A tar sands mine in Madison ??

Madison has its own version of the tar sands--an asphalt and concrete recycling operation near the corner of the Beltline and Verona Rd.  Next door is a staging area for the stormsewer work going on along the beltline.


Time to end "business as usual"

Tornado over Stoughton.

At the climate talks now underway in Poland, the Philippine delegate, Naderev Sano, said:

"To anyone outside who continues to deny and ignore the reality that is climate change, I dare them -- I dare them to get off their ivory towers and away from the comfort of their armchairs. 

I dare them to go to the islands of the Pacific, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, and see the impacts of rising sea levels; to the mountainous regions of the Himalayas and the Andes, to see communities confronting glacial floods; to the Arctic, where communities grapple with the fast-dwindling sea ice sheets; the large deltas of the Mekong, the Ganges, the Amazon, the Nile, where lives and livelihoods are drowned; to the hills of Central America, that confront similar monstrous hurricanes; to the vast savannas of Africa, where climate change has likewise become a matter of life and death as food and water becomes scarce -- not to forget the monstrous storms in the Gulf of Mexico and the Eastern Seaboard of North America, as well as the fires that have raged Down Under.

And if that is not enough, they may want to see what has happened to the Philippines now."

We are entering a crisis of epic proportions.  We caused it.  It's no longer enough to make one token effort for climate change.  Everyone has to make multiple efforts.

Our current lifestyle is what caused this crisis.  We have to change how we live.  There's no other way.

For the sake of your grandchildren.


Catholic Multicultural Center plans a community rain garden

The UW Arboretum has an established and successful program called Earth Partnership for Schools (EPS).  They help schools around the country build restorations of native communities, and then incorporate those natural plantings into their lessons.

Now the EAP has a new grant to expand their program to include other cultures and languages.  Maria Moreno. who is leading this new program, said they are beginning to work with Community Centers, because that's where you reach Latin Americans.

Recently, I learned that the Catholic Multicultural Center(CMC) is planning to involve their community in building a rain garden on the Center's grounds.

Numbers show potential community rain garden sites.

The first public meeting will be on  Nov. 12, 6-7 pm, at 1862 Beld St. (If you want to attend, contact Laura Green at 441-1180 (volunteer@cmctoday.org).

Laura is planing educational programs related to the garden once a month over the winter, with "construction day" on May 14.  They hope to make construction day a "community event," with activities, including speakers and a dance group.  They hope to create a "ripple effect--the rain garden will be one activity helping to foster pride in the neighborhood.

Your organization or business can help

Laura is hoping that many organizations and businesses can help.  Early commitments of support can help the CMC expand their plans, to make the project an example of how an organization can improve their stormwater management, to improve the health of our lakes.

Laura Green, Antonio, Steve Glass, and I talked about the potential for creating a "ripple effect" by creating pride in the community.

One possibility is to offer three free plants to volunteers to help construct the rain garden.   Those volunteers would take the plants home to build a "mini rain garden" at the end of their downspout.

To provide incentive, the CMC would conduct a raffle--all volunteers with a "mini garden" would be entered in the raffle.  The winner would receive a valuable gift certificate from a local business.

Two potential sites for the community rain garden are shown here.  The above photo is the current top choice, since it's visible from the dining area.

However, this location might be better, since it receives more runoff, and is more visible to the community.


Panel discussion: climate change and its effect on WI life & culture

MADISON—Whether it’s fruit from our orchards, winter recreation, water quality, wildlife habitat, or traditions we  cherish, aspects of life in Wisconsin are changing along with the climate. These changes will profoundly influence the way we live and do business in Wisconsin. 

Free and open to the the public, the panel discussion takes place at 7:00 pm on Tuesday, November 12, at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art lecture hall in Madison.

