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Land Conservation Committee takes up plenty of business
Crawford County Board of Supervisors
Conway Creek project schematic
THIS MAP shows the planned streambank restoration efforts planned by TUDARE on Conway Creek. The creek is a tributary of Tainter Creek, and joins with it just south of Star Valley. The work will take place on the Rayner Family property, adjacent to the recent restoration of a stretch of Tainter Creek.

CRAWFORD COUNTY - Despite the fact that the vote not to recommend a one-year extension of the county’s CAFO Moratorium grabbed headlines last week, the Crawford County Land Conservation Committee took up many other agenda items at their September 8 meeting as well. 

In the Land Use part of the meeting, septic systems and cell towers were on the agenda. In the Soil and Water Concerns part of the meeting, invasive species control, the Clean Sweep Grant, the Driftless Area Water Study (DAWS), a proposed land donation, award of Conservation Aids Grants, and cover crop installation acres were topics addressed.

Septic systems

Crawford County Conservationist Dave Troester reported to the committee about progress with septic systems for Sanitation and Zoning Technician Jake Shedivy, who was on vacation.

“Jake has been out doing lots of septic system installation inspections this summer,” Troester said. “Last week, we submitted 16 completed Wisconsin Fund projects to the state for payment, and eight more are almost done.”

Troester reported that the state legislature has not acted to extend Wisconsin Fund funding, which provides assistance to lower income landowners in bringing their septic systems up to code.

“Our county still needs those funds,” Troester observed. “There are still USDA grants available, and we are working on securing that source of funding for county residents who qualify.”

Cell towers

Troester reported that Shedivy had received a lot of phone calls recently about the Bug Tussel cell tower plan that received an initial approval of the county board.

“We still don’t have any applications for permits from Bug Tussel,” Troester said. “This is on our radar, but we haven’t had any communication from Bug Tussel for months and months.”

County Board Chairman Tom Cornford said that the Finance Committee had asked Bug Tussel to attempt to co-locate on as many existing cell phone towers in the county as possible.

Invasive species

Troester told the committee that his department had recently submitted an invasive species control grant application to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR).

“The River Alliance has been approved to do the work for the county,” Troester said. “But it is unclear whether they will have the necessary time or staff available.”

Clean Sweep Grant

Troester reminded the committee that this year’s Clean Sweep event would take place on Friday, Oct. 23, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Crawford County Highway Shop on Highway 27, just south of Seneca.

“In years past, LaCrosse County has applied for a regional Clean Sweep grant,” Troester said. “This year is the last year they are doing that, and so if we want to continue with this program in our county, we will have to apply for the grant and hire a private vendor.”

Troester said that the deadline for the county to apply for the grant is the end of September.

DAWS water study

According to Troester, the Finance Committee is still committed to provide the needed funding for the Driftless Area Water Study. They had expressed disappointment that the legislature had not approved the additional funding recommended by the Speaker’s Task Force on Water Quality to assist counties with funding of water quality studies.

“I have a meeting next week with the DAWS coordinating group to finalize plans for the fall testing event,” Troester said. “We currently have nine well owners in each of our townships that have agreed to participate in the testing event this fall.”

Troester said that the DAWS group has been discussing the method for distribution of testing supplies, and for collection of samples in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We think it is very valuable when providing the testing supplies to participants to be able to go over the sample collection process with them,” Troester said. “However, this will mean that our staff and testing participants will have to have a face-to face meeting.”

Troester said that it would cost about $5-7 to have the testing supplies mailed directly to participants. He said that instructions for sample collection would be included with the supplies. If testing supplies were not distributed via U.S. Mail, then he said that participants would have to come to the office in Prairie du Chien to pick them up.

“I think you should also have a pick-up location in Gays Mills if you go that route,” FSA representative Bob Standorf said. “That would be more convenient for citizens in the northern part of the county.”

“I think we should require the testing supplies be picked up rather than mailed,” Committee Chairman Don Olson said. “That way we won’t be increasing the cost of the study.”

Proposed land donation

Troester told the committee that he had recently been contacted by a county landowner who is interested in donating a few acres along Pine Creek to the county for a park.

“He told me that he had recently seen Crowley Park, and is interested in having his acres on Pine Creek used for a similar sort of county park,” Troester said. “The 4.33 acres he proposes to donate are valued at about $700, and the annual taxes on it are about $15 per year.”

Troester said that if the county took the landowner up on the offer, there would need to be a maintenance plan for mowing and upkeep.

County Board Chairman Tom Cornford told Troester that he should forward information about the proposal to him and County Highway Commissioner Kyle Kozelka, and they would discuss the proposal at the next Highway Committee meeting.

Conservation Aids

Each year the county applies for and receives Conservation Aids funds from the WDNR. The dollar amounts of the grant are matched by the county. This year, the county will receive $1,451, and with the county match (if approved in the budget), there would be a total of $2,902 available.

“There is also the possibility that if other counties don’t take their funding, our county could get additional funds,” Troester said. “It is possible that we will be able to double the funding, receiving $2,902 from the state, and with matching funds, could have as much as $5,804 available.”

Troester reported that his department had received two proposals seeking funding from the program for 2021. The first is a request from the Prairie du Chien Rod & Gun Club for a stream restoration project on Conway Creek in Utica Township. The second is a request from the City of Prairie du Chien for funding for interpretive signage for LaRiviere Park.

Jerry Cummings was present from the Rod & Gun Club to speak about his group’s proposal.

“First, I want to thank this committee for recognizing Bill Howe at your Conservation Awards Ceremony this year,” Cummings said. “Second, I’d like you to consider funding the Conway Creek stream restoration project.”

Cummings explained that the Conway Creek project had first been introduced to the committee in 2018. He said the three-phase project started first on a section of Tainter Creek on the Rayner property. He said that the family had granted a perpetual fishing easement, which is the baseline for garnering Rod & Gun Club support. He said that Trout Unlimited has hired Mike Leonard from the WDNR crew, who will begin clearing trees and installing temporary seeding and mulch in three weeks.

“Our club has submitted an application for a $25,000 grant for the project from the Fish America Foundation, and we are out beating the bushes for financial support,” Cummings said. “The project has four goals: reduce sediment and erosion; stabilize the banks to reduce soil loss; improve trout and non-game species habitat; and work with UW-Madison on a study about the effects of converting a box elder corridor to a clear corridor on water temperature and trout populations.”

Troester reported that the City of Prairie du Chien is seeking $1,000 to put up an additional 20 signs in LaRiviere Park, at a cost of $50 per sign.

Wade Dull moved, and the committee approved granting $1,000 to the City of Prairie du Chien, and $1,902 to the Prairie du Chien Rod & Gun Club, contingent upon approval of the matching funds in the 2021 Crawford County Budget.

USDA-NRCS report

Crawford County USDA-NRCS District Conservationist was not present at the meeting, but Troester provided a report in her absence.

“So far this year, 47 EQIP contracts have been signed for Crawford County residents, 11,000 acres have been enrolled in five-year Conservation Stewardship Program, and 15 Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program contracts have been signed,” Troester said. “Also, cover crops were aerially planted on over 12,000 acres over the course of six days, using three planes.”