Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk announced today her 2009 budget will continue and expand efforts to clean up the lakes and reduce the effects of future flooding.
At a news conference overlooking Lake Mendota, Falk today announced more than $15-million in water quality improvement and flood prevention initiatives that will be in her 2009 county budget.
“Dane County citizens from every walk of life use our lakes every day of the year fishing, boating, and catching some rest and relaxation. That’s why it’s so important to protect our treasured waters and keep them healthy, so families can enjoy the great outdoors right here close to home,” Falk said.
Falk’s budget makes a significant investment in further reducing run-off into the lakes. Up to $2.3 million in funding will be available to continue planning and development of a manure digester for dairy farmers in northwest Dane County.
“This digester will be a win-win for farmers and for our lakes,” Falk said. “By disposing of manure through this new kind of technology, we keep our farmers on the land and algae-growing phosphorus out of our waters.”
Falk studied a farm this summer where a manure digester was used to convert manure to energy and byproducts farmers safely applied to their fields. Her budget will also include dollars to set up a loan fund to help other farmers across Dane County who may be considering construction of additional manure digesters.
“These digesters are another tool to help keep our waters blue,” Falk said. “They’ll not only help reduce the number of weeds and algae in our lakes, but will be an effective source of alternative energy. There’s a chance manure and other waste products could be a real cash cow.”
Falk’s budget will pay for a study to evaluate whether similar digesters could be used to generate energy from waste wood and harvested lake weeds.
Falk is also increasing the amount of dollars available for a popular county program that helps local communities retrofit storm-water outlets to prevent the run-off of trash and sediment into the lakes. Funding for this program will increase from $150,000 to $250,000 in 2009.
$150,000 in funding is also included for a separate study that will utilize computer software and models to better track where the highest levels of phosphorus enter the Yahara Chain of Lakes.
“From trapping more trash and using new digester technology to tracking and stemming the flow of phosphorus, we’re doing more to make sure families can enjoy our lakes for generations to come,” Falk said.
Falk’s budget also includes $75,000 in funding for a brand new county program to protect 12 miles of streams, creeks, and other waterways in the Lake Mendota watershed through the development buffer strips. These strips of grass reduce run-off from entering the small tributaries that feed into Lake Mendota. In addition, Falk will increase funding for a popular county program that opens up streams for public fishing access to $300,000 next year (increased from $200,000).
Her proposal includes a $7.5 million investment (an increase of $2.5 million) for the county’s conservation fund which is used to protect and preserve Dane County’s rich natural resources. Falk’s budget will have $2.5 million for the county to acquire and restore drained wetlands. That’s a nearly $500,000 increase over 2008.
“Protecting wetlands helps protect our basements and communities from flooding rains,” Falk said. “These natural sponges keep a lot of water out of our backyards. Without them, flooding problems like we saw this past summer in places like Marshall would have been much worse.”
In addition, she’s proposing a first-of-its-kind county fund to help local communities affected by flooding who aren’t able to receive state or federal funds. Falk will start the “Residential Flood Damage Assistance” program with $200,000 to help buy-out homes severely damaged by floods.
The budget has nearly $1,000,000 to refurbish the dam at Babcock Lake and an additional $100,000 for work on a railroad bridge on Mud Lake that once refurbished will help improve the flow of water out of Lake Waubesa. “A better bridge means a better ability to bring down lake levels when needed after heavy rains,” Falk said. Another $100,000 will pay for state-of-the-art equipment and gauges to ensure the most accurate and timely information on water levels and water quality are available for the lakes and Black Earth Creek.
Design of a new bike trail north of Lake Mendota will also be funded in Falk’s budget ($5,000) along with dollars to build a brand new trail linking Rockdale and Cambridge ($180,000). A popular county bike grant program that works with towns, villages, and cities on improving bicycling opportunities will also receive a $25,000 increase in funding to $75,000. The budget also funds the Environmental Council’s grant program at $25,000 for conservation groups.
Many of the upgrades were recommended by the Dane County Lakes and Watershed Commission. “I applaud County Executive Falk for increasing our investment in our lakes, wetlands and upgrading locks,” said Supervisor Brett Hulsey, chair of the Lakes and Watersheds Commission. “Restoring more wetlands, buffers, sewer outfalls, and upgrading our locks will reduce flood risks and better enable us to control lake levels. It will also help us clean up our lakes and beaches.”
Falk will present her full budget to the county board this Wednesday.
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