Latest construction activity at the Edgewater

Excavation at the Edgewater Hotel, for the reconstruction project, viewed on Dec. 29, 2012.

Almost no erosion control measures are visible.  Findorff is gambling that it won't rain.

On Dec. 30 in 2004, the peak temperature was 56 F.   On Dec. 30 in 1884, it rained 1.62 inches.


Solstice celebration at Glenwood Children's Park


"Many stalwart folks showed up on Friday's official Solstice evening to defy Mayan doomsday talk and to thaw the longest coldest night of the year with good camaraderie, singing, hot cider, smores, and a blazing bonfire.


Neighbors organize cleanup team for construction mess

Neighbors on Monona Bay are fed up with the Ghidorzi Companies--a contractor that caused repeated plumes of muddy water into the bay, clouds of dust on windy days, insulation blowing about, and mud on the streets.

So two retired firefighters who live on the bay, Steve Vanko and Tom Ulrich, formed a team--to clean up the next mess--and DELIVER THE DIRT to those responsible.

The first "action" came Dec. 19, when a large "trackout" of mud from Ghidorzi on Fish Hatchery Rd was noticed at 4:30 pm.  Probably more than a hundred pounds of mud, much of it in large clods, was spread about a block south of the construction entrance.

The "rapid response team" of three was ready to go by 7:00 pm, with one "backup" on call.  The rush was to get the mud before the blizzard started. But to our as surprise, Ghidorzi had already cleaned it up!

Possibly they saw me photographing, and beat us to it.  Or even better, perhaps they had a change of heart--after six months of pollution.


Construction at Edgewater Hotel begins


The long-awaited construction of the new tower at the Edgewater Hotel has begun.  Trees have been cut, and excavations down to the lake begun.  Click on photo to enlarge.


Construction ready to begin at Edgewater site

This is a very steep site, with a high, caving bank over the lake.  Let's hope Engineering is up the the challenge that erosion control will present!  Trees are being cut.

Erosion control plans often "limit" sediment loss to no more than 7.5 tons/acre. For this 2-acre site, that would "allow" 15 tons of sediment to the lake, LEGALLY.


Construction at Memorial Union litters the lake

Construction along the shore of Lake Mendota--at the Memorial Union--have not been properly inspected for erosion control.

The University of Wisconsin is in violation of its erosion control permit for construction at the Memorial Union and Alumni Park on the waterfront.  

The biggest problem is the required silt curtain, floating in the lake.  Its problems are so obvious--that I wonder if anyone has been inspecting the erosion controls.

Pollution of Monona Bay by Ghidorzi Companies

Construction at the intersection of S Park St and Fish Hatchery Rd has caused repeated bouts of muddy plumes, litter, and dust pollution of Monona Bay.  The contractor is Ghidorzi Companies.

Despite complaints from neighbors, the problems have persisted for months.  Steve Vanko (right) and Tom Ulrich--retired firefighters who live on the bay--have obtained 160* signatures on a petition:

I am a landowner, resident, or neighbor with an interest in Monona Bay.  I am concerned that activities at the Wingra Clinic construction site at 1102 S. Park Street, operated by Ghidorzi Companies, Inc., may have led to unnecessary pollution of Monona Bay, and I support action to ensure that the company fully complies with all applicable stormwater management and erosion control requirements


Tree trenches for Monroe Street?

The following is about a new kind of green infrastructure planned for Minneapolis, as part of their new light rail system.  It's quoted from The Minnesota Daily.
Tree trenches are urban infiltration systems used to filter runoff and ease street flooding and environmental issues.
Storm water will seep through permeable brick pavers passing through several layers of soil and drainage rock. The runoff will in turn water 1,200 newly planted trees along the light rail’s route in St. Paul.


The High Line--reinventing city infrastructure

Click on photos to enlarge
On New York's west side, an old elevated railway had become another blight on the neighborhood. With weeds and small trees sprouting aloft, it presented a strange environment to urban explorers who ventured aloft-- a riot of weeds sprouting among the rusting order of ties and rails.

After plans surfaced for demolishing the railway, two activists from the neighborhood, Joshua David and Robert Hammond, proposed turning the railway into an elevated greenway.


Chip sealing--and how dust affects our lakes

Today, most concerns about air pollution focus on global warming.  Yet for those of us working for the health of our lakes, air pollution remains an important issue.


