City News

Dane County commits to new lake cleaning initiative

The Dane County initiative will aim to remove 870,000 pounds of phosphorous from local water areas.

Image By: Katie Scheidt

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced plans Monday to begin a new $12 million initiative aimed at cleaning local lakes.

The initiative, which is a part of the 2017 Dane County budget, will remove 870,000 pounds of phosphorus from local water areas by cleaning 33 miles of nearby streams. By removing the phosphorus, enough algae will be eliminated to return the stream bottoms to the same condition they were in during 1890, according to a release from Dane County.

"Harvesting phosphorus laden silt from our streams is an important piece to the water quality puzzle,” said Jeff Endres, farmer and chair of Yahara Pride Farms Conservation Board.

Significant improvements have already been made by local farmers to improve phosphorus runoff from crops to lessen the amount found in the streams.

“If we don't strategically remove this legacy phosphorus from our stream, we will never be able to meet our water quality goals and fully capitalize on the phosphorus reducing practices that the farmers are implementing on their farms," said Endres.

A past study conducted by the county found if the phosphorus wasn’t removed, it would take 99 years to clean up 50 percent of the phosphorus that makes its way into the lake. A separate study conducted a few years earlier by Dane County, the City of Madison and the state Department of Natural Resources found it would cost $78 million to reach that 50 percent goal. It’s unclear how much the recent initiative, if at all, will impact those time frames.

“Working with farmers, business, environmental advocates, and communities we have reduced runoff and made incredible progress but this new analysis shows we can’t accomplish our goals of cleaning our lakes without removing what is already in our waterways,” said Parisi.

This initiative will be the county’s “boldest, most tangible effort yet to improving the health and vitality of waters so integral to our economy and quality of life,” according to the release.

The upcoming budget will include the first $4 million dedicated to this initiative.

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