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Crawford County Conservation Plan protects water
THIS ELEGANT GREAT EGRET was spotted Saturday afternoon enjoying lunch in the slough located across Highway 131 from North Crawford Schools. The egret, like so many other species in the county, is a direct beneficiary of the high quality wetlands that are available. Photo by Emily Schendel

This story is part four of a nine-part series explaining Crawford County’s proposed Land and Water Resource Management Plan. The plan was reviewed and approved by the Crawford County Board of Supervisors at their meeting on Tuesday, August 16.

Water resources are extremely important to Crawford County’s economic vitality and the quality of life residents enjoy. An abundant supply of clean water (groundwater and surface water) is a necessity in order for agriculture, forestry, tourism and recreational uses to continue to be key elements of the local economy.

Public input throughout the planning process stressed the importance of the water resources to landowners and the goals for water resource protection and enhancement reflect the public’s sentiments.

 “One very important aspect of this would be the NR151 compliance in the county. All agricultural operations are required by state statutes to comply with these standards. As of this time, the LCD’s (Land Conservation Department) main focus is on compliance monitoring of farms that are enrolled in the Farmland Preservation Program (FPP). These farms must comply with the NR151 standards to be eligible for the tax credit,” said David Troester, the Crawford County Conservationist.

Chapter NR 151 of the Wisconsin state statutes relates to runoff management.

The LCD conducts around 25 farm inspections each year.  The increase in Farmland Preservation Program participation has led to an increase in NR151 compliance.

“For farms not participating in the FPP program, the county has very few options to enforce compliance,” Troester said. “We are really trying to provide outreach and learning opportunities for producers to understand the NR151 standards and what must be done in order to comply with these.

“We would hope that all farms realize that preserving soil and maintaining water quality is essential for successful farming and for preserving our streams and rivers and keeping our drinking water healthy.

“For farms with livestock, I would suggest contacting the NRCS (Natural Resource Conservation Sertice) office to learn about options and cost-share funding for construction of manure storage structures.  Properly designed and built storage structures give operators more flexibility as to when and where they can apply their manure.”

Kewaunee and Crawford

Recent headlines from Kewaunee County, where drinking water has been shown to be contaminated with fecal matter, highlight the importance of public awareness and cooperation around this important area.

Kewaunee County residents are especially vulnerable to bacterial pollution of their drinking water. DNR records show the county has 16 CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) operating within its 1,084 square miles, whereas Crawford County has only one, Roth Feeder Pigs, near Wauzeka.

 Kewaunee County households and businesses depend almost entirely upon groundwater sources for their drinking water needs. Less than half of its residents get their water from public utilities.

A lot of this groundwater is under relatively thin soil and bedrock with lots of cracks in it, a type of geologic formation known as karst. This foundation can make it easier for bacterial contaminants to seep in to water supplies, not only from farms, but from leaking septic systems as well.

Crawford County and other counties in the Driftless region, like Kewaunee County, have a karst geology, which makes the imperative to protect even more challenging and critical.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources policy board, at their meeting in Ashland on Wednesday, August 3, approved limited plans for reducing manure contamination of public waters despite complaints about excessive dairy industry influence and worries the department won’t have staff to enforce any new rules.

Instead of stronger regulation of manure at CAFOs statewide, any new rules will apply only in yet-to-be-defined sensitive areas, where groundwater is especially vulnerable. Also removed were plans for new standards for aerial spraying of manure.

“I have not seen any definitive locations that have been deemed ‘sensitive’,” Troester said. “I also have not heard anything about the Natural Resources Board meeting the other day and what was decided.  Any changes to NR243 (the state statute governing animal feeding operations) would really only directly affect the one CAFO we have in the county. There could possibly be ripple effects if parts of the county were to be designated as ‘sensitive’…it could affect both our Water Resources and Nutrient Management goals and objectives,”

CSP: citizen science

Perhaps one of the most exciting things happening is the project called, ‘Karst Landscapes and Susceptibility – A Survey of Crawford County.’ This project is being spearheaded by the Crawford Stewardship Project.

The project goal is to engage citizens in an effort to map the karst geology of Crawford County so that there is the data needed to make wise stewardship decisions to protect groundwater for the present and future generations.

