Waves in the Watershed – Volume I, Issue 3

Waves in the Watershed
Volume I, Issue 3
July 22, 2014

We just wrapped up our Community Board meeting last week. We’d like to take a moment to update you on progress towards our goal of reducing phosphorus runoff in the Yahara watershed by 50% by 2025.

The Clean Lakes Festival is only days away; we hope you can join us on Saturday, July 26th at Law Park in one of the many activities that connect us to the lakes.

And, of course, since we are in the middle of peak lake season, we have a lot to share! Project implementation, development, engagement… thank you for taking the time as a donor to read and learn about our many initiatives.

We appreciate your support of our organization and our mission.

In Partnership,

The Clean Lakes Alliance Team


Phosphorus Reduction

Clean Lakes Festival
Loop the Lake
Renew the Blue Volunteer Days
Yahara Lakes 101
Clean Lakes Camp

Friends of Clean Lakes update


Phosphorus Reduction

2013 Phosphorus Reduction report

Yahara Pride Farms (YPF) members were busy last fall implementing innovative conservation practices in their fields. As part of a study on phosphorus reduction activities, farmers shared their cost-share program field data with YPF (identifiable information is kept confidential). The result is the 2013 Phosphorus Reduction report, an analyzed report of the collected data prepared by our Conservation Resource Manager Dennis Frame. It rates the phosphorus reduction capabilities of each conservation practice covered through the program, and details how much phosphorus YPF members helped prevent from entering our waterways last year.

The following conclusions were made for 2013:

    • Strip tillage: average reduction of 1.4lbs/acre – prevented 170.5 total pounds of phosphorus from entering our waterways
    • Vertical manure injection: average phosphorus reduction of 2.9 pounds per acre – prevented 674 total pounds of phosphorus runoff
    • Cover crops: average reduction of 1.0 pounds per acre – prevented 1,957 pounds of phosphorus

We are looking forward to our 2014 cost-share program, which will incorporate last year’s practices as well as a new manure management initiative (stay tuned!).

Cover crop test plot

Although harvest is several months away, we have begun receiving preliminary findings from the Cover Crop Test Plot (a UW-Extension, YPF partnership). Already, the difference in corn stalk height when planted with various seed types and no-till versus strip till combinations is noteworthy— we are interested to see if this height will result in increased yield for certain plots.

Stay tuned post-harvest for insight on how the different seed types and tillage combinations affect final crop yield. We are excited for Heidi Johnson, UW-Extension Crop and Soils Educator, to share the science behind the findings.

Farm certification

Since the beginning of 2014, 14,000 acres of local farmland have undergone a walkover and analysis through the Yahara Pride Farms (YPF) certification program. Two farms have already been fully certified this year, and seven more will be certified shortly, pending a final review.

The program provides a non-regulatory evaluation of the overall farm and farming system, to help farmers identify and correct areas or practices that could have a negative impact on the environment. In addition, the evaluation provides an opportunity to discuss a vision for the future of the farm and long-term operation.

Jeff Meffert, participating Waunakee dairy farmer, recommends the program “because of the potential to make changes to save money through nutrient management planning or through different farming practices that you have never tried before,” while also “control[ing] erosion and benefit[ting] the environment.”

Thank you to the YPF Conservation Resource Managers, Joe Connors and Dennis Frame, and to all participating farms!



The “Yahara Lakes Monitoring Partnership” was launched in 2013 to increase the public’s understanding and awareness of local water quality issues, and to better inform beachgoers of near-shore lake conditions. CLA is proud to bring together government agencies, UW-Madison researchers, local businesses and water quality advocacy groups as contributors to this broad-scale monitoring effort.

In particular, thank you to the following monitoring partners: City of MadisonCity of Madison ParksDane CountyPublic Health Madison & Dane CountyUW-Madison Center for LimnologyUW-Madison Space Science and Engineering CenterWisconsin State Laboratory of HygieneWisconsin Department of Natural ResourcesThermo Fisher Scientific100state and MIOsoft.

Renew the Blue citizen water quality monitoring

A total of 44 citizen lake monitors were recruited, trained, and are now collecting near-shore water quality data at sampling stations distributed around each of our five Yahara lakes. This quadruples our numbers from 2013, and significantly expands the number of sampling sites to cover all major shoreline areas.

A partnership with City of Madison will soon involve the collection of daily beach-monitoring data by city lifeguards. The purpose of the overall effort is to better track changing beach and near-shore lake conditions, and to provide timely water quality and algal-bloom information to the public. A new mobile phone app and website interface will facilitate the reporting and sharing of near real-time water quality information (see below).

