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Lakes need year-round love

The ice is coming.

In fact, the Clean Lakes Alliance — an energetic and diverse group in the Madison area dedicated to improving water quality — is holding a contest to guess when Lake Mendota freezes over.

It’s one small way to stay focused on protecting and improving Mendota, Monona and the rest of the Yahara chain of lakes, while having some fun.

Our lakes need year-round love and some serious first aid. The green scum of summer may be gone for now, but it shouldn’t be forgotten. More effort is needed to clean up our lakes for good.

The Dane County Board just committed more than $5 million to protecting and improving the quality of our lakes in its latest budget. Significantly, this includes about $2 million to stop storm water from washing sediment into the lakes. There’s also money for protecting beaches and targeting carp, which stir up sediment, cloud the water and contribute to algae and weed growth.

In addition, the County Board is considering a resolution for $27 million in lake-related spending over the next five years.

That’s a bold gesture. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The Clean Lakes Alliance still needs to finish an engineering report by next fall identifying the most cost-effective ways of reducing phosphorus in the lakes. Huge amounts of phosphorus wash into the lakes from farms northwest of Lake Mendota. Other contributors of the organic matter are urban lawns, yard waste and construction site erosion.

It’s that phosphorus that feeds the nasty weed growth and green slime that covers and stinks up much of the Mendota and Monona shorelines in July and August.

The Clean Lakes Alliance wants to reduce phosphorus by 50 percent or more. That will be the key goal for diverse community interests to rally around.

County Board Chairman Scott McDonell wants to commit at least $1 million a year to attacking phosphorus. That’s welcome.

We’re less convinced the county’s aggressive land-buying program provides much bang for its many bucks.

Let the Clean Lakes Alliance finish its report and go from there. A unified effort and focus is needed from all.

— Wisconsin State Journal

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