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The Yahara watershed cuts through the middle of Dane County and drains an area of nearly 536 square miles, but few realize the northernmost tip of the watershed lies in Columbia County. This small parcel of 28 square miles is now part of the community-wide partnership effort to reduce phosphorus runoff to the lakes. Columbia County has begun a two-year service agreement with Yahara WINS and is taking impressive steps forward in the name of healthy lakes.

Yahara WINS, also known as Yahara Watershed Improvement Network, is an initiative to create cleaner and clearer lakes in the Yahara watershed. They help implement a strategy of phosphorous mitigation called watershed adaptive management, where all sources of phosphorus work together to improve water quality.  This often involves partnering with municipalities, wastewater treatment plants, farmers, non-profits, and other stakeholders to proactively reduce runoff before it reaches waterways.

Columbia County will receive a  $50,000 grant from Yahara WINS to fund improvements in agricultural and urban practices to minimize phosphorous entering our waterways. They join the ranks of two dozen other Yahara WINS partners who are devoted to the same cause. This generosity with time and resources towards phosphorous runoff minimization is whats needed to make a dent in the problem.

By joining, Columbia County is taking charge to control contributions of phosphorous in their area to help our lakes. They are setting a great example that no parcel of land is too big or too small to start making a difference to benefit the community. One pound of phosphorous can produce up to 500 pounds of algae, making each contribution count.

Congratulations to Columbia County and Yahara WINS; we can’t wait to watch this partnership blossom over the next two years and beyond!

Columbia Fast Facts

  • 5% of the Yahara Watershed is in Columbia County
  • Majority of this area is dedicated to agriculture
  • This area is an internally draining watershed (endorheic basin), common for areas formed by glaciers
  • Yahara River does not directly run through Columbia County but groundwater, agricultural ditches and other water sources from this county flow down into the Yahara
  • Columbia County may reduce phosphorus by 280 pounds in order to meet help meet Yahara watershed’s longterm water quality objectives
  • Columbia County and Dane County’s portion of Yahara watershed are also a part of the Lower Rock River watershed

Greater Madison is the lakes. With over 20 beaches and major lake access points (see map below), these gateways to our five lakes connect us to 58 miles of shoreline of which 48% is owned by YOU – the public!

Clean Lakes Alliance is working to elevate the profile of our public lakeshores, from swimming beaches and fishing piers to boat landings and waterfront parks. Healthier lakes and more inviting public lakeshores will encourage outdoor activity and community wellness, attract more visitors and grow our network of lake enthusiasts who will support advocacy for our lakes. It is this philosophy that motivated us to ignite a “back to the beach” movement and continue to build support for improving our beaches.

Please tell us about the beach you visit by taking this short (5 minutes) survey. You may take this survey for as many beaches as you’d like to comment on.

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Erosion mat

Did you know that construction erosion is a serious and ongoing threat to our lakes? Controlling construction erosion is one of 14 recommended actions to reduce algae blooms in the Yahara CLEAN Strategic Action Plan for Phosphorus Reduction. It is also one of eight focus areas in Plan 2020: A Clear Path Forward, Clean Lakes Alliance’s strategic operating plan.

With every failed, missing or improperly installed erosion-control measure, the risk of dirty runoff entering our lakes rises each time it rains. Whether this leads to a muddy street or a dirt-choked storm sewer drain, a mismanaged construction project can spell big trouble for water quality.

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Our office is in full summer swing with our summer internship & volunteers program. We had over 100 people apply for our 15 intern spots. With this summer staff we’re able to accomplish more as a team!

These talented students do everything from monitoring our lakes and uploading data to lakeforecast.org; to planning and executing our summer events; to assisting with grant writing and researching innovative solutions to support our mission.

Below is a little more about our interns, where they’re from, and what they’re doing in school. We’re happy to be able to offer a number of paid internships within each department as well as for-credit and volunteer opportunities.

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Paddle for a Purpose kicks off at Brittingham Boats on Lake Monona

People looking for an excuse to ditch out of work a little early on a warm Monday afternoon need to look no farther than one of three Madison Boats locations. Starting on Monday, June 4, Madison Boats will kick off its “Paddle for a Purpose” program with Clean Lakes Alliance. The program will dedicate 20% of all paddle sport rentals every Monday this summer from 4-8 p.m. at its Brittingham Boats, Wingra Boats, and Marshall Boats locations to Clean Lakes Alliance.