Dead fish in Shangri-La

All around the world, lakes are in trouble--with fish kills or toxic algae blooms.  Usually, the culprit is excess nutrients washing into the lake.  It's happening even at pristine lakes, long thought to be immune to these problems.

From time to time, I'll feature problems of lakes in a different parts of the world.  The root cause is growing populations and affluence, plus the difficulty of managing thousands of small sources of nutrients.

Indian Kashmir used to be a place people compared to mythical Shangri-La--verdant and unspoiled.  And Nigeen Lake (above), in a green valley surrounded by the Himalayas, is considered by waterways officials to the least polluted waterway in the city of Srinagar (population 1.3 million).


"Chip sealing" of streets generates complaints

On Madison's west side, City Engineering is in the process of "chip sealing."  This is a maintenance program that extends the life of pavement which is still in good condition.

Steps in the process we observed
  • Workers clean out cracks between pavement and curb, and place filters on the stormsewer inlets.
  • Asphalt is laid down to seal the cracks in pavement.
  • Bottom slag is liberally applied to cover the asphalt, provide traction, and surface protecton.
  • A pickup truck drags a rake to make sure the slag is evenly distributed.
  • The excess slag is removed in several passes by sweepers.

Complaints are coming from the use of a black, sandy material called "bottom slag."

The loose slag is creating a nuisance for pedestrians and a minor hazard for cyclists.  It's also creating a lot of dust, either when vehicles pass by, or when the contractor drags a rake over the slag--as they are doing in multiple passes (below).

The City claims chip sealing will save millions of dollars over the years.  They also claim that it's environmentally friendly, because it saves natural resources.  In other words, when slag is used on streets, sand doesn't have to be mined.  And, keeping the slag--a waste product--out of landfills saves landfill space.  I don't doubt these assertions.  I just wonder if all the long-term costs of using slag have been accounted for in the "cost-benefit" calculations.


Severe erosion at Nakoma Park

As the City begins its study of the Lake Wingra Watershed,* citizens need to begin thinking about creative approaches to the watershed's management.  Input from citizens can encourage the study to be more creative and comprehensive.

Caving bank on north side of creek in Nakoma Park.

I've been spending days exploring the watershed.  Of all the problems found, Nakoma Park erosion jumps to the top of my list for action in the near future.


Science Thursdays at Wingra Park--free for kids

by Debi Leeper

We are in full swing with our Science Thursdays and the first two sessions have been great!

Liz Metloff and Natalia Kulas did an outstanding job, starting our season off with a walk to the spring and comparing water in the spring and the lake.

The students were like little scientists with their little testing kits and they really went away understanding what determines water quality. 


Plans for cutting aquatic plants in Lake Wingra


If you've seen Lake Wingra recently, you may have noticed big changes.  The water is much clearer--but there are more lake weeds--especially Eurasian water milfoil.

Since removal of carp during recent winters, these destructive fish have been greatly reduced in numbers.  They no longer stir up the bottom sediments, making the water cloudy, and disturbing rooted plants.

This has allowed water milfoil to increase, because it gets more light in the clear water.  You can now see vast areas of this invasive plant--because the little flowers are protruding above the water.

Plans for mowing aquatic plants

The 5-year permit for mowing in Lake Wingra has expired, so the Dane County Land & Water Resources Dept. is seeking public input on plans for the next 5 years.  

Recently, test strips were mowed, as shown on the map below:

"Open water areas" are found in the middle of the lake, where the water is too deep for water milfoil to take root.

The orange strip was cut to allow easy access by boats or distance swimmers across the lake.  The yellow strips are designed to allow predatory fish to penetrate into the shore areas, where they will help to restore the balance between predator and prey, leading to larger fish for anglers.

If you have comments, address them to Darren Marsh, Parks Director, 608-224-3766; marsh@co.dane.wi.us


Can you name the wetland critters?

Take the skull challenge...

at Friends of Lake Wingra's display tent
June 16, 9:30 am-4:00 pm
at Jazz in the Park, Wingra Park, Madison WI

Can you name the wetland animal that matches each skull?

The relative sizes are shown.  The largest is 7 3/4" long, and the smallest is 2 3/8" long.

A. hint:  omnivore (eats a wide variety of animals and plants)


How I became a woodland gardener

If you have lots of shade, and no money for plants--
here's an easy method.

I used to have a traditional yard--almost entirely grass, with shrubs around the edges.

