Seal of Dane County County of Dane
County Executive's Office

County Announces Expanded Partnership With Farm Families to Prevent Winter Manure Spreading, Reduce Phosphorus in Lakes

May 22, 2014
Casey Slaughter Becker, Office of the County Executive (608) 267-8823 or cell (608) 843-8858
County Executive

County Executive Also Issues Progress Report on Lakes Clean Up, Clean Lakes Agenda for 2014

An expanded partnership with Dane County’s farm families and the Sand County Foundation will provide farmers with additional resources to manage manure, preventing the need for winter manure spreading, and reducing the amount of phosphorus that enters the lakes, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced today.


“The county’s farmers are good stewards of the land and have been a key ally in our work to clean up the lakes,” said Parisi.  “Recent long, wet winters are placing a strain on some manure storage facilities – this new partnership will help farmers expand their storage so they can wait to spread manure when it’s best for their crops, instead of in the winter when increased run off can occur.”


The county is offering interest-free loans and cost sharing funds to help interested farmers pay for increased storage capacity. Farmers who participate will also agree to avoid spreading manure in the winter and at other less than ideal times, implement other phosphorus reduction practices, and help the county evaluate the water quality impact of the new program.


Up to 50% of the phosphorus that enters area lakes during the year does so in February and March when the ground is still frozen and snow melt and rain events have more impact.


Phosphorus is the main cause of smelly, unsightly algae that forms on area lakes and comes from urban and rural sources. Eliminating one pound of phosphorus prevents 500 pounds of algae from forming.


The county is offering $500,000 for the new program and applications will be accepted in early summer. Proposals will be evaluated based on the projected impact on water quality and the ability to evaluate the effectiveness of the project.


Interested farmers are encouraged to call Kevin Connors, director of the county’s Land and Water Resources Department at (608) 224 – 3731 for more information.

Before a tour of the Meffert farm in Waunakee, the location of Thursday’s announcement, Parisi also provided a progress report on clean lakes efforts he announced his first year in office, as well as an outline of the county’s 2014 phosphorus reduction solutions.


“Three years ago I released the goals of my five-year Dane County Water Partnership, a comprehensive plan to strengthen partnerships between farmers, local governments, and private organizations to improve the health of our lakes,” said Parisi.  “Only three years into the project we’ve made great strides in reducing the amount of phosphorus and sediment that enters our waterways.”


In the last three years, the county has expanded its partnerships with farm families and government entities such as the Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to reduce phosphorus through low-tech, high-result practices on farmland in a critical part of the county’s lake system.


The county also welcomed its second Cow Power community manure digester in the Town of Springfield – a facility that can generate enough electricity to power 2,500 homes and removes phosphorus from 70,000 gallons of manure a day.


The county has also protected or preserved more than 263 acres of wetland. Wetlands hold many important benefits to lake health – some can absorb phosphorus and prevent it from entering the lakes, absorb excess carbon dioxide in the air we breathe, and prevent flooding. Every acre of wetland can absorb up to 1 million gallons of water.


“While we’ve made progress we can, and we must, do more,” said Parisi. “My clean lakes agenda for 2014 will build on the strategies we’ve implemented, and reflects new knowledge and innovation necessary to fuel future success.”


Parisi’s 2014 budget included funding for new technology, to be added to the Springfield Cow Power facility later this year, which will remove nearly 100% of the phosphorus in the manure it processes.


Parisi’s “Phosphorus Reduction and Remediation Program” will make $2 million in capital funding available in 2014 for a new matching grant dedicated to acquisition and remediation of lands responsible for the highest percentage of phosphorus run-off in the Yahara System.


The county will also continue to partner with local governments to clean up urban pollution through its Urban Water Grants program, with a goal of converting several pollutant pipelines per year.


During Parisi’s three years as County Executive, the county has partnered with local governments through its Urban Water Grant program to retrofit 19 urban stormwater pipelines in key parts of the county. The basins have prevented nearly 124 tons of sediment from entering the lakes.


Sediment basins capture trash and phosphorus-laden debris such as yard or pet waste from urban areas that otherwise wash directly into lakes and streams when it rains.  The basins capture the debris by giving it an area to ‘settle out’, preventing it from entering the water, and allowing for their safe disposal at a later time.

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