Patty Loew, author and former co-host of In Wisconsin, moderates a discussion with three panelists:
  • Michelle Miller: Associate Director, Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, UW–Madison. Miller discusses changes in agriculture, with stories of orcharders, growers, and grazers whose multi-generational cultivation of crops such as cherries, apples, and cranberries are faced with increasingly extreme weather and other climate-related challenges.
  • Jim St. Arnold: Program Director/Traditional Ecological Knowledge Coordinator, Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission. St. Arnold shares the story of the challenges the Ojibwe face in continuing  taditions of gathering wild rice, harvesting birch bark, and making maple syrup that are central to their culture, food sources, spiritual practice, and economic stability.
  • Stanley Temple: Beers-Bascom Professor Emeritus in Conservation, UW–Madison, and Senior Fellow, Aldo Leopold Foundation. Temple frames the discussion with a description of what climate change adaptation and mitigation looks like through the lens of ecology, ethics, and economics, including how hunting, fishing, and other outdoor recreation is affected by a changing climate.
In addition to addressing questions from the audience, panelists will explore strategies for cultivating resilience in the face of rapid change, from shoring up food systems to conserving habitats that support vulnerable species.
Hosted by the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, & Letters. Please register in advance at www.wisconsinacademy.org/climatepanel
For those who cannot attend, this talk will also be live-streamed beginning at 7:00 pm. Follow this link to tune in to the live stream, or visit this link afterward for archived video: www.wisconsinacademy.org/climatepanelSTREAM.

Help design and plant a community rain garden !

Community meeting to learn more and share your ideas about a community project to clean up our environment and make our neighborhood a better place.

All ages are welcome!

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013
Time: 6:00—7:00pm

Catholic Multicultural Center
1862 Beld Street, Madison, WI 53713

Gain hands on experience designing and planting a rain garden Connect with resources for planting a rain garden in your own yard Learn more about environmental issues affecting our neighborhood Make our neighborhood a better place to live Become involved with the CMC.

Rain gardens are plantings of native plants that help protect our groundwater, lakes and streams and create wild-life habitat.

Interested in participating? Sign up now!
Laura Green at :
(608) 441-1180 or


Dirty construction site sucks the blood of Lake Wingra


The construction site for apartments, at the corner of Arbor Dr. and Knickerbocker St., has been consistently poor in its erosion control. It's just a stones throw from Lake Wingra.

On Oct. 26...
  • There was concrete slurry leaking directly into a stormwater inlet.
  • The street had not been swept--fine dust was blowing about.
  • Stormwater inlets were dirty and not maintained.
  • One stormwater inlet next to the construction entrance had no visible protection.
  • Construction entrances were not adequate.

More photos.


Important hearing Oct 24--help us to protect local control !!

Senate Public Hearing
Committee on Workforce Development, Forestry, Mining, and Revenue
9:30 am Thursday, October 24, 2013
Capitol Building, Room 411 South

"Healthy communities are built through local planning: neighbors working together to decide what they value, how and where growth should occur, and what problems they want to solve; citizens electing representatives to enact policies that reflect their priorities; and businesses working with local leaders to address concerns about the impacts of their operations.

Through our work with local governments and private landowners, we have seen just how effective communities can be in working together to protect their own public health, safety, and welfare.

This way of life is under attack in Wisconsin. 

Yesterday afternoon, the state Senate announced that a hearing will be held tomorrow (Oct. 24) on SB 349, a sweeping bill that removes the ability of counties, cities, villages, towns, and other local districts to enact or enforce independent ordinances that govern water and air quality, and water quantity.

The bill forbids local governments from establishing standards, requiring permits, or requiring monitoring to protect air and water quality or water quantity unless the policy is specifically authorized by the legislature. In one broad sweep, with no local debate, this would invalidate a wide range of existing policies, including protections for inland wetlands administered by Barron, Bayfield, Burnett, Langlade, Dane, Dodge, Door, Florence, Kenosha, Oconto, Price, Shawano, Waukesha, Washburn, and many other counties.

The bill also undermines local influence over the proposed Gogebic Taconite mine in northern Wisconsin and significantly erodes local governments' ability to protect citizens and local air and water from the ill-effects of non-metallic mining, including frac sand mining. In fact, it blatantly overturns a recent WI Supreme Court decision upholding the authority of Wisconsin towns to use tools other than zoning to regulate local industries.
 While we support enactment of statewide standards to ensure minimum land and water resource protections, we also believe that every community has a right to go above and beyond these minimum measures, as they see fit, to protect their citizens, natural resources, and quality of life.

