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County Executive's Office

Dane County Partners with Madison Metropolitan Sewage District, Dozens of Communities on Groundbreaking Effort to Improve Water Quality

June 11, 2012
Casey Slaughter Becker, Office of the County Executive (608) 267-8823 or cell (608) 843-8858


Dane County is teaming with Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) and 30 other cities, villages, and towns throughout the Yahara Watershed to implement a ground-breaking effort, to reduce amounts of algae-forming phosphorus that enter area streams, rivers and lakes, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced today.


This first of its kind effort is known as the Yahara WINs partnership(Yahara Watershed Improvement Network).  It was createdsignificantly reduce phosphorus pollution from all sources, includingurban and rural runoff, as well as municipal wastewater treatment plants, industrial and commercial sources.  Excessive phosphorus runoff leads to algae growth in area waterways.


“The Yahara WINs project is a comprehensive solution that strikes directly at the cause of unsightly algae in our waterways,” said Parisi.  “This unprecedented partnership is yet another concrete way we’re taking major steps forward to clean up our lakes, rivers, and streams.”


The four-year Yahara WINs pilot project is the first of its kind in the nation to use an innovative approach called adaptive management to meet regulatory requirements to reduce phosphorus loads to area waters. 


Phosphorus sources have traditionally addressed regulatory requirements in an independent manner, oftentimes resulting in expensive, resource- intensive solutions.  Through this Yahara WINs project, MMSD, local municipalities and area farms will combine resources and add cost effective practices throughout the watershed to reduce phosphorus runoff.


The Yahara WINs project will reduce the total watershed cost of complying with the phosphorus reduction requirements by an estimated 75%.  Phosphorus control costs vary significantly depending on the practice used.  Current estimates show an average compliance cost of approximately $120 per pound of phosphorus removed using traditional approaches and $30 per pound removed for compliance using adaptive management. 


To get this pilot project started, this year’s county budget includes a $50,000 grant from MMSD.   The pilot is being conducted in the Sixmile Creek sub watershed (see attached map) – that feeds into Lake Mendota.  This area is next to other watersheds that are currently the focus of Dane County led phosphorus pollution reduction work, part of a five-year initiative announced by County Executive Parisi last summer.


Parisi’s Dane Water Partnership focuses significant resources on both rural and urban pollution control.  This work includes partnering with dozens of farm families north of Lake Mendota on a range of efforts to reduce both the use and runoff of phosphorus.


To date, the county has successfully applied for and secured millions in federal grant dollars to make this work happen.  County staff will also bring their extensive experience in farmland phosphorus reduction solutions to the partnership, and help MMSD build and coordinate the network of partners necessary to successfully launch the pilot.


The county’s strong and continued partnership with farm families to reduce phosphorus pollution in key target areas in the Yahara Lakes Watershed is a key component of this new comprehensive effort.  Farmers in the watershed have teamed to become part of the new Yahara Pride Farms organization.  In coordination with the Clean Lakes Alliance, they have a strong interest in implementing measures that will reduce the amount of phosphorus entering area waterways.


"The Yahara Pride Conservation Board of family farms is excited to take a proactive approach to help reduce phosphorous runoff," said Jeff Endres, a Town of Springfield farmer.  "This is a great opportunity for the farmers in the Sixmile Creek watershed to strengthen their already progressive conservation efforts."


“We are excited to work with Dane County to achieve improved environmental results,” said Michael Mucha, MMSD Chief Engineer and Director.  “The only way we will improve water quality and make a real difference is through working together. Dane County’s expertise working in the watershed will be critical to our overall success.”


A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to implement the Yahara WINs project was signed today by cities, towns, villages, farmers, government regulators and environmental organizations. 


"The City of Monona is supportive of the adaptive management pilot project for several reasons,” said Monona Mayor Bob Miller.  “It promotes broad collaboration between many diverse groups affected by the watershed.  The innovative solutions will provide flexibility and will work to be cost effective for everyone involved."

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Environmental Protection Agency have been very supportive of this project, believing that it can serve as a model at the state and national level.


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