My 2021 budget prioritizes initiatives that improve the quality of our water in area lakes and streams to ensure they remain accessible for future generations to enjoy. The impacts of climate change and a growing community require us to adapt and create new solutions. Our initiatives tackle these challenges head on and work to preserve our natural resources for many years to come.
The Lower Yahara River Trail’s bridge and boardwalk that connect Lake Farm County Park with the Village of McFarland have become fun family destinations for the entire region. My 2021 budget includes $6.5 million for construction of the second phase of the Lower Yahara River Trail from Fish Camp County Park to Lake Kegonsa State Park. Plans and permits for this next phase of the Lower Yahara River Trail are on track to be done by spring, with construction bids slated for release later in 2021.
Another trail project the county continues to make progress on is the North Mendota Trail project adjacent to Highway M near Waunakee and Westport. To date, Dane County has invested over $1.3 million for the planning and development of a segment of the trail between Highway M and Woodland Drive and Governor Nelson State Park. Constructed in 2020, this segment includes over 1,600 feet of elevated boardwalk and a 100-foot clear span bridge over Six Mile Creek. The new section of trail provides an off-road option in an area that frustrated many cyclists due to a lack of safe riding alternatives.
My 2021 budget includes $350,000 to continue development of the trail through Governor Nelson State Park and funds to plan for a future trail connection that eventually leads to Mendota County Park.
I’m including $1.75 million to expand the Continuous Cover Program, where interest by farmers and rural property owners continues to outpace available funding. The popular program helps to preserve lands from the ongoing pressures of development, reduce run-off, and mitigate the effects of climate change. To date, Dane County has protected close to 700 acres of land in 22 townships. Converting to grasses and pollinator habitat has reduced phosphorus run-off into local waters by over 1,700 pounds a year.
The Yahara Chain of Lakes Sediment Removal Project started last summer and is designed to improve flow—moving rainwater that currently sits in the lakes for weeks through at a steadier clip. 2020’s work was focused on the area between Lakes Monona and Waubesa. The river is now 2 to 4 feet deeper, and 40,000 cubic yards of sediment has been removed. Dane County purchased its own dredging barge in the fall of 2020. It will be deployed next summer as part of the second phase of flood risk reduction work and focus on areas downstream of Lakes Waubesa and Kegonsa. There is over $6 million in the budget, including $2.5 million in new money, for this work to stay on track next year.