Please join us in speaking against SB 349 and for maintaining local control of land and water resources by:

Erin O'Brien  
Wetland Policy Director


Building a rain garden at Thoreau School

During October of 2012, the Friends of Lake Wingra group was asked to help Jack Nolan select an Eagle Scout project.  Jack wanted to do something to help Lake Wingra.  I volunteered to help Jack.

Our first step was to take Jack--and his dad Rich--on a tour of the watershed, so they could see how Jack’s project fit into the big picture.  We visited key areas in the watershed, and places where a project could help solve watershed problems.  Jack decided to build a second rain garden at Thoreau School.

The garden would help control runoff from a paved playground, and the school’s roof.  During storms, torrents of water flowing down a hill towards Nakoma Park had eroded a deep gully.  A garden here would also teach children about green storm water control, replenish groundwater, and increase biodiversity--for improved community health.

Plans take shape--slowly

Jack didn’t have experience gardening.  While I had built a few small rain gardens with donated plants, I had never built a large one, or coordinated volunteers.  We’d bitten of a mouthful.  Perhaps this would be the largest Eagle Scout project in history.

A large rain garden is a complex project.  For location, you have to consider…
  • Education and public awareness
  • Flow of water
  • Soils
  • Pedestrian traffic
  • Watering during summer
  • Protection from snowplows
  • Trees and sunlight
  • Underground utilities
It takes time to gather information about these issues.  You have to consult with school personnel, various experts, and depend on your own judgment.  It takes months for the pieces to fall into place--gradually, your plans begin to take shape from the mist of possibilities.  You have to proceed with uncertainty about some parts of the plan.

There was only one place big enough for our garden--and far enough from snow plows.  But it was very shady, and had a substantial slope.  We began to realize it would be challenging to build a garden here.  We started to consider locations at other schools, but it was too late to begin the approval process all over again.

We decided we could handle the slope of our site by “terracing” the garden, like the rice paddies in Indonesia.  There were “silt socks” at the Edgewood Campus, left over from a construction project.  Edgewood gave permission to recycle the socks, to create the dams for our terraces.

Our next hurdle was to secure funding.  By now, spring was approaching, and it was too late to apply for most grants.  Fortunately, the Friends of Lake Wingra approved a grant of $1,500.  For FOLW,  this would be a pilot project--the first of a grant program to improve storm water management on school grounds.

The third major deadline was to select plants, select a supplier, and order plants.  A rule of thumb is one plant per square foot.  With snow on the ground, it was impossible to lay out our garden’s outline in detail.  But sketches estimated about 750 square feet, so we planned to order that many plants.  Agrecol has by far the lowest prices--but they are a wholesaler, and we had to persuade them that FOLW qualified for purchase.  But Agrecol didn’t have all the species we wanted, so we also ordered from Prairie Nursery.

We selected shade tolerant plants, except for some butterfly weed planned for a corner that would receive some direct sun.

With the arrival of spring, we refined our plans, with an eye to organizing construction of the garden in an efficient way.  We decided we couldn’t afford hiring a Bobcat to move the earth.

So… how do you move earth with shovels, efficiently?  We built a 1/4 scale model at Vilas Beach.  This showed us that the downstream berm would be large--we needed to plan sufficient space for it.

We also inspected existing rain garden #1 at Thoreau, to see what we could learn.  Recent rains had eroded a breach in its berm.  We also saw that the berm has to be level--always the same altitude--so that it will overflow everywhere at the same time.

Final preps

We went to Edgewood, to inspect the silt socks, and decide how to move them.  Each one was 20’ long, weighing 400 soggy pounds.  We lined up four strong backs and one van for moving the socks.  We moved about 4,800 lbs of socks.  Now Rich’s van smelled like a mushroom farm.

