Dane County Office of Lakes & Watersheds
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Waters Champion - 2007

The Dane County Lakes and Watershed Commission has announced its 2007 Dane County Waters Champion Award recipients. The awards are given annually recognizing individuals, organizations, businesses, and youth that have made outstanding contributions towards the protection and improvement of Dane County's water resources. Their work has made a positive impact on water quality as well as the scenic, economic, recreational and environmental value of those lakes and streams.

Individual: Steve Haak

Steve is an active crop and beef cattle farmer, husband, father, citizen and avid trout fisherman. An Upper Sugar River Watershed resident for all of his life, he has been a champion extraordinaire who, for the past six years, has logged more than 2,000 volunteer hours through the Upper Sugar River Watershed Association. If you do the math, that’s 6 and 1/2 hours of time every week. Here’s just a few of the things he has accomplished:

  • Calculating, ordering and storing supplies for thousands of LUNKERS; building and delivering them, and teaching others how to build them as well. LUNKERS are fish habitat structures that are placed in stream banks. His exemplary leadership, cooperation, coordination and personal involvement helped make these stream bank projects the success stories they are. Without the integral help from folks like Steve, these projects are not possible.
  • His farm also serves as the warehouse for the Association’s rain barrel materials. He has been known to put one together and deliver it at a moment’s notice, whenever it’s been needed.
  • He talks with other farmers, community groups, fishermen and anyone who will listen or inquires about practices and programs that help the river and water quality in general. Because of his position in the community, he has credibility that others don’t and is a trusted authority. He has the ability to say it like it is, without stepping on anyone’s toes, from supervisors to peers, that latter of which can often be most difficult.
  • Steve is training to be a water quality monitor, and already assists with the collection and re-deployment of automated monitoring devices throughout the watershed.
  • Steve worked with the DNR to place a lifetime fishing and conservation easement on the stretch of the West Branch of the Sugar River that runs through his farm.

And, that list only includes what he’s done for the Watershed Association. Steve also works with Cub Scouts, Badger Fly Fishers, Trout Unlimited, Deer Creek Sport & Conservation Club, the Dane County FSA Committee and the Dane County Land Conservation Committee, of which many of the activities are related to water quality.

Through his endless energy and passion, Steve’s leadership was vital in the removal a 19-mile stretch of the West Branch of the Sugar River from Wisconsin’s impaired waters list, the first in the State to be removed for restoration.

Steve’s integrity and generosity with his time and effort have benefited the water resources of southwest Dane County greatly. And, if you want to know where the trout are, just ask him. He’ll tell ya.

Individual: Dr. Jennifer Hauxwell

Dr. Jennifer Hauxwell is a research scientist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, where she works primarily on aquatic plant ecology, effects of land use, and invasive species management in lakes and wetlands. She believes that good, quantitative data is key in making decisions about improving and protecting our waters, and she has put that belief to work for the citizens of Dane County in two recent efforts:

When the Dane County Board of Supervisors established an Aquatic Plant Management Committee in early 2006, Jen shared her tremendous expertise in standardizing aquatic plant data to help the Committee formulate its recommendations. The Committee was charged with reviewing aquatic plant management options, including herbicides and mechanical harvesting for invasive weed control. Jen is now collaborating with Dane County staff and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to implement one of the Committee’s key recommendations: designing a 5-6 year project to evaluate two methods to control Eurasian water milfoil and restore native plant communities.

Eurasian water milfoil begins growing early in the year and creates a dense growth canopy that shades out native plant species. The premise of the project is that early spring herbicide use and deep harvesting would allow management of the milfoil before most native plants would begin their growth.

Jen was also instrumental in guiding the Dance County Office of Lakes and Watersheds and Land and Water Resources Department staff, and an outside consultant in preparing Aquatic Plant Management Plans for Lakes Mendota, Kegonsa, and Wingra; and Fish, Crystal, Indian and Lower Mud Lakes. Jen provided advice to county staff and consultant to ensure that field data collection was consistent with statewide protocols for aquatic plant management plan preparation. Aquatic plant management plans provide an inventory of existing plants in a lake or stream and describe how the vegetation, especially native plants, will be protected for their role as the foundation of healthy lake ecosystems while controlling nuisance non-native species and providing access for recreational use of the waters. These plans are required by the DNR in order for Dane County’s permits to mechanically harvest aquatic vegetation to be reissued.

