Dane County Secures $1.6 Million Federal Program to Clean Yahara Chain of Lakes

January 15, 2015
Joshua Wescott, Chief of Staff, 608.266.9069
County Executive

County, Partners Team to Secure Dollars from Federal Farm Bill

to Reduce Phosphorus Pollution


Dane County, along with a number of partners working collaboratively to clean the Yahara Chain of Lakes, has secured $1.6 million in federal program funding to help pay for work to reduce the volume of phosphorus that runs off into local lakes.

County Executive Joe Parisi was joined today by representatives of the USDA’s – Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District, Clean Lakes Alliance, Sand County Foundation, Yahara WINs, and the University of Wisconsin Madison in announcing the new Resource Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture - Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS).

"Cleaning our lakes is a priority for our community, and accomplishing our shared vision of better waters for the enjoyment of generations to come, will take committed partners and collaboration," Parisi said.  "As we saw in successfully competing for this federal program, we have the right people working together to get this job done."

“RCPP puts conservation decisions in the hands of local partners” said Tom Krapf, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service Assistant State Conservationist in Wisconsin.  “Our agency is committed to support this local public-private partnership as they address conservation needs in the Yahara River Watershed.”

 Parisi noted that Dane County committed $10 million in the county budget this year for projects to reduce phosphorus and clean local waters.  That includes high technology solutions like systems that treat manure from farms and convert it into clean water.  It also includes more basic efforts like facilities shared by farms to store manure and keep it off the land and county funds to help farmers with conservation practices intended to reduce the amount of phosphorus that runs off fields.  These partner efforts were cited in the federal government program as objectives to helping clean area lakes.

“Partnerships are crucial to watershed-wide water quality improvement,” said Dave Taylor of the Madison Metropolitan Sewage District and the group “Yahara WINS.  “The Yahara Watershed Improvement Network (Yahara WINS) -- a collaboration of over 30 partners including Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District, Dane County and multiple towns, villages, and cities and local agricultural producers -- is pioneering a new approach to achieve surface water phosphorus reductions in the Yahara River Basin called Watershed Adaptive Management.  Funding provided by USDA/NRCS through the RCPP program will be instrumental in achieving the phosphorus reductions needed for Yahara WINs to succeed.”

“Clean Lakes Alliance is enthusiastic about the momentum we're seeing for collaborative efforts in our watershed,” said CLA policy director Elizabeth Katt-Reinders.  “This partner project will allow government, nonprofits, and area farmers to really leverage each other’s knowledge, skill sets, and resources to implement agricultural solutions to water quality challenges.”

Dane County and its partners were one of 600 projects nationwide that sought federal funding.  The proposal for work in the Yahara Watershed was one of only four projects funded in the State of Wisconsin.

“The Yahara Lakes watershed is home to some of Wisconsin’s most productive farmers and most dedicated conservation and water quality professionals,” said Joseph Britt, Sand County Foundation Program Director.  “Sand County Foundation is honored to be their partner in this work to reduce the burden excess phosphorus runoff from farmland imposes on Madison lakes.”

“A big congratulations to Kevin Connors and the entire Dane County team for pulling this grant together,” said Pam Porter, Program Manager, UW Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems.  “Adaptive Management is a big opportunity to finance sustainable farm practices that reduce phosphorus.  The UW team is excited about helping target these practices where they can do the most good.”

Dane County and partners will work in the coming months with agricultural producers in the watershed on conservation projects to reduce phosphorus pollution; work that could be paid for through a combination of funding like the new $1.6 million federal program and Dane County's multiple lake clean-up funds.

Conservation staff will be visiting with farmers and partners in the watershed in the months ahead to identify the scope of these projects, with work beginning this summer.


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