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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published November 5, 2014

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New DNR grant program set to encourage simple lakeshore projects to boost healthy lakes

MADISON -- A new grant program designed to boost private sector innovation in caring for Wisconsin's lakes debuts November 13 with a webinar hosted by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and partners to help answer questions from residents, businesses, lake groups and others statewide.

The Healthy Lakes effort aims to fund local projects around the state that focus on simple ways to improve fish habitat, integrate native plantings, divert and clean runoff water and promote natural beauty.

"Wisconsin's lakes help define our communities while providing valuable habitat and supporting our economy," said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. "Our research tells us that lakes with good habitat tend to have better water quality, which translates into more recreational opportunities and sustainable property values. By encouraging participation from lake groups, counties and private property owners, we hope to see simple practices implemented that encourage additional 'do-it-yourself' projects."

Carroll Schaal, DNR lakes and rivers section chief in the bureau of water quality, said the benefits of simple projects increase cumulatively as more property owners participate.

"When adopted by many property owners, the small changes add up," Schaal said. "Positive incremental steps ultimately help protect and enhance our lakes for everyone."

With $200,000 in funding available statewide, the Healthy Lakes project provides up to $1,000 in state grant dollars for each "best practice" identified in a proposal. Grant awards to eligible sponsors such as lake groups, waterfront organizations and communities will be capped at $25,000. Goals include increasing single-property participation in Healthy Lakes best practices by 100 percent from 2015 to 2017.

"We developed this approach after hearing of the need for more flexible, adaptive ways to stimulate habitat and water quality improvements," Schaal said. "While lake groups, counties or other sponsors may adopt the Healthy Lakes Implementation Plan in its entirety to be eligible for grant funding, we have included enough technical information that individual lakeshore owners may choose to take on a do-it-yourself project without grant funding."

Lake groups and other partners may identify their own habitat and water quality goals through local planning and public participation opportunities. Following are examples of simple projects, each capped at $1,000 in state funding, that are included among the Healthy Lakes best practices:

The Healthy Lakes funding is not intended for large, complex sites with substantial runoff or erosion problems where engineering design is more appropriate. Before undertaking any major projects, lake associations and homeowners are encouraged to consult local zoning ordinances. The Healthy Lakes initiative is an effort of the Wisconsin Lakes Partnership supported by DNR, the UW-Extension Lakes Program, Wisconsin Lakes, counties and the many lake groups and citizens who work to protect, improve and restore Wisconsin lakes.

The deadline to apply for grants is Feb. 1, 2015. To learn more about the program, lake associations, communities, businesses, environmental consultants and property owners are encouraged to participate in a Healthy Lakes initiative webinar hosted by DNR from 3 to 4 p.m. on November 13. Those who can't join the live meeting will be able to review it afterwards.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Carroll Schaal, DNR lakes and rivers section chief, Carroll.Schaal@wisconsin.gov, 608-261-6423; Jennifer Sereno, DNR communications, Jennifer.Sereno@wisconsin.gov, 608-770-8084.

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Online survey seeks to gather information on nonmotorized trail use in Wisconsin

MADISON - The public has an opportunity to comment on how they use nonmotorized trails in Wisconsin and what can be done to improve nonmotorized trail opportunities through an online survey available through the end of the year.

The Nonmotorized Recreation and Transportation Trails Council was established by Wisconsin statute in 2010 to provide advice and consultation to the legislature, governor, Department of Natural Resources and Department of Transportation on all matters related to nonmotorized recreation and transportation trails, including trail planning, acquisition, development, maintenance and management.

The council is seeking to gather up-to-date information about the state of nonmotorized trails in Wisconsin from individuals who use nonmotorized trails as well as groups, organizations and municipal and government agencies that develop and manage trails. The survey will gather comments on how people are currently using trails across the state, how often they use them, the type of trails they prefer, what additional trail opportunities they would like to see, and what can be done to make trails safer and more accessible.