Along the side, between my house and the next, it was very shady. Grass would hardly grow there, but the weeds did. I’d mow it twice in the summer to lop off the scraggly weeds. The mower would kick up clouds of dust--I’d have to hold my breath. In the fall, I raked leaves--creating more clouds of dust.
My yard (right) used to be as barren as the left side of the fence.

The Clean Lakes Festival is looking for groups to participate

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Clean Lakes Festival was started in 2007 by the Mad-City Water Ski Team, with a goal of improving the quality of our lakes. The festival's Education/Discovery Center is the environmental centerpiece--staffed by environmental and community groups. We have exciting things in the works for the Festival...Don't miss it!


Home projects for watershed health

Projects that homeowners can undertake are especially appropriate, now that the Friends of Lake Wingra has begun a partnership with City Engineering to study how management of the whole Wingra watershed can improve the lake. 

And, home projects also fit with the Arboretum's desire to reach out into the surrounding community.

I've been testing several projects people can do at home...


What it will take to clean up the lakes

Recently, the Wisconsin State Journal published an editorial saying it was their priority to clean up our lakes.

It's a nice sentiment, voiced many times before.  But still the lakes are dirty and out of balance.

Clearly its going to take more than an editorial... or a wish.  The problems in our lakes have been very resistant to change.  To understand why, let's compare the situation to your kitchen floor.

Wisconsin State Journal says cleaning up lakes is a top priority

.Debris in Lake Mendota at the Wisconsin Union

The State Journal's editorial board identified cleaning up Madison lakes as one of the board's five agenda items for 2012.

"Cleaning up Madison's lakes is one of the key priorities of the State Journal editorial board this year. Enough with the stinky green muck, dangerous algae and thick weeds ruining summer fun in and around the water. The health and beauty of our lakes — as well as Madison's image as a great place to live and work — are at stake."


Ravenous predator loose in Lake Wingra

There's a predator in our lakes most people don't know about.  It eats its weight in flesh every day .  It has enormous claws, and 22 tentacles at the end of its snout.  It's just as happy hunting by night or by day....


How to repair an ugly eroding terrace

Every neighborhood has one... an ugly eroding terrace.


Introducing Friends of Olin-Turville Park

This is a beautiful example of how encouraging cultural activities at a park can have many benefits.  Neglected public spaces--even tiny greenways--can become places where neighbors connect.


DNR writing fewer tickets for violations

"Environmental enforcement activity by the state Department of Natural Resources has dropped dramatically in the past two years, according to data from the agency, with the number of permit violation notices hitting a 12-year low in 2011."

"DNR officials say the decrease is partly caused by an enforcement staff that's been hit hard by budget cuts. But they also point to a philosophical shift that emphasizes cooperating with businesses by helping them navigate complex state and federal regulations and steering them into compliance when they violate their permits."

See the full article by Ron Seely


A revved-up water cycle points to more severe weather

The water cycle is a term for how water evaporates from the ocean, forms clouds that deliver rain to the land, and how that rain returns to the sea flowing in streams or through the ground.

And now a new study predicts that, because of global warming, the water cycle is going the get a big boost.


Visioning Workshop for the Vilas Park Shoreline

Your participation is requested!

Join in the discussion at the

Lake Wingra / Vilas Park Shoreline Visioning Workshop

Wednesday, May 16th, 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

Volunteers needed for gardens along bikeway

May 12, from 1 to 4 pm.


Wisconsin Bat Festival


Bring your best "battitude" to the Wisconsin Bat Festival!

This family event will be held
Saturday May 12, 9 am-5pm
Warner Park Community Recreation Center
in Madison.


The last "commons" in Madison

The commons was an idea, descended from English custom.  It was a common grazing ground near a village, where everyone could graze their cow.  Early Boston had one.

The Boston Commons today

As the environmental movement ramped up in the 1960s, Garrett Hardin wrote an influential article, The Tragedy of the Commons.  He described the process, at work in many places of public ownership, where lack of regulation leads to environmental abuse.


The nursery network

Improve your neighborhood, one scoop at a time.

While politicians dither, you can transform the world.

If you have a little extra space in your yard, plant some native plants.
Then, as they spread, make them available to neighbors for terrace or other improvement projects.

You can establish a native-plant nursery in the greenway or park behind your house--such as in this greenway just W of Westmorland Park.

