Clean Lakes Alliance
the Yahara Clean Strategic Action Plan will measure water clarity and phosphorous levels, among other metrics.
More than 1,000 political, business and community leaders packed into a banquet hall at Monona Terrace Friday morning to hear details of a $138 million plan to permanently improve Madison's lakes by cutting phosphorous deposits by 50%.
"We are at a critical moment to improve water quality," said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. "We have truly an unprecedented opportunity to implement a detailed plan that will produce quality reports."
Madison historian David Mollenhoff echoed the point. "Never before in Dane County's history have so many individuals, private organizations, governments and government agencies come together to clean up our lakes.
"Ladies and gentlemen, this is our time," he added. "This is our moment. We can do this. We must do this. Do you agree?"
The Clean Lakes Alliance, which organized the breakfast, spearheaded development of the plan. Composed of government officials, community members, scientists from UW-Madison and business leaders, the alliance came together after Mollenhoff challenged the community in a 2005 conference talk to develop a detailed plan to clean the Yahara lakes.
During the last seven years, Mollenhoff said, impressive work was done in response to that challenge. The result -- the Yahara Clean Strategic Action Plan -- is "nothing less than a road map to clean lakes," he said.
The plan builds on current measures in place in both rural and urban Dane County, many of which are under the direction of the county. Within cities, the plan calls for improved leaf management; reduction of sediment in municipal stormwater; and improved control of construction erosion, among other actions. Improving cropping and tillage practices, constructing more manure digesters and stabilizing rural waterway banks are on the list for rural areas.
James Tye, vice-president of the Clean Lakes Alliance, says 21 municipalities around the Yahara lakes watershed have already signed on to a groundbreaking adaptive management pilot program to reduce phosphorous into the lakes.
"We are testing what practices work and then, if successful, we will go to full-scale adaptive management," he said in an interview.
The cost for the three-year pilot is $3.3 million, but Tye said the program is expected to save sewerage districts and other entities millions of dollars in permitting costs associated with new phosphorous reduction rules from the state.
Mollenhoff said this program is a pioneering effort. "It makes Wisconsin the first state in the nation and Dane County the first in the country to adopt this adaptive management plan."
In order to track progress, the Yahara Clean Strategic Action Plan will measure water clarity and phosphorous levels, among other metrics. The results will be published each year by the Clean Lakes Alliance "so we as citizens can see how we are doing," Mollenhoff said.
Mollenhoff said much of the funding for the $138 million will come from government grants, but private-sector support -- especially for the manure digesters -- will be key. He acknowledged that a detailed financial plan has not yet been completed but will be produced by May.
"The Clean Lakes Alliance is assembling the best brains in Dane County to come up with it," he promised.
Mike Gerner, community chair of the Clean Lakes Alliance, was just one of the speakers who emphasized how much Madison's lakes define the city and how they are key to attracting and retaining residents and businesses.
"The Yahara lakes are the community's defining natural feature," he said. "Healthy lakes make for a healthy and prosperous community.
"Why would we as a community put up with green scum and algae on our lakes for a significant portion of our summer months?"