Next, we went to Thoreau School and used yellow rope to lay out the boundaries of the new rain garden, #2.  Due to slope and limited space, we planned to build two basins.  And each basin will be terraced, with a silt sock across the middle, so less excavation will be required.  The gardens will be located in the turf area in the photo below (right rear).

While we were laying out the garden, a large snapping turtle arrived to inspect our work.  Traffic was backed up while she crossed Nakoma Rd.

The layout was inspected by John Finnemore, head of MMSD physical plant later today.  Diggers Hotline cleared our garden.

We scheduled pickup times for our plants--each nursery located over an hour‘s drive away.

With construction only days away, problems remained.  The turnout of scouts for digging would be low, due to a scheduling conflict.  Additional adults were cajoled to help.

Some of the plants we picked up died.  Some plants ordered didn’t germinate, so we had to substitute another species.

Construction Day

On Saturday, June 1, from 9:00 to 1:00, about 17 people helped dig two basins for the second rain garden at Thoreau School. This included 10 people from Jack's scout troop.  A few of us started at 8:15 and worked through 2:30 pm.

One parent of a scout helped to shape and level the berm.

The basins were completed, then protected against rain with silt socks and tarps.  Excess dirt was piled, for later pickup by the School District personnel.

We ran into an extensive root system while digging the upper basin.  We decided not to cut any roots larger than 1" in diameter.

This slowed us down, and reduced the volume of the basin.

Planning for Planting Day

On Sunday, Liz McBride met with Jack to decide precisely where the plants would go.  Although Jack had already presented a rough plan to FOLW, their goal was to refine that plan, based on Liz's expertise, on a revised plant list, and on how the basin actually looked.

On Monday, Liz began to put markers into the basins, indicating zones and plant locations.

At this point, we realized the basins weren't as large as originally planned.  Where to put the excess plants?   David figured out  a design for a third rain garden located upstream,  in dense shade under the basswood tree (see photo above, rear).  This area will be planted with our most shade-tolerant plants.  Instead of digging a basin where roots are thick, we'll hold the water here with silt socks.  While the plants are becoming established, silt socks will divert runoff from this area.

Liz produced a handout of instructions for planting day.

On Tuesday, David and Jack laid an erosion control blanket over the berm, to protect against forecast rain.  David and Jack were "on call," to shore up erosion controls, in case of heavy rain.  We picked up 3 more gargantuan silt socks from Edgewood, for use in constructing the third area.

On Wednesday, I picked up 480 plants from Agrecol..  If there had been one more tray, I would have been driving with 32 plants in my lap.

The garden survived the light rain of Wednesday and Thursday just fine.

On Friday, I finished placing stakes, indicating plant locations.

Planting took place on Saturday, June 8, from 9:00 to 1:00.  Scouts from Jack’s troupe helped, but classes from Thoreau didn’t participate, since the end of classes was near.

The biggest concern of planting was to avoid stepping on plants, in the very tight space of the garden.  So planters were divided into teams of two, with one inside the garden doing the planting, and the “partner” outside the garden, passing in plants, compost, and other needed items.

Liz gave planting instructions, then handed out plants and area assignments.  Since the basins were dug into the subsoil, compost was added to each hole dug for a plant.  Planters cut holes in the erosion control mat with scissors, before putting in their plants.  This slowed them down a bit, but saves weeding and erosion repair later.

Of the $1,500 granted, $1,057 had been spent so far, mostly on plants.

Remaining expenses anticipated are a hose, replacement plants (next spring), educational materials, and materials to reinforce the gardens against damage during major storms.

Followup--garden protection

Mulch is a problem in rain gardens, because most kinds just float away when the garden fills.  We’d postponed a decision till now.  David tested the wood chips from silt socks.  Since the socks had been sitting in the woods for a year, only about half of the wood chips floated.  We mulched half the garden.  But since the mulch moved around a lot during subsequent storms--burying some plants--we decided to stop.

A rain garden is at risk of washout, until the plants become well-established.  So we decided to observe how the garden responded to rain, before designing detailed protections against erosion.  We didn’t know where the water might overflow, from one terrace to the next.  And the lowest garden had a big basin.  If the berm there overflowed, a large gully could form, destroying the garden.