"Wisconsin was the birthplace of the rail-trail movement and is enriched by having the Ice Age and North Country National Scenic Trails as well as several other nationally recognized trails built and maintained by thousands of tireless volunteers," said Joel Patenaude, a council member representing Wisconsin tourism interests and editor of Silent Sports magazine. "Wisconsin is also home to the Birkie Trail, which hosts North America's largest cross-country ski marathon, and the country's most popular mountain biking race series takes place in Wisconsin because of an abundance of flowing and fun singletrack."

The survey is designed to gather information about a wide variety of trail uses including hiking, bicycling, skiing, horseback riding and even canoeing and kayaking on water trails.

People can find a link to the survey by searching the DNR website dnr.wi.gov for keyword "parks" and then clicking on the link for "Nonmotorized trail council" under the tab for "Stay connected." People can also learn more about the council its Facebook page: www.facebook.com/NRTTC or by contacting the council through email at NRTTCouncil@gmail.com.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brigit Brown, state trails coordinator, 608-266-2183, Joel Patenaude, NRTTC, 715-258-4354 or Paul Holtan, DNR office of communications, 608-267-7517

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DNR mapping software a powerful new tool to reduce ag runoff, phosphorus pollution

MADISON -- In increments as small as three square meters or as large as 30 square miles, a new software tool developed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources promises to help reduce agricultural runoff and erosion.

Developed to integrate satellite imaging and geographic information system or GIS technology, the erosion vulnerability assessment for agricultural lands tool -- known as EVAAL -- clearly depicts areas susceptible to runoff based on topography, land cover and soils. While the software will be used by environmental professionals ranging from consulting engineers and nutrient management planners to county conservationists and academic researchers, it is expected to produce very real benefits for citizens statewide.

EVAAL
EVAAL uses readily available inputs that include detailed topographic information (LiDAR), multiple years of crop type data, and digital soils data.

"We know clean rivers, lakes and streams are a priority for Wisconsin residents," said Theresa Nelson, a water resources engineer in the DNR division of water quality. "Reducing agricultural runoff conserves topsoil and cuts down on the amount of phosphorus entering our surface waters. The new software helps prioritize lands with the greatest vulnerability, saving time and money for farmers by identifying the most significant opportunities to cut sediment and phosphorus runoff."

EVAAL vulnerability
The results of EVAAL show relative vulnerability to erosion and associated nutrient export at the grid scale. Watershed managers can use those areas of highest vulnerability to prioritize their conservation efforts.

Detailed maps produced by the software highlight areas where large gullies or tiny rills may carry nutrients away from fields and toward bodies of water. Other elements, such as large internally drained areas that help capture runoff also appear. The EVAAL tool allows private landowners and county planners to consider these features at both the grid scale - down to three square meters - and at the broader field or watershed level.

"Modern farm technology allows for the precise application of nutrients down to the grid level, but until now, these grids accounted for soil quality rather than differences in topography and the potential for water movement," Nelson said. "With the EVAAL tool, practicing precision agriculture becomes an opportunity to achieve precision conservation. Beyond identifying simple changes, such as slightly expanding a buffer area or adding vegetation to a gully, the software allows for broader efforts aimed at improving a watershed."

Phosphorus has long been recognized as the controlling factor in plant and algae growth in Wisconsin lakes and streams. Small increases in phosphorus can fuel substantial increases in aquatic plant and algae growth, which in turn can reduce recreational use, property values and public health.

Greg Baneck, county conservationist with Outagamie County, said his team has been using an early version of the EVAAL software for several months in their efforts to develop a plan that addresses nonpoint source pollution issues.

"The maps and data produced by the program allow us to focus our efforts and work more efficiently than ever before," Baneck said. "This is a huge benefit with limited staffing resources, helping us to assist the landowners who need it the most."

Nelson said the new software is available for download by visiting dnr.wi.gov and searching for "EVAAL." The package includes methods documentation, a tutorial and practice datasets.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Theresa Nelson, DNR water resources engineer, 608-266-7037, Theresa.Nelson@Wisconsin.gov; Jennifer Sereno, DNR communications, 608-770-8084, Jennifer.Sereno@wisconsin.gov

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Wednesday, November 05, 2014




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