Youth: Glenn Stephens Elementary School

The mission of the Glenn Stephens School Community is to engage all students in a developmentally appropriate and meaningful curriculum that leads to success in the areas of learning, behavior and interpersonal relationships.

Certainly, 4th and 5th grade teacher Julie Fuller and her students have demonstrated that success with the rain garden they researched, selected, funded, built, tended and promoted.

The rain garden project began in 2005, with students becoming very interested in protecting our lakes and rivers as part of a water science unit. After seeing a presentation on rain gardens, they were inspired to build one at their school.

They approached the principal and other staff for approval, and got a $500 grant from the Glenn Stephens Parent-Teacher Organization.

Then, they really got busy. These students selected the rain garden’s site, researched and chose the best native plants based on bloom times and how attractive the plants are to monarchs and birds.

They planted the rain garden in spring of last year, and then conducted tours for more than 400 Glenn Stephens students. They tended the garden last summer, and have plans to add more rain gardens in upcoming school years. With just one rain garden, they are already reducing the amount of direct runoff into Lake Mendota from their school.

Yahara Waterways Water Trail Project Team

Available for the first time during the 2007 Take a Stake in Our Waters is the Yahara Waterways Water Trail Guide, a 44-page color guidebook that presents an interpretive view of the history, the culture and the environmental diversity that is found on and along the Yahara River lakes and their environs. The guide is an educational tool with maps and information for paddle sport enthusiasts, schools, summer camps, youth groups, and other recreational users of the Yahara waterways. The area covered in the guide is south from Cherokee Marsh including the Yahara River and all the lakes to Kegonsa.

The new water trail guide is the result of an exciting project coming to fruition after over three years of dedicated work, a true labor of love from many who care about our local waterways.

The Yahara Waterways Water Trail Project was created through a collaborative, multiple partner effort working with government, nonprofits, and related area businesses (see partner list below) under the guidance of the Dane County Environmental Council. The project’s premise is that as people learn more about their local place, they will care and work to preserve their unique home. Madison and Dane County’s identity is closely connected to the rich weave of its historical, cultural and environmental features. The guide offers a fresh perspective of the physical character of this famous water resource and the histories behind present day landmarks.

This guide is based on Taychopera: A Canoe Guide to Dane County’s 4 Lakes, developed in 1984 by the Dane County Environmental Council with text written by Jane Licht. Taychopera means “four lakes” in the HoChunk language. Taychopera is the glacial-formed chain of lakes, marshes and river now known as Mendota, Monona, Waubesa, Kegonsa, Upper and Lower Mud, and the Yahara River.

Through this new guide, the project team hopes to inspire people to get out on the water and have a direct connection with these Yahara Waterways.

The Yahara Waterways Water Trail Project Team includes:

  • Capitol Water Trails
  • Dane County Environmental Council
  • Dane County Lakes and Watershed Commission
  • Dane County UW-Extension
  • Friends of Lake Kegonsa Society
  • Mad City Paddlers
  • Madison Audubon Society
  • River Alliance of Wisconsin
  • Rock River Coalition
  • Rutabaga
  • UW-Extension
  • UW-Extension Environmental Resources Center
  • Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

The Yahara Waterways Water Trail Project Team plans to continue its work by creating an educational interactive website (that includes and enhances the guide), and by planning educational events during the summers of 2007 and 2008. These events will include interpretive canoe trips, summer camp programs, and field trips tied to community programs.

The Project Team intends to make concerted efforts so that area underserved populations, not typically having opportunities to explore the waterways, have engaging educational events planned. Although primarily for our local citizens (with an emphasis on youth), this new water trail guide provides our large tourist population with a novel way to learn more about and enjoy our waterways.

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Yahara Waterways Trail Guide The Yahara Waterways Water Trail Guide is a great resource for exploring our area waters.