Seal of Dane County County of Dane
County Executive's Office


October 25, 2004
Marcia Hartwig, Public Information Officer, 224-3746 Patrick Sutter, Dane County Soil and Water Conservationist, 224-3740 Sharyn Wisniewski, County Executive’s Office, 267-8823

West Branch Sugar River is first river in Wisconsin to be removed from list A 19-mile stretch of the West Branch Sugar River flowing southeast of Mount Horeb in southwest Dane County is the first river in the State of Wisconsin to be removed from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) list of degraded waters as a result of environmental restoration. Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Scott Hassett, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service State Conservationist Patricia Leavenworth and Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Deputy Secretary Judy Ziewacz joined local landowners and conservation groups that gathered at the river’s edge Monday morning (Oct. 25) to announce the accomplishment. “This is truly cause for celebration,” said Falk. “The removal of the West Branch Sugar River from this list is a testament to the conservation ethic of Dane County and its citizens.” After many years of conservation practices applied through federal, state and local agency programs to the surrounding land, the West Branch Sugar River has been restored to a state that not only prompts its removal from the State’s list of degraded waters but also offers recreational opportunities. “This is the first river to be removed from this list because many people made it their personal goal, dug in and made it happen for the good of the resource,” said Hassett. “Years of conservation efforts have paid off.” Other rivers have been removed from the list because of dam removals or because the rivers were erroneously placed on the list. Over the years, the river was degraded by streambank erosion, animal waste, and sediment eroded from croplands. In 1980, Dane County requested USDA assistance to help landowners control animal waste and reduce cropland erosion through its PL 566 Watershed Protection Program. Over 13 years, 52 animal waste systems and 13,000 acres of cropland erosion control were completed. Streambank restoration and habitat enhancement projects were the last steps in bringing the stream back to its potential and prompting its removal from the list. While federal, state and local agencies have all been working in this watershed for nearly 30 years, the most recent efforts were funded by Targeted Resource Management (TRM) grants to the Dane County Land Conservation Department from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Nonprofit groups such as the Dane County Conservation League and others also worked to improve the health of the stream decades ago. Today, Badger Fly Fishers, Dane County Conservation League, Deer Creek Sport and Conservation Club, Madison Fishing Expo, Southern Chapter Trout Unlimited and Upper Sugar River Watershed Association have all contributed to the success of the TRM projects. Nearly $1 million in grant funds, matching funds and in-kind labor from nonprofit organizations were used to remove debris, reshape and seed the streambanks and install over 1,000 fish habitat structures called LUNKERS (Little Underwater Neighborhood Keepers Encompassing Rheotactic Salmonids) through the TRM projects. Because of the TRM projects, 12 miles of stream now have public access easements all along the streambanks that allow anglers to fish these waters. “Without the willingness of the landowners to cooperate and participate in the projects, this would not have been possible,” says Dane County Soil and Water Conservationist Patrick Sutter. More than a dozen landowners agreed to be a part of the restoration and enhancement projects. # # #
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