Getting into the weeds: Aquatic plant harvesting, quarterly flood update and F-35s

Dear Neighbors,
With summer winding down, our family is getting junior ready to go back to school, and getting ready to adjust our schedules as well. This was another great summer in District 6. In this update, I go in-depth on Aquatic Plant Harvesting, provide a recording and analysis from our quarterly flood update, bring you highlights from our EANR committee tour of the lakes, and express my opposition to the F-35 fighter jets.

Quarterly Flood Update

On August 22nd, we received our quarterly flood update. The full audio is here, followed by my analysis:

  • All lakes are above their summer maximum but well below the 100-year flood stage.

  • The lakes have been within their summer ranges between 11 and 21 days out of a potential 174 days. This means we have been frequently above the summer maximum.

  • The dams on Lake Waubesa and Kegonsa have been and remain wide open.

  • Aggressive aquatic plant harvesting with an emphasis on flood prevention has been underway since early spring. More details on plant harvesting below.

  • Phase 1 of sediment removal (dredging) will be underway in October if all goes according to schedule. If the weather cooperates, this work can continue until early winter. This is between Monona and Waubesa. The next priority area is between Waubesa and Kegonsa.

  • It currently takes 7 days for one inch of water to leave the Yahara watershed. The goal after sediment removal is to move one inch of rainwater in 4 days. To realize these flow improvements, we will need to complete Phase 1 and 2 of dredging.

Right now, the main tool in our belt is aquatic plant harvesting. We have not yet realized the flow improvements from the numerous land purchases and sediment removal. Once dredging between Monona/Waubesa/Kegonsa is complete, we will start to see flow improvements. This has been a wet summer and our lakes levels are roughly at the same levels they were before the 2018 August flooding. Increasing flow and resilience to flooding will be a long-term process, and we should see flow improvements by spring of 2021. The permitting, core collection and bathymetry analysis is complex, but it remains a priority to press forward at every available opportunity.

Getting Into the Weeds: Aquatic Plant Harvesting

Aquatic plant harvesters parked on Lake Waubesa

Aquatic plant harvesters parked on Lake Waubesa

Dane County has 13 aquatic plant harvesters after acquiring two additional harvesters in the last budget cycle. Of the 13, 10 are actively on the water now while 3 are in maintenance. The current location of the plant harvesters can be found here:

The priorities for plant harvesting are: Flood Mitigation, Recreation and Navigational and Beach Access, Shallow Cuts and Filamentous Algae Control, and Special Events. Due to high rainfall amounts, flood mitigation in the Yahara River is essentially what the harvesters have been doing all season. Without this aggressive harvesting, we would see significant flow impediments. Just like mowing your lawn as the harvesters finish up a stretch of the river, the plants grow back and then continue to re-trace these routes.

To improve efficiency, a separate collection barge meets the harvesters on the water so they can offload their plants without going back to dock. This saves more than an hour, and allows the harvesting to continue uninterrupted. All collected plants are composted and available for public pickup at the county compost site located at 7102 Hwy 12 & 18.

I have been in discussions with Land and Water staff to provide real-time GPS location of harvesters. However, the general routes of the harvesters can be found on the aquatic plant management page. Here is a map of the priorities on Lake Monona:

Aquatic plant management priorities on Lake Monona.

Aquatic plant management priorities on Lake Monona.

Aquatic plant harvesting cannot happen in undeveloped shoreline, where machinery hazards exist, and where the water is less than 3 feet deep. The City of Madison is responsible for raking the beaches and keeping the shoreline clean.

EANR Annual Tour

View from recent land purchase at Babcock County Park.

View from recent land purchase at Babcock County Park.

On our annual tour this year, we visited Babcock Park, Fish Camp County Park, met with Friends of Lake Kegonsa (FOLKS), and saw a retention pond that prevents farm runoff from directly entering Lake Kegonsa.

I have previously written about our land purchases at Babcock County Park. Any time we can purchase shoreline property and make a park out of it, it is a direct benefit to everyone in our community. This view is just incredible.

A retention pond that helps prevention farm runoff from directly entering Lake Kegonsa.

A retention pond that helps prevention farm runoff from directly entering Lake Kegonsa.

Purchasing this land also gives us better access that we will need to start sediment removal in this area, as well as to park / maneuver the aquatic plant harvesters. We also visited Fish Camp Park at Lake Kegonsa. This showed us the stretch of the Yahara that the county will be dredging in phase 2 as we learned of the history of this commercial carp fishing spot. FOLKS also planted a native plant garden and have put in a lot of volunteer time to maintain and improve the park. We also saw the next phase of the Lower Yahara River bike path. Eventually that will connect to Lake Farm Park.

Our last stop showed us a retention pond built in front of the road that captures water before it directly enters Lake Kegonsa. It removed a small section of unproductive farm land to hold the water so it can gently filter into the lake rather than rush into the lake during a large rainfall event. The County rents this land from the owner at a competitive market price.

F-35 Fighter Planes at Truax

Yogesh talks with WKOW 27 about f-35 jets

Yogesh talks with WKOW 27 about f-35 jets

After reviewing the Environmental Impact Statement, I am opposed to siting the F-35 planes at Truax Field. I put out a joint statement with Alder Rummel and State Rep Taylor:

We can’t do economic development when it disproportionately affects low income and minority communities. Also, we have limited land on the Isthmus and I would like to prioritize this for workforce and affordable housing. The County is not a decision-making authority in this situation, and I encourage you to attend the public hearing on September 12, 5:00pm at Alliant Energy Center. I recently talked to WKOW 27 and expressed that any potential remediation efforts to people’s housing should be done before the planes arrive and the residents should not have to apply for it.

Neighborhood News

yogesh and Data for impact organizer alnisa allgood

yogesh and Data for impact organizer alnisa allgood

yogesh introduces the german art students at orton park

yogesh introduces the german art students at orton park

  • I had the pleasure of presenting at Forward Fest about open data and good government. I covered topics including how we use data to inform the flood response, expungement reform, election auditing and disproportionate minority contact in traffic stops. I will be posting my presentation to social media soon.

  • It was an honor to introduce the German Art Students at Orton Park Fest. Big thanks to Colleen Hayes for making that happen and to all of our neighbors for all the work that you do to organize the festivals.

  • I will be marching in the Willy Street Fair parade with my daughter and some of her friends. I look forward to seeing you there!

  • The annual MNA membership meeting is coming up Thursday, October 24th, 6 p.m. at the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center.
    MNA will be electing new members to serve on the MNA Board. More details here.

  • Dane County is considering a new off-leash dog facility at Anderson Farm County Park near Oregon. Stay tuned for more details.

  • Supervisors will begin our budget deliberations in the coming weeks. This is a busy time for the board, and I look forward to continuing to prioritize reducing racial disparities, expanding affordable housing, and prioritizing addressing our climate change crisis.

Thanks for hanging in for this lengthy update. I hope to see you all around the neighborhood or at the school yard. A big thanks to all of our union sisters and brothers for all their organizing and advocacy, and happy Labor Day!