Crawford Stewardship Project and Valley Stewardship Network are excited to invite citizen partners in their study of Crawford County’s fascinating, complicated, and vulnerable geology.

Through this survey, they will provide a relevant tool for use by municipalities, farmers, and other local residents to make educated decisions about their land-use.

For more information, contact CSP Coordinator Forest Jahnke at 608-632-2183 or

Crawford County plan

Many of the major goal categories contained in the Crawford County Land and Water Resource Management plan weave into one another. For that reason, though this goal category focuses on water quality, it is easy to see that the ‘nutrient management’ goal category will also have strong implications for water quality in the county. The next in this series of articles will focus on nutrient management.

Water Quality category

Goal One: Preserve, protect and enhance surface and groundwater integrity, quality and supply.

Objective A: Inform and educate landowners (both rural and urban), on the proper use and application of fertilizers and pesticides and on methods to prevent chemicals, sediment, and other contaminants from reaching rivers and streams. Actions: 1. Provide brochures explaining proper use and application of fertilizers and pesticides; 2. Continue the pesticide applicator training program; 3. Outside the Manure Management Ordinance jurisdiction develop a 590EZ Plan that will encourage landowners to use manure management; 4. Encourage UWEX to initiate a call-in radio show to discuss proper use and application of fertilizers and pesticides on lawns and gardens; 5. Apply for education grants; 6. Provide information on radio and in newspaper on preventing urban runoff; 7. Stencil storm drains with ‘Dump no waste. Drains to river;’ 8. Provide hands-on experience for school children relating to stream rehabilitation; 9. Encourage children to talk to their parents about stream health.

Objective B: Reduce the potential of groundwater pollution from improperly constructed and mismanaged manure storage structures. Actions: 1. Inform owners and operators of mismanaged systems of a better way to manage their systems; 2. Provide technical assistance to landowners for manure storage.

Objective C: Reduce groundwater pollution from direct conduits to groundwater. Actions: 1. Develop a mechanism for distribution of educational materials on sinkholes, well abandonment, septic systems, and underground tanks; 2. Provide technical assistance on well abandonment and sinkhole protection; 3. Encourage landowners to sign up for EQIP for well abandonment and sinkhole protection.

Objective D: Reduce sediment delivery from erosion sources. Actions: 1. Implement NR 151 strategy; 2. Utilize available funding sources to cost share Best Management Practices; 3. Encourage landowners to sign up for cost-share funds and proven technical assistance for installation of Best Management Practices; 4. Invite the public to a stream bank demonstration project along county streams to review the following: Installation of rock rip rap; Installation of Lunker structures; Installation of a stream crossing; 5. Invite the public to a stream bank demonstration project on private property with cattle access to view the following: Installation of a cattle crossing; Installation of a rotational grazing system along a stream.

Objective E: Protect existing wetlands and increase wetlands through restoration activities. Actions: 1. Encourage landowners to participate in the Federal Wetland Reserve Program; 2. Work with NRCS, US F&WS, and DNR to promote wetland restoration and the Wetland Reserve Program; 3. Inform and educate the public on what wetland restoration is and why it is done; 4. Inform and educate the public about the function and need of wetlands.

Goal 2: Increase funding for cost-sharing and demonstration projects

Objective A: Increase the amount of cost-share and grant dollars available to landowners. Actions: 1. Assist landowners applying for federal cost-share programs; 2. Assist landowners applying for state cost-share dollars; 3. Apply for state grants when they are available; 4. Work with Southwest Badger RC&D to secure private grants; 5. Search for other financial assistance programs; 6. Work with local sports groups for financial assistance or volunteer help; 7. Work with federal and state agencies to secure funds for demonstrations; 8. Work with sports groups such as Trout Unlimited and Wisconsin Waterfowl to secure funds for demonstrations; 9. Meet yearly with partner agencies for updates and planning; 10. Obtain grants/funds for demonstration projects.

Objective B: Communicate and coordinate with adjacent counties on projects. Actions: 1. Maintain regular communication with adjoining counties’ LCD Directors to identify projects where cooperation would be beneficial.