Knowing a severe storm was coming, I beefed things up while Jack was in Chicago.  I dragged silt socks around to keep as much water out of the gardens as possible.

On June 12 and 13, there were many heavy rainstorms.  The fledgling garden was under siege!

During the first rain, torrents of water came down the drainage way, headed for the garden!

But I saw it was possible to deflect half the water, so it would bypass the garden on one side.  We hadn’t planned to deflect water--so it was essential for me to be there during the storm, observing and taking corrective action.

I managed to deflect about half the water coming down the swale.

Suspense building, the pool filled to within 6" of the top.  But it didn't overflow, so almost no damage was done to any part of the garden--except for the plants looking a bit muddy.

The week of June 23 brought more severe storms.  We built a spillway from basin #2 to basin #3.  We planted more plants.  After each storm, we dug out plants buried in debris.

Two silt socks began to shift--we stabilized them with metal stakes.

At dawn on June 26, there was a cloudburst with severe flooding in Nakoma Park.  Torrents of water washed over our silt socks and into the garden.  The berm on pool #3 overflowed--but since one of our volunteers made the berm so perfectly level, there was no one discharge channel, and so the berm survived.  We brought more silt socks from Edgewood, building a second tier on the bypass side.

As of June 26, the garden has survived many severe storms.  Jack and myself have learned volumes about rain gardens and organizing volunteers.  And the project has set a powerful example for what citizens can do to improve watershed management.

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Previous articles on Thoreau rain garden


Course on restoring pollinator habitat

October 5, 9:00 am-4:30 pm
at UW Arboretum
Cost: $125
More information here


More native plants--better health for your family

LICHTMAN: "Is there evidence to suggest that it's better...to live among a lot of microbes in your house?"

DUNN: "Yes... we have a series of interesting anecdotes....

"...There's... a study in Finland... led by Ilkka Hanski, and this study looked at adolescents in houses that differed in which plant species they had in their backyard.

And those adolescents who grew up in houses with more native plants in their back yard had different microbes on their skin and were at a much reduced risk of allergy."


Meeting for proposed construction in Lake View County Park

Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013 at 6:00 pm at Lake View Reservoir

Lake View Reservoir (1320 Lake View Avenue) provides water storage and fire protection to a large portion of the Lake View Hill Neighborhood.

This reservoir is too small and has reached the end of its life.  The City proposes to construct a larger reservoir, improving water storage for the remainder of the city’s east side.


County considers a "Citizen Monitoring Program" for construction sites

The Dane County Office of Lakes and Watersheds has proposed a new, half-time position of volunteer coordinator.  The new position was outlined in the 2014 Budget Recommendations.

Proposed "citizen monitoring program" for construction sites

At its end, the budget proposal lists five activities that would benefit from increased volunteer participation.  One of them is the following...

"A community engagement coordinator could explore creation of a citizen monitoring program for construction sites. This requires the detailed attention of someone with well-developed volunteer engagement skills. Having more eyes and ears around the county identifying potential erosion problems could help protect water quality. Among other things, this person would need to be responsible for matching volunteers with sites, providing the materials needed for the activity, and collecting data on volunteer participation."

Edgewater Hotel reconstruction, by Findorff.

So even if the position is funded, the "monitoring program" is not a certainty.

The "citizen monitoring program" may have been inspired by ContractorReport.


County to partner with local governments in reducing stormwater pollution

"The county is accepting applications from local governments for its Urban Water Quality Grant Program, a partnership that helps reduce urban runoff pollution from fouling area lakes.

The county wants to partner with municipalities to improve old storm drain outlets that dump untreated water and litter into our lakes....


Hope for clean water in your neighborhood...

“The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for.

And the most you can do is live inside that hope.

Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.”

― Barbara Kingsolver,  Animal Dreams

More quotes
More photos
of Espiritu Santu island

Rain gardens in downtown Lansing, Michigan

Lansing is the capital of Michigan, and like Madison, it has a waterfront.  Lansing's state capitol building is located near where two rivers come together.