“Clean and healthy lakes are essential to our business,” said Madison Boats owner Tyler Leeper. “We’ve supported Clean Lakes Alliance since the beginning and we are excited to get more community members behind raising funds for our lakes.”

Kickoff Party

What: Paddle for a Purpose Launch Party
When: Monday June 4th, 4-8 p.m.
Where: Brittingham Boats, 701 W. Brittingham Pl.
Info: Grilled food and live music for paddlers and friends looking to help the lakes
On-Site Contact: Adam Sodersten – Cell 608-658-3648

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Wednesday rain causes visible runoff into Lake Mendota

Recent heavy rain storms flush algae-causing phosphorus through storm sewers into lakes

Heavy rain events over the past two weeks in the Madison area are setting up its lakes for toxic blue-green algae blooms in the coming months. With one pound of phosphorus having the capability to create 500 pounds of algae, the need to slow or divert runoff is imperative.

“The heavy rain storms we’ve had over the past several weeks have made harmful runoff issues visible to the naked eye,” says Clean Lakes Alliance Executive Director James Tye. “From our Foley & Lardner donated offices in Verex Plaza next to James Madison Park, we’ve witnessed huge plumes of sediment wash into the lake multiple times over the past few weeks.

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Partnerships aims to bring Greater Madison community “Back to the Beach”

Madison, Wis. – Clean Lakes Alliance is pleased to announce the top three prize winners of the Reimagining Warner Beach design contest. Made possible with the support of a Madison Community Foundation 75th Anniversary Year of Giving grant, the contest asked amateur and professional designers to come up with plans for Warner Beach that focused on improving water quality, sustainability, community access, and placemaking to promote community health, happiness and wellbeing.

“We’re thrilled to see exciting new visions for Warner Beach—and for all our beaches—come to life as part of Madison Community Foundation’s 75th Anniversary Year of Giving,” said president Bob Sorge. “Our lakes are among Madison’s most unique natural and cultural assets, and the winning designs reflect our community’s passion and determination to ensure these precious resources are healthy and thriving for generations to come.”

“Many of the 26 design entries brought the energy and vision the community needs for ourbeaches to improve,” said Clean Lakes Alliance executive director James Tye. “We’re excited to see how these designs could help influence the City of Madison Parks Division as beaches are renovated in our community.”

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Over $160,000 in grants will foster lake education and improvement projects

MADISON, Wis. – Today Clean Lakes Alliance announced it will distribute $62,500 in grants to eight different projects aimed at benefiting our lakes. The grants will focus on improving farmland management, leaf management, construction erosion, lake access and in-lake management, and youth education.

“Clean Lakes Alliance has the ability to raise money and distribute grants at a fast rate for important projects for this summer,” commented Clean Lakes Alliance executive director James Tye. “We hope by funding these projects, we will continue to raise awareness, move innovative efforts forward, and make our lakes the center of the community.”

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Funding for environmental conservation, restoration, and education projects has been awarded this year by the Dane County Environmental Council totaling more than $17,000. These grants go to communities and non-profits that do work within Dane County.

Clean Lakes Alliance will receive around $3,500 to fund projects such as our farm tours and water quality monitoring. This award will help to purchase necessary equipment for our volunteers and provide transportation to offsite projects.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said, “We can always accomplish more when we work together. By partnering with these communities and non-profits, we have the ability to educate and inspire others, and continue our work to improve and conserve the county’s outdoor spaces,” and we couldn’t agree more!

To see which other projects were funded, read Sun Prairie Star’s article HERE.

Our lakes faces challenges from urban and rural sources of phosphorus. A new “Healthy farms, Healthy Lakes” Dane County task force will focus on agricultural sources of phosphorus, with a goal to promote thriving farms and healthy lakes.

The Healthy Farms, Health Lakes task force is a coalition of farmers, government agencies, and environmental advocacy groups, including Clean Lakes Alliance, that was formed in July of 2017. The group hopes to release a blueprint of how to best help both farmers and the lakes by the end of this year.

Learn more about this task force in The Cap Times’ article.