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County Executive's Office

County Executive Parisi Announces Unprecedented Partnership with Farm Families to Clean up Lakes

June 23, 2011
Casey Slaughter Becker, Office of the County Executive (608) 267-8823 or cell (608) 843-8858
County Executive

Announces New Effort Funded by NRCS, Part of Five Year Plan to Reduce Lake Pollution

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi today announced an unprecedented partnership between the county, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service , and dozens of local farm families that will result in reduced run off pollution flowing into county lakes. The farms are located in areas that are identified as major county target areas for phosphorus run off – the main contributor to lake algae.


The collaboration was announced as a major component of the County Executive’s Dane County Water Partnership, a new, five-year plan to improve water quality for fishing, swimming, boating, and other recreational activities on our lakes.  See attached document for a full list of projects.


“Our hard-working farm families are the backbone of our county, and a vital part of the effort to clean up our lakes,” said Parisi.  “I am honored to team up with them as the county takes its next steps toward making our lakes healthy for everyone to enjoy.”


The county has reached agreements with 25 farm families (and counting) to implement watershed conservation practices such as building roofs over animal feeding areas, planting grass by farmland ditches, and digging out those ditches to remove decades worth of soil and sediment with a high concentration of phosphorus pollution.  These simple steps will help slow the flow of storm water run off on agriculture lands, reducing the amount of pollutants that enter our lakes.  This work is made possible by a $2 million grant Dane County received from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS).


“Farm families have been, and will continue to be, a good partner in the overall clean water campaign,” said Jeff Endres, a farmer from the Town of Springfield.  “We’re ready to show people how easy it can be to join the effort and make a big impact on water quality where it matters most.”


The County Executive’s Dane County Water Partnership includes a number of initiatives that will build on the county’s efforts to directly reduce the amount of phosphorus in area lakes, including six projects happening this year to shut down the direct piping of these pollutants into our waters.


The county is partnering with the Village of McFarland, City of Madison, Town of Burke and the City of Fitchburg this year to retrofit six sewer drains that pipe into Dunn’s Marsh and Nine Springs Creek, as well as into Lakes Mendota and Waubesa and Token Creek (which feeds into the Mendota Watershed).


As part of Parisi’s Dane County Water Partnership, he proposes reconstructing five of these pipes known as “storm water outfalls” each year within the Yahara Watershed that includes lakes Monona, Mendota, Wingra, Waubesa, and Kegonsa.  Outfalls contribute to increased lake water levels following heavy rains, and water from these outfalls often contains leaves, grass clippings, and other phosphorus filled debris that enter the lakes.


“The Dane County Water Partnership comes at the perfect time. We’ve worked for years to get to this point – we’ve studied our waters and know what is wrong, what the solutions are, and how to achieve them. Now is the time to come together to work on the solutions. Creating partnerships with those who hold the key to achieving solutions is the necessary and logical next step,” said Melissa Malott, Chair of the Dane County Lakes and Watershed Commission

Another goal detailed in the Dane County Water Partnership calls for the county and its farm partners to continue brand new work started this year to restore dozens of miles of farmland drainage ditches full of soil and sediments high in pollution.  The first mile of drainage ditches were successfully dug out and refurbished this spring.  Removing the sediment will remove thousands of pounds of pollutants from farmland and reduce the amount of phosphorus that will enter lakes from these ditches.


The Dane County Water Partnership will also work with agriculture to help clean up the lakes by pursuing the creation of a second Cow Power facility in phosphorus target areas.  The county has already installed one first-of-its kind manure digester in the watershed, a facility that processes over 30 million gallons of manure annually, converting it into $2 million in electricity, and a high-quality compost that can be used in bulk as a fertilizer or bagged and sold for use in nurseries and backyard gardens.


The Water Partnership also aims to keep water where it lands by investing in wetland restoration within the watershed.  Every acre of wetlands absorbs an amazing one million gallons of floodwater, further reducing the effects of run off and pollution into local waters.


Finally, the County Executive’s Dane County Water Partnership will encourage continued collaboration with clean lakes stakeholderssuch as the County Lakes and Watershed Commission, newly formed Clean Lakes Alliance, the City of Madison and other local municipalities, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service non-profits such as the Madison Community Foundation, the Sand County Foundation, and the Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association, as well as the Madison Metropolitan Sewage District, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and the state’s Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection, to build on work that has already been done to clean up our lakes.


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