Lansing's waterfront on the Grand River.

Lansing has 55 new rain gardens located downtown (below), plus 170 conventional gardens.


Rain garden #2 at Thoreau School is growing nicely

The garden is coming along nicely--plants are starting to grow. We survived all the storms !  We've lost only 10-20 plants.

Plants in the heavy shade are growing very slowly.  So we trimmed some branches above.  In case poor soil--where the basin was excavated--is causing the slow growth, I am adding compost around all plants.  But this is taking a lot of time.

Not much watering has been required, but weeding is continuing.

We built a spillway for gardens #1 (built last year) and #2.  During a storm, it's amazing to see how garden #1 sucks up the water--very thirsty!  But if heavy rain continues for more than 15 min, garden #1 overflows, and then #2 gets a deluge.

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The full story about this garden.


When swimming, keep Ghidorzi in mind

Here are photos of Bernie's Beach on Monona Bay, and along the shore a bit east--taken on June 7.

Weeds, stimulated by phosphorus.... thanks to Ghidorzi Companies pollution.

The light circles are fish nests.

Pollution into the bay, weeds out

Here's a stunning example of the harmful effects of construction site erosion.

Construction causes 19% of the phosphorus in our lakes.  Phosphorus fertilizes weeds in the lake.

Gambling with our lakes.  Madison's romantic riverboat...
Weed cutting in Monona Bay, July 23, 2013


Pollinators in the news

Pollinators and flowers are one of the best examples of interdependence.  They show why preserving biodiversity is important.  

Flecked with gold... a fly with hairs for catching pollen, in Hartman Creek State Park, WI
How do you know it's a fly?  Just one pair of wings... bees have two pairs.


Training for "Citizen Inspectors" for erosion control

Contractor Report conducted training of "Citizen Inspectors" for erosion control at the Ideal Body Shop construction site on Monday July 22, 5:30 pm.

Three new people came to learn the ropes.  Two are residents on the shore of Monona Bay.  Since this construction site drains to the bay only a block away, they came because they want to protect the bay.  Steve Vanko came to show where the stormwater from here empties to the bay.


Citizens picket dirty construction site in Madison

On Monday, July 15, starting at 8:00 am, Steve Vanko and about 11 neighbors on Monona Bay, and other people concerned about Madison’s lakes, picketed for nearly two hours at 1102 South Park Street.

Mary Jo Ola of WISC-TV interviews Steve Vanko

They wanted to call attention to repeated pollution of Monona Bay, from the Ghidorzi Companies construction site, where they are picketing.  They feel that response from officials--to 13 sediment spills--has been ineffective.


Amazing regulatory failure--Monona Bay polluted 13 times by Ghidorzi

This is a summary of the sediment spills into Monona Bay by construction at 1102 S. Park St., by the Ghidorzi Companies.

The demolition and construction progressed from May of 2012 to July of 2013. During that time, Steve Vanko and David Thompson documented--with the photos shown below--13 sediment spills to the bay, and one extreme dust incident.

These spills were the result of failure to follow many elements of the required erosion control plan, which we'll document elsewhere.

Since 1102 S. Park Street has contaminated soil,* and because soil particles carry phosphorus, muddy runoff from the site is real pollution.


Good plants for your woodland garden

If you have a place in your yard too shady for grass to grow, consider the celandine poppy.


New rain garden at Thoreau School survives storm

A new rain garden was just finished at Thoreau School, to reduce runoff from the roof and paved playground.  Construction was organized by Jack Nolan for his Eagle Scout project.  But Jack was out of town when the dark clouds rolled in, so I was scheduled to watch the garden.

On the evening of June 12, there were at least three episodes of heavy rain.  The fledgling garden was under siege!


Basins finished for Thoreau School rain garden

On Saturday, June 1, from 9:00 to 1:00, about 17 people helped dig two basins for the second rain garden at Thoreau School. This included 10 people from Jack's scout troop.


