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Crawford County Soil and Water Concerns Committee meets
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CRAWFORD COUNTY - In another sign of the times we are living in, the Crawford County Soil and Water Concerns Committee held their April meeting via teleconference on Tuesday, April 14.

County Conservationist David Troester explained to committee members that his team is holding staggered office hours, with limited walk-in opportunities for the public. He said that the COVID-19 pandemic had created a “whirlwind” for the Human Resources Department, arranging for employees to be able to work remotely.

In his report, Troester announced that the first well water sampling for the Driftless Area Water Study (DAWS), originally scheduled for May 4 has been postponed. He said that the first sampling will be pushed back to October 26, but that the county will still work with individuals who signed up for the May sampling. There is still room for people to sign up if you live in Clayton, Scott or Utica townships.

Troester also reported that the county had experienced record sales for its annual tree sale. He attributed this to a more aggressive public awareness campaign on social media. County Board chairman Tom Cornford has approved the scheduled May 7-8 pickup to go forward as long as social distancing protocols are maintained in the process.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Troester reported, the April 23 meeting of the CAFO Study Group was cancelled. Supervisor Dave Olson recommended waiting until the end of May to schedule the next meeting. Troester said it is his plan to invite someone from the Department of Natural Resources to address the study group.

Troester also reported that his department is persevering to submit an application to make some needed repairs at the county’s only PL-566 dam, the Blackhawk-Kickapoo Dam on Johnstown Road. The dam has some seepage issues in the area where it abuts the hillside. If grant funds are secured, they will be used to do some tiling so the area is better drained.

 “We want to take a careful and proactive approach with the dam,” Troester said. “We want to prevent the area being soggy if it should ever overtop, and also make it easier for county crews to perform regular maintenance.”

The grant the department is applying for is a DNR Municipal Dam Maintenance grant. The cost of the project funded by the grant can be up to $20,000, with the grant paying for half.

The County’s tire clean up event will go forward as planned on Saturday, June 13 at the Highway Department Shop on Highway 27, just south of Seneca. While the plan is to move forward at this time, Troester also commented that his department would be evaluating the safety of holding the event as the day approached.

Troester reported he had also participated in a conference call with the LaCrosse County Clean Sweep coordinating group.

“After this year, LaCrosse no longer wants to coordinate this event with other counties,” Troester said. “So Crawford County will need to look at contracting with an environmental services company and applying for a DATCP grant to run the event.”

Streambank projects

Conservation Specialist Travis Bunting addressed the committee on the topic of the cost share cap on streambank restoration projects. Bunting told the committee that the intense rainfalls the area had received in recent years is causing plans for streambank restoration projects to  require a more intensive approach in order to prevent them from being blown out. He proposed, and the committee approved, a change to the county’s cap for cost sharing for projects from $10,000 to $15,000. This would increase the maximum possible total cost per project from $20,000 to $30,000.

“The reason we had set the cost share cap at $10,000 was to try to stretch the DNR funding we receive, about $60-70,000, over more projects,” Troester explained. “But we are finding that in order to do a project that will weather the storms, we are having to increase the sloping on the stream bank, moving more soil, and this also requires more rip rap and other materials.”

Under the old $10,000 cost share model, DATCP would pay $7,000, the county would pay $10,000, and the landowner would pay $3,000. Increasing the cap to $15,000 means DATCP pays $10,500, the county pays $15,000, and the landowner pays $4,500.