Low-tech measures are going a long way in helping farmers reduce their impact on the cleanliness of Dane County lakes, and the county wants to help even more.
Dane County Executive Joe Parisi is launching a cost-share grant program for farmers to help them make adjustments to the way they performs jobs on their farms. The relatively low-cost efforts can help them further limit phosphorus from running into area lakes.
"Every 1 pound of phosphorus reduction, can result in 500 fewer pounds of algae. These investments make a big difference," said Parisi, who included the $750,000 in funding for the program in his 2013 budget.
On his sprawling farm in the town of Dane, third-generation farmer Chuck Ripp is already implementing many of the measures Parisi would like to see more of in Dane County.
Ripp is planting grasslands in runoff areas, or moving earth to create pools to contain runoff, before it finds its way into the nearby Six Mile Creek watershed.
His area is the home of the first three-farm manure digester in the county created last year as part of a multimillion dollar project.
Both Parisi and Ripp agree that there are more affordable methods to limit phosphorus run-off.
Even the simple task of putting roofs over the heads of his 1,000 dairy cows means rainfall won't push manure into nearby creeks.
"We want the clean water to stay clean, we want the nutrients in our soil, to stay in our soil," said Ripp. "There's still some work to be done, but you’ve got to gradually go at it."
Ripp's efforts are further evidence that farmers and conservationists are on the same page when it comes to keeping Dane County lakes chain.
"No one's pointing fingers at each other anymore. We're all working toward one common goal," said Parisi.
The new grant will be offered to farmers until the $750,000 has run out. There are a number of eligible practices, so farmers should contact county officials to learn more. Priority will be given to those in the Dorn/Six Mile Creek watershed, but any farm in the Yahara watershed is eligible. Farmers can contact the Land and Water Resources Department at 608-224-3730, or email LWRD@countyofdane.com for more information about applying for the grant.