Second rain garden planned for Thoreau School

Construction will take place Sat., June 1, 9:00 am to 1:00 pm.  
At Thoreau School, along Nakoma Rd.
Cookies and lemonade will be served.  
Bring a shovel and gloves.


At Thoreau School, runoff from the roof and a paved playground was causing a large gully to form in Nakoma Park.


Construction dust is a proven hazard for Madison

"Long term exposure to air pollution is linked to heart attacks and strokes because it speeds up hardening of the arteries, known as atherosclerosis," according to new research by University of Michigan scientists. source

"The vessels of people exposed to higher levels... of fine particulate air pollution thickened faster than others living in the same metropolitan area."

“Linking these findings with other results from the same population suggests that persons living in a more polluted part of town may have a two percent higher risk of stroke as compared to people in a less polluted part of the same metropolitan area."

Findorff Construction next to Kohl Center


The fragrance of clean water

Requeson Beach, Baja California Sur
April 9, 2013

The Sea of Cortez smells so good!  Clean water always has a fragrance.  It’s the sum--the essence--of all that’s happening in the water.


What Mars says about the Earth

Mars has much to teach us about running a planet.  What a lovely home we have--with its deep blue sky, sparkling sun, mostly clear air, and clean green landscapes!

In contrast, the dust of Mars is everywhere--turning the sky red, casting the landscape into a reddish gloom.  Dust would fill your vehicle, your spacesuit, and your habitat.  We could live there, but we'd have to manufacture every last resource--even the air to breathe.

Dust to the horizon on Mars.  NASA.


Findorff Construction spreads litter on L. Mendota

On Sunday March 10, Findorff was again unprepared for rain and thaw.  The rain amounted to .93 inches, augmented by melting snow.

The area furthest from the lake had been recently excavated, but no erosion controls were visible along the fence.

Out on the ice of Lake Mendota, Findorff had been dumping snow excavated from the construction site.  The dumping of snow was intentional--it was in large piles dropped by a power shovel.


Ordinance proposed to legalize gardens on street terraces

A "terrace" is City-owned land next to the street.  Usually, it's the portion between the street and sidewalk.

According to Isthmus, an ordinance amendment has been proposed "to make it possible for residents to plant gardens in their terraces. Part of the motivation for this amendment is to make legal what in many cases is already being done -- planting gardens and other edible or decorative landscaping in the city-owned land between the sidewalk and the street.


Living lightly--Halley research station

In Madison, erosion from construction sites is responsible for 19% of the phosphorus in our lakes.  Construction is a major cause of Madison's poor air quality.

Nationwide, a recent study shows the industry causes $14.7 billion in economic damage a year.*  Those costs are paid by all of us.

So there's a need to find greener construction techniques--to build and live lightly on the land.

Halley VI Research Station in Antarctica is a striking example of what's possible.  The buildings were built from prefabricated modules, placed on legs above the ice.


Construction at the Edgewater, Jan. 29, 2013

On January 29, temperatures reached 54 F, with rainfall of 1.84 inches. Findorff Contruction wasn't prepared for the rain.
There was a sediment spill to Lake Mendota.


Construction at the Edgewater, Jan. 19, 2013


View from the top.

View from the lake. 

A gap in the silt fence along the lakeshore, plus construction dirt spilling over into the lake.

Photos were taken on a Saturday, when temperatures were about 38 degrees.  I wanted to see if there was enough meltwater to cause erosion of sediment into the lake. Water erosion wasn't evident.

But when snow was cleared, a lot of dirt got mixed with the snow, which was dumped outside the sediment fence.  So some dirt is getting into the lake.


Dust fallout on Lake Mendota

For dust, Madison's air ranks as the 24th most polluted, out of 277 cities.

Last Saturday during a thaw, I could see dust fallout on the surface of Lake Mendota.  The Lake has been ice-covered for only a few weeks, so you can see how rapidly dust accumulates.

The dust floated on meltwater, and blew into a row along the edge of this icy pool.

Early next spring, this surface dust will become water pollution.

One of the largest contributors to dirty air is construction in Madison--our largest industry.