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FLOW board hears Science Committee report
FLOW lake naming contest

ARENA - Friends of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway (FLOW) gathered for their July board meeting at Grandma Mary’s Café in Arena on Thursday, July 28. The eleven board members, science committee members, and interested citizens present heard reports from the FLOW Science Commmittee, a presentation from Nate Lawrence of the Savanna Institute, and discussed field trips.

Science Committee

Dave Marshall and Susan Graham of the FLOW Science Committee reported on their work at a ‘borrow pit’ man-made lake on Highway 78 near Mazomanie. Since the last meeting, the committee has sampled water quality, and conducted an aquatic plants and fish survey. 

The FLOW Science Committee had submitted a successful grant application to Dane County for $600. The funds, already received, will be used to help pay for water quality sampling for the project.

DNR’s Arthur Watkinson, and science committee members Susan Graham and Jean Unmuth conducted the aquatic plants survey. Graham reported that the water lilies were growing so thickly on the lake, it was a challenge for them to circulate to their various sampling points with their boat.

 “Preliminary results showed the most abundant native species were creeping bladderwort, white water lily and common muskgrass,” Graham said. “Invasive curlyleaf pondweed was identified in very small amounts.” 

Marshall reported that the latest water quality sampling results showed nitrate below the level of detection, total phosphorus 0.014 mg/L, and total nitrogen – 0.6 mg/L. which 

“These water quality results reflect the nearly pristine quality of the water in the lake, supplied and protected by uplands land use in the area,” Marshall explained.  “What this means is that the lake is ‘oligotrophic,’ or very low in plant nutrients and containing abundant oxygen in the deeper parts.” 

Marshall reminded folks that the naming contest is still on for the lake, with names to be e-mailed to The lake is currently unnamed, and FLOW plans to forward the winning name to the state board that oversees place names. The winner will potentially get to have their name used to formally name the lake, and to win $100 from FLOW. 

Submit your proposed lake name here:

Marshall reported he, Ron Grasshoff, and Tim Larson of the Science Committee had electroshocked the lake recently to conduct the fish survey, and found Starhead Top Minnows, numerous adults and young-of-the-year, documenting that the fish placed in the lake are naturally reproducing. In addition, they found blue gills and small mouth bass, which he says may have been stocked, and green sunfish and grass pickerel, which may have been deposited into the lake in times of flooding. 

He said that recent netting in the Gallus Slough in Lake Wisconsin had also established that Starhead Top Minnows stocked there are naturally reproducing. 

“What this means is that an endangered fish species is a little safer due to FLOW’s activities,” Marshall said.

Marshall also reported that Ken Wade had made a $500 donation to FLOW to repair their old nitrate sensor, which has since be determined to be obsolete, with parts no longer available. He said that to purchase a newer model would cost about $3,000, and discussions are underway about how these funds could be raised. 

“This would be one area where collaboration with the Savanna Institute might be beneficial,” Marshall said to Nate Lawrence. “FLOW Science Team members have conducted sampling at 48 wells over the years, and also offered well water testing to the public at education events.”

Savanna Institute

Nate Lawrence, Ecosystems Scientist at the Savanna Institute, was the guest presenter at the meeting. He told the board he had recently been hired at the Savanna Institute after completing a PhD at the Iowa State University at Ames. 

Lawrence discussed plans for ground and surface water quality monitoring at the four farms owned by Savanna Institute in their Wisconsin group.

“The goal of my work is to document the water quality and climate mitigation impacts of agroforestry,” Lawrence explained. “Most of the properties are still transitioning out of annual cultivation, so initially, I hope to obtain some baseline data on water quality for purposes of comparison.” 

Lawrence told the group that at the farms on Lowery Creek, he will use existing wells supplying the homes for water sampling, and will also sample water in the creek. At the Jones Road property, he has installed five shallow wells, with the possibility of later installation of wells at varying depths. 

At the Jones Road wells, Nate has deployed a resin lysimeter instrument, which will measure leaching of nutrients through the soil profile and into groundwater aquifers. 

Dave Marshall shared that FLOW’s water sampling had found lower nitrate in shallower wells due to denitrification, and more nitrate in deeper wells in the sand terraces.

“I wanted to reach out to FLOW to explore what