Dane County Office of Lakes & Watersheds
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2009 Dane County Waters Champion Awards

Individual: Don Esposito

As vice president of land acquisition and development for Veridian Homes, Don Esposito knows how important Dane County’s lakes and watersheds are to the quality of life of those residents fortunate enough to live in one of Veridian’s homes. He holds a degree in civil engineering, plus a master’s degree in construction engineering and an MBA. Don understands that design and construction techniques and processes that help protect our waters are not only crucial to our community, but it’s also good business.

So, not only has he been passionate about using those techniques for Veridian, but has led the charge within local, state and national builder’s associations. In turn, he and Veridian have been honored with the Energy Value Builder Gold award and named National Builder of the Year.

But Don’s work on behalf of Dane County’s watershed extends beyond that of his day-to-day work. He’s applied his knowledge and smarts to assist the Green Tier Clear Water Initiative and the Dane County Stormwater Infiltration Task Force. But perhaps the biggest impact he’s made is through his invaluable participation on the Construction Erosion Control sub-committee of the Madison Commission on the Environment.

This sub-committee was formed with the intent of identifying ways to reduce construction erosion from getting into lakes and streams in the Madison area, something near and dear to the Commission members’ hearts. In forming the sub-committee, city staff noted that Veridian had significantly improved their practices with regard to construction erosion, due in no small part to Don’s efforts. There was no question who would join the sub-committee.

And, with his knowledge, experience and commitment to improving our lakes, the sub-committee produced recommendations for significantly reducing construction site erosion, many of which have already been initiated by the City of Madison.

And Don’s unique ability to bring stakeholders at all levels together and manage a respectful and productive process is something we can all learn from.

Individual: Kurt Welke

If you love the great fishing in Dane County, you have Kurt Welke to thank. As a fisheries biologist for the Department of Natural Resources in our County, there is almost no body of water he hasn’t worked to improve. And Kurt is one of those rare breeds of scientists: a great technical mind with the heart and soul of an activist. Kurt values how stormwater and erosion control ordinances, ban on unnecessary phosphorus in lawn fertilizer, winter manure spreading ordinance and more are interconnected with healthy fisheries. And he is always willing to come to meetings and provides county water resource planners annual updates and suggestions on areas of concern relating to water quality.

Nearly everyone on the Commission has worked with Kurt on one effort or another over the past few years. Following is a short list of just a few of his efforts to get an understanding of what makes Kurt one of our Waters Champions. Kurt:

  • helped prepare the Yahara Waterways Water Trail Guide
  • testified at hearings and conducted field investigations to inform policies and programs that some fisheries biologists may not make the time for
  • is willing to advise on implementing the aquatic plant management program in a way that avoids fisheries impacts
  • supported Dane County efforts to restore upwards of 52 miles of coldwater stream habitat and assisted County staff with post project evaluations that are critical to showing positive biological responses in the stream
  • implanted telemetry devices to allow for seasonal tracking of carp and target most desirable times and locations for successful harvest on the Lake Wingra carp exclosure project. He then provided mark/recapture data to assess populations and percent harvest to be used in long-term planning.
  • provides many educational opportunities for agency and non-agency people to experience fish sampling on Dane County water bodies.
  • supports the County efforts to develop an Aquatic Invasive Species Implementation Plan. He has provided document review and important suggestions for inclusion into this draft plan.
  • assisted with the Stewart Lake restoration efforts related to the re-establishment of the fishery and guidance on dredging options for improving the water quality of the lake.

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to hear one of his presentations, they are not only quite educational and understandable for just about any audience—a talent not all biologists possess--but are guaranteed to be entertaining. In fact, most conversations with Kurt are usually very entertaining on one level or another. His list of accomplishments could probably go on all evening, but there is no need to go any further.

Individual: Michael John Tierney

Though our last individual Waters Champion is no longer with us, we know that Michael John Tierney’s legacy of lifelong dedication and spirit of teamwork and commitment to protecting and preserving Dane County’s waters is in this room. We are fortunate to have Michael’s wife, Jeanette, joining us this evening, and we would like to thank her for her nomination and unending support of all her husband’s efforts.

Michael John Tierney worked in water resources management and public service his whole life. He received both his Bachelor’s Degree in Civil & Environmental Engineering and his Master’s in Industrial Microbiology from UW-Madison. During his career, he was employed by the U.S. Indian Health Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

When Michael became a resident of Madison in 1984, he rolled up his sleeves and got to work in his new community, supporting and promoting water conservation policies and practices to protect all of the County’s lakes. But the lake that benefitted the most from Michael’s efforts was Lake Mendota.

Michael used his technical knowledge of microbiology and engineering and his passion for Lake Mendota on many grass roots projects to protect and renew Lake Mendota shoreline environment. He relentlessly investigated public and private resources to gain understanding of native plants and other organisms that are necessary for healthy lakes. Michael even used his own personal funds to obtain and provide shoreline stabilization materials and plants to Spring Harbor neighborhood residences and public waterfront. He collaborated with science education staff at Spring Harbor Middle School to provide hands-on experiences for students at Spring Harbor neighborhood shorelines. At neighborhood meetings, Michael was a vocal and outspoken proponent and supporter of public and individual policies that protect the Lake Mendota watershed, such as asphalt resurfacing, permeable driveways, lawn fertilizers, leaf storage, and shoreline vegetation to name a few. And he vigorously supported public policies that now protect access and environment of public street ends and courts in the Spring Harbor neighborhood.

And even after his work career ended, I’m sure as Jeanette can attest, Michael’s version of “retirement” would tire us all out! Michael expanded his dedication to protect water resources internationally as well. He was a volunteer with Farmer to Farmer and the Rockefeller Foundation to assist countries such as Nicaragua, Armenia, Kazakstan and Ethiopia in projects to improve water quality and protection.

Michael’s wholehearted commitment to his community and his recognition that we can all make a difference for our neighbors and the future of Dane County with small contributions that add up to big results is exactly what the Dane County Waters Champion honors are all about.

It is with extreme pleasure that we honor Michael John Tierney as a Waters Champion and honor his wife, Jeanette, as well.

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