Shade plants that are low-maintance, and spread
  • Ostrich fern-native tall
  • Celandine poppy-native medium height
  • Sweet woodruff-non-native very low
  • Foam flower-native low
  • Wild ginger-native very low
  • Snakeroot-native  tall
For good design, plant a group of three tall plants, surrounded by lower ones.

For example, ferns and sweet woodruff (white flower) make a dynamite combination!

Sun plants
  • Day Lily (there are some dwarf varieties for sidewalk edges)
  • Iris
Sun/shade list

An inexpensive way to obtain plants in spring is to search on Craigslist.  Put the search term "plants" into the box, under the "for sale, farm & garden" categories.   Sometimes there are free plant exchanges.  If you don't have a plant to exchange, you can contribute snacks instead.

Easy rain garden in one hour

You can make a big contribution to safety, lake quality, and neighborhood beauty in only one hour!

Runoff flowing down sidewalk and into the street

Sidewalks are an important link in the health of our lakes.  In many places, runoff from storms is channeled down sidewalks, and then into the street.  From there, the water washes nutrients and pollution down the stormsewer and into the lakes.

Instead, you can trap the rain and nutrients and use them to grow flowers!  By placing a garden next to the sidewalk, you don't have to water your garden.


"Know your watershed" lawn sign contest


Take a Stake in the Lake days are coming up in June.  The Friends of Lake Wingra are developing a sign to promote watershed awareness.  We need your ideas!

Why watershed awareness?  To solve problems of stormwater control and lake quality, it's helpful to think big, in terms of the whole watershed.  That's why Friends of Lake Wingra is working with the City to develop a management plan for the Lake Wingra watershed.  A sign will help promote the watershed perspective.

Walt Kelly, father of Pogo the Possum cartoons, designed a poster for the first Earth Day.  The Pogo cartoon above is more appropriate for watersheds--but we need something without an alligator!

Ideas for a better slogan?   Do some kids want to try some art or cartoons--on the theme above, or something else entirely?  If you have something to contribute, call David Thompson at 233-9589.

Pop quiz !

Which lake does the runoff from your driveway run to?
Can you describe the rough boundaries of the Lake Wingra watershed?

If you didn't get 100%, you may need a lawn sign!


Take a Stake in the Lakes--2012

The 25th Annual Take a Stake in the Lakes

A volunteer cleanup of local lakes and streams will be held on June 9th (Lakes Mendota and Kegonsa) and 16th (Lakes Monona, Waubesa and Wingra), although volunteers can join in the fun anytime June 1-17.

Take a Stake event during 2010


Meeting--Sustainable Living Network

Wednesday, April 18 at 6:30PM
at Sequoya Library

The Sustainable Network...

A community of citizens, friends and professionals making connections to learn how to live more sustainably and network with businesses, organizations and individuals who desire to make a greater impact on our community. This group is designed to have fun, share great ideas, and meet compassionate people interested in environmental initiatives, humanitarian efforts, and living a more sustainable lifestyle. A great opportunity to find green businesses, get involved, or just socialize. Make a difference and join today!
At this meeting, 2 EnAct teams will be formed. They will meet over the next few months to discuss the book EnAct: Steps to Greener Living.
Download the book here

Links for more info.
EnAct website
Sustainable Living Network on Meetup


Make your views about MG&E heard--public comment period

.DDust from an MG&E storage area downtown.

MG&E has a bigger impact on the environment than any other private organization in Madison.  Besides issues of air pollution and climate change, MG&E has a huge impact on the lakes.  The three power plants in town* have enormous thirst, together using about as much water as the Madison Water Utility.  The Cogen Plant (west campus)  alone uses about 80 million gallons a year drawn from Lake Mendota.


Unsustainable at CUNA

Salt storage area at CUNA headquarters in Madison, WI.
Runoff is flowing through the spilled salt and into a storm sewer.


Philadelphia uses tough love to overhaul its water and sewer system

."When it comes to dealing with water, the ambition of Philadelphia is to change more than its infrastructure. It wants to change its very culture, in a cutting-edge effort to address climate and water issues. But the effort is provoking protests over costs."


What "sustainability" really means

"Unsustainable" means... "change is coming."  And, you might not like the form change takes.

By the time people start talking about the sustainability of something--like spreading salt on streets--you can bet it's been going on for a long time.  And, you can bet there's a good reason why people don't want to change.  So, sustainability issues always involve tough choices.  And if we don't make those tough choices, then reality forces change upon us.