Greater Madison Beaches and Lakes mobile app

Coming soon to a smartphone near you! CLA is preparing to release the Greater Madison Beaches app – a first-of-its-kind information hub for lake enthusiasts and beachgoers. The app will allow users to easily locate local beach destinations with desired conditions and amenities. Users will also learn about public events, monitoring and conservation efforts, and how to volunteer or become a Friend of the Clean Lakes. CLA citizen water quality monitors will submit their water quality observations and measurements through this web interface, generating additional beach quality data to be available to the general public.

Buoy Partnership with UW-Madison

The University of Wisconsin – Madison is renowned worldwide for its status as a leader in limnology. Research, teaching and outreach are all components of the work being done at the Center for Limnology and the Long Term Ecological Research program. Long term monitoring and data collection are key building blocks of their research, and the information that comes from these programs is interesting and useful to the public, from lake recreators to policy-makers.

CLA has been meeting with faculty and staff from the University to explore how we can support and expand their monitoring efforts, which benefit our community and provide necessary information for our water quality improvement efforts. The Mendota buoy is an icon known and referenced by scientists and sailors alike, collecting data on lake temperatures and windspeed, as well as measuring chlorophyll, dissolved oxygen, and much more. Now, we are exploring the idea of a buoy for Lake Monona to expand research capabilities and generate more knowledge that can help us solve the challenges facing our lakes.

For those interested in helping make this a reality or to find out more about CLA’s citizen monitoring program, please contact James Tye at james@cleanlakesalliance.com.


THIS SATURDAY – Clean Lakes Festival


The Clean Lakes Festival is one of the CLA’s biggest fundraisers and our founding event. Opportunities abound to paddle, party, and play all day… and all for our lakes. Our hope is that festival-goers will revisit their favorite lake hobby, or will gain a new lake-related skill. Opportunities include water ski lessons, heritage boat tours, canoeing, kayaking, and paddleboarding, music on a floating stage, and activities for the kids.

Through the festival, we strive to raise public awareness about opportunities for recreation on the lakes, highlight the importance of lakes to local quality of life, and offer non-lake users the opportunities to engage in lake recreation. But luckily for you, all you have to do is show up!

See you there –Saturday, July 26th at Law Park from 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Thank you to the sponsors who help make this day possible: Alliant Energy Foundation, Betty Lou Cruises, The Burish Group-UBS Financial Services, Ho-Chunk Gaming – Madison, InterCon Construction and Energy Services, Lands’ End, Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company, Spectrum Brands, Wingra Boats, and Wickcraft Company, Inc.

THIS SATURDAY – Loop the Lake


Kick off the Clean Lakes Festival with the Loop the Lake bike ride. Mayor Paul Soglin of Madison and Mayor Bob Miller of Monona will both be present at the start-line to open our 2nd annual fun-ride around Lake Monona!

The ride is a great way to book some quality time with family and friends and start off a relaxing, lake-centered day. When you register for the ride, we take care of lunch: each rider gets a free grilled sandwich, beverage and chips at the Clean Lakes Festival (where the ride finishes). We provide the bike racks, so you can secure your bikes, grab a bite, then hop on a free boat rental or relax to live music while the kids play!

All proceeds will support CLA’s Citizen Water Quality Monitoring program, which trains and equips local residents to monitor and report the day-to-day conditions of our lakes and beaches. Visit cleanlakesalliance.org/loop-the-lake for details and to register – register by noon on Wednesday, July 23rd to reserve a t-shirt.

Thank you to our sponsors: American Transmission Company (ATC), Dentistry for Madison, Hooper Foundation, Lands’ End, Plastic Ingenuity, Saris, Schwinn Bicycle Company, Spectrum Brands, and Woodman’s Markets.

Renew the Blue Volunteer Days

Volunteers have been hard at work for our lakes this summer. In June and July, we have already worked with Dane County Parks, Holy Wisdom Monastery, UW-Madison Lakeshore Nature Preserve, City of Middleton and City of Madison Parks on five volunteer day events. Activities consisted of litter cleanups, raking of aquatic lake weeds, invasive species removal, and native seed collection and planting. Employees from Lands’ End, Spectrum Brands, Alliant Energy Foundation and Credit Union National Association (CUNA) participated in the events, totaling 205 volunteers so far this summer! Register for our August 21st individual clean-up day at Olbrich Park here: cleanlakesalliance.org/volunteer-days/.

Yahara Lakes 101


Join us on Thursday, August 7th for Yahara Lakes 101 – this month, we will learn all about cyanobacteria (blue-green algae), with Dr. Katherine (Trina) McMahon. The presentation topic will be “Blue-green algae in Lake Mendota: the mystery of the missing nitrogen.”

The element nitrogen seems to affect cyanobacterial bloom formation and toxicity in unexpected ways. Dr. McMahon will give us insight into the research on cyanobacteria that is currently underway at UW-Madison and through the North Temperate Lakes Long Term Ecological Research program. Dr. McMahon will also explain the role of water quality buoys in monitoring blooms, and give a preview of some exciting new genomics-enabled insight into Mendota’s blue-green algae.

