Citizen Advocacy, Science and River Protection FLOWing Together on the Lower Wisconsin River

Jan 15, 2015 | Agriculture, Citizen Advocacy, Local Groups

Longtime River Alliance collaborators Friends of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway (FLOW) have scored a victory for the Lower Wisconsin River, by working in partnership with the Driftless Area Land Conservancy land trust, Midwest Environmental Advocates law firm, and private landowners Doug and Sherryl Jones to obtain a permanent conservation easement on a parcel of land adjacent to Norton Slough, an environmentally-sensitive floodplain lake of the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway.

Dave Marshall

Not only will the easement reduce surface runoff pollution to the slough by converting 11 acres of cropland to native plants, it will also provide an opportunity to study the potential use of deep-rooted prairie plants to intercept and “take up” nitrate-rich groundwater as it moves sub-surface from higher elevations currently in crop production (hence the nitrate, from fertilizer) towards the slough, which sits at a lower elevation. The hypothesis is that that the groundwater that passes through the prairie will enter the slough with reduced levels of nitrates, which will improve the health of the slough.

Kudos to FLOW, landowners Doug and Sherryl Jones, and all partners involved for making this innovative project a reality! We will follow it with interest, as it may present a model for future pollution-reduction efforts in the state of Wisconsin, and beyond.

FLOW board member and “slough pirate” Dave Marshall is a real-life Lorax – he speaks for the sloughs. ┬áHe is pictured on the right testing water quality, to guage the health of a Lower Wisconsin River slough.

Read FLOW’s account of the project here.

And for a deeper analysis of the issue of groundwater, nitrates and pollution in the Lower Wisconsin River area, see this article from River Alliance’s own pressroom.