us to recreate and enjoy their beauty all year round! Not to mention the economic and environmental advantages that they bring to us. I cannot think of Madison without immediately thinking about our lakes.”


Robert Weber began his real estate career just out of college in 1983. Weber Realty was operated by his brother Tom. Due to Tom’s illness Robert was abruptly thrown into management and he’s never looked back. He was named president of Weber Realty in 1990. In 1996 Weber Realty and First Realty Group merged to create First Weber Group and Weber has served as president since.

Although Weber’s initial interest in real estate was driven by the uniqueness of the product, he has stayed because of the people. In his role he has been a coach and mentor to hundreds of agents throughout Wisconsin. He loves seeing the spirit and passion of a Realtor when meeting challenges relating to real estate transactions.

Weber is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, with a Business Administration Degree. He also earned the Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager designation. In addition to serving of various local boards over the years, he was named Chairman of the Board for the Wisconsin Realtors Association in 2002-2003.

Weber is a founding Director and Treasurer of the First Weber Group Charitable Foundation and for 25 years he has served as a VIP for Easter Seals of Wisconsin where he was named “Outstanding Fundraiser” for his years of service.

He married his high school sweetheart, Mary, and they live in Oregon, Wisconsin. They have two sons, Bradley and Alex.

What’s the best thing about our area lakes?

“Our lakes are the centerpiece of the greater Madison area. Beauty, recreation, and a lasting image make these jewels memorable and invaluable to the lifelong resident and the newcomer alike. The fact that they are unique is what I like the best about them.”

In the Community

The City of Madison’s Planning Division is hosting a meeting this Thursday, January 30th at 6:30pm to continue the discussion regarding the Yahara River Corridor. The purpose of the meeting will be to review the community input from the September meeting and further explore implementation of previous planning efforts. It will be held at the Goodman Community Center, 149 Waubesa Street.

This event is a great opportunity to get more involved with the Yahara lakes and meet others who are working to protect the lakes.

Share it on

Leave a Comment