Dr. McMahon is a Professor at UW-Madison with joint appointments in Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Bacteriology. She has been studying the Madison-area lakes since she arrived here in 2003. Her research focuses on the role of microorganisms in determining water quality, in both lakes and wastewater treatment plants. She is also currently a citizen member of the Dane County Lakes and Watershed Commission.

Yahara Lakes 101 recap: our past and our future

In July, we greatly enjoyed the opportunity to hear Dr. Eric Booth present on the development of the Yahara 2070 scenarios. Dr. Booth explained how the four possible watershed “futures” were designed to push our mental boundaries and help prepare us for the uncertainties of the unknown. We left the presentation wanting to continue the conversation— visit yahara2070.org to learn how to engage.

Thanks also to Dr. Calvin DeWitt who presented in June on how wetlands sustain the Yahara lakes: they trap phosphorus and sediment, they recharge our groundwater, and many house vital freshwater springs. We especially enjoyed the opportunity to step out onto the lakefront patio as Dr. DeWitt took us back in time and helped us visualize the Yahara landscape of the past.

Clean Lakes Camp


On Wednesday, August 6th, a partnership lake education program between Wingra Boats, Boys and Girls Club of Dane County (BGCDC), and Clean Lakes Alliance, with generous support from Downtown Rotary, will conclude with a celebratory  field day at Lake Wingra. Over the last 6 weeks, 120 Boys and Girls Club students learned about lake ecology, tried boating, investigated macroinvertebrates, and experienced fishing with the enthusiastic Tyler Leeper and his team at Wingra Boats. This pilot program aims to expose children of all ages and backgrounds to our local lakes, in order to teach the importance of conservation and build appreciation for these natural wonders.

We are grateful for the successful launch of the pilot program, and for the involvement of all partners. A special thank you to Downtown Madison Rotary, and the leadership of Trey Sprinkman, Michelle McGrath, and Michael Kosolcharoen, for a $10,000 donation to Clean Lakes Alliance and Boys and Girls Club that helped make the program possible.


Grants update

We are happy to announce the following recent grant awards from a breadth of foundations and organizations that help support many of our current agricultural and urban initiatives. In the last sixty days, we have received grants from the following organizations to enhance our programs and initiatives – from water quality monitoring, to farm tours, to the Yahara Pride Farms (YPF) certification program.

We greatly appreciate the financial assistance as well as the recognition these organizations have given us for our work. We are building a strong support network within the agricultural and urban communities and are excited to further develop these partnerships!

Thanks to the following for supporting our work:

    • Yahara WINs – to fund implementation of agricultural conservation practices and manure management planning, and for conservation equipment upgrades for farmers in our watershed
    • Wisconsin DNR – to support our Citizen Water Quality Monitoring Program
    • Professional Dairy Producers Foundation – to support increased outreach and education to farmers, and to support our Yahara Pride Farm certification program
    • Monsanto – for general operations
    • Rotary International – funds to support lakes education and youth programming, run by our partners – the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County and Wingra Boats
    • Wisconsin Farmers Union – support for our farm tours, which connect urban and agricultural communities and spread the word about conservation efforts in our watershed.

Thank you to all of our supporters: whether you contribute as an individual or award a grant, you help in our efforts to clean up the lakes.

Friends of Clean Lakes update 


Financial Goals:

CLA’s 2014 Friend donor goal is to raise $100,000 in individual contributions by the end of the year. Halfway through the year, we are over halfway there. The total amount raised by the end of June is $68,864. Thank you, Friends of Clean Lakes!

Educational Programs:

CLA has recognized the importance of strengthening our educational programs through existing partnerships. The Downtown Rotary and Madison Children’s Museum helped fuel a successful summer lake education program for the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County. Downtown Rotary made a generous donation of $10,000 and the dunk tank at this year’s SummerPalooza raised $423.

2015 Strategic Planning Session: You’re invited

We invite you to and encourage you, as a CLA donor, to attend a 2015 strategic planning session for CLA education and engagement programs, to be held on August 14, 2014 from 9:15 – 11:30 a.m. The effectiveness and importance of board-driven programs and partnerships will be assessed during this meeting. We will be taking an in-depth look at all of our engagement programs to identify their benefits and assess how to be involved more behind the scenes. This meeting needs strong community input.


Thank you for being a donor to the Clean Lakes Alliance. We value your contribution – big or small. Please know that thanks to your support we are able to protect and improve our lakes through phosphorus reduction projects and practices, engage the community through volunteer and educational opportunities, and advocate for common-sense policies that are good for our lakes. Thank you for your support – we hope to see you on the lakes!


Waves in the Watershed – Issue I, Volume 3

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