River in Recovery tour highlights effort to keep our water clean

Local News

Leadership from Brown, Outagamie and Calumet counties met for a single goal.

“What can we do together as a community to take care of the environment, but also ensure a robust agricultural economy at the same time,” said Congressman Mike Gallagher.

It is a resource that we are all responsible for keeping clean.

“The Bay of Green Bay affects everybody,” he said. “The Fox River affects everybody. So, it’s incumbent upon all of us to think about what can we do to make sure we’re passing this incredible resource to the next generation.”

One stop on the tour visited a stream-based restoration project designed to fight erosion.

“We stabilize the stream banks and also got rid of invasive species that were growing on the stream banks like buckthorn and things like that,” said Jeremy Freund, project coordinator at Outagamie County’s conservation department.

The cost to repair the erosion was about 50 to 100 dollars per lineal foot, meaning the price can hit $100,000 quickly.
And the next stop focused on a new idea: agricultural retention ponds.

“The water will be stored like an urban stormwater pond and release slowly,” he said. “But we’re also trapping sediment and trapping phosphorous, much like on the urban side.”

Plants commonly found around them, such as cattails, are great filters–cutting down on sediment and phosphorous.
But these man-made measures can cost tens of thousands of dollars and that can be a hard sell.

“We get grant funds, we have ideas, and then we have to actually convince the land owners to take on the project,” said Freund. “So the landowner is the one that ends up paying the contractor, and then we offer payments for that project.”

The future of clean water largely falls on private landowners with an eye for the future.

“We can’t take it for granted,” said Gallagher. “It takes a lot of work by a lot of dedicated people to make sure that we pass on clean water to the next generation.”

A report from UWGB and USGS is expected by the end of 2020 to show how effective agriculture retention ponds are.

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