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DAWS study group met with scientists in Richland Center
DAWS Study

CRAWFORD, VERNON AND RICHLAND COUNTIES - The group of county conservation professionals, public health professionals and local conservation groups working to implement the Driftless Area Water Study (DAWS) met with a group of scientists that will be instrumental in moving the study forward.

Kevin Masarik, Groundwater Specialist with UW-Stevens Point, State Geologist Kenneth Bradbury, and USDA-ARS Microbiologist Mark Borchardt, met with the group in Richland Center to discuss ideas for the methodology of the DAWS study on Tuesday, August 22.

Representing the three counties were Crawford County Conservationist Dave Troester, Crawford County Public Health Director Cindy Riniker; Forest Jahnke of Crawford Stewardship Project; Vernon County Conservationist Ben Wojahn; Sydney Garvalia, Vernon County Public Health Sanitarian; Richland County Land Conservation Committee member Melissa Luck; Richland County Conservationist Cathy Cooper; Richland County Public Health Manager Rose Kohout; and Connie Champnoise of the Richland Stewardship Project.

Most of the discussion, according to the county conservationists present at the meeting, centered around the methodology for the study, and funding for the study.

Funding for study

All three county conservationists are currently in the process of proposing their 2019 budgets to their Board of Supervisors Finance Committees.

“Our committee has included the full $37,500 for our part of the study in our 2019 budget,” Troester said. “In addition, we are hoping that some funding for the study will come through from the state once the Speaker’s Task Force on Water Quality hearings conclude and the legislature goes back into session in October.”

Troester said that State Representative Loren Oldenburg had attended the last meeting of the Crawford County Board on Tuesday, August 20. While there, he had spoken to the board in favor of supporting the DAWS study.

“I support the DAWS study, and once the Wisconsin Speaker’s Task Force on Water Quality hearings are concluded, I am hopeful that we will see some funding for water studies,” Oldenburg said. “A lot of people have been asking for that, and I think we should start to see some things happening later in September. I believe that most farmers are good stewards of the land, and we need to move forward with that idea.”

Vernon County Conservationist Ben Wojahn said that his committee has asked for funding for the study.

“I have included a total amount of $25,000 for the study in my 2019 budget - $12,000 from the 2018 Ho-Chunk funds, and we envision that landowners will pay the other half of the cost,” Wojahn said. “We are also very hopeful that additional funding will become available from the State of Wisconsin.”

Wojahn said that the study coordinating group is still in discussion about how many wells would be sampled from each county. He said that his vision is that Vernon County would sample about the same number of wells as the other two counties despite the fact that there are more private wells in the county than in the other two. He pointed out that the Tainter Creek Watershed Council and the West Fork Landowners Association will also be conducting well water testing in the county.

Richland County Conservationist Cathy Cooper reported that her budget was turned over to the Richland County Finance Committee in July, and included up to $25,000 in funding for the study. She said she expects final approval of her 2019 budget in early December.

Methodology for study

The methodology of the study was a topic of considerable interest for the meeting participants.

Dr. Borchardt, who led similar studies in Kewaunee County and now, the SWIGG study in Grant, Iowa and Lafayette counties, was, according to Vernon County Conservationist Ben Wojahn, of the opinion that the kind of targeted, randomized sample selection would be best so that the data from all the studies lines up and variables are limited.

The other scientists, Kenneth Bradbury and Kevin Masarik, were, according to Wojahn, more of the belief that a “first come, first serve” approach to sample selection would not seriously jeopardize the scientific integrity of the research.

“I think that if you send people a letter asking them to have their well tested and participate in a study, that has potential to put people off,” Wojahn said. “On the other hand, allowing people to volunteer for the testing, I believe, will result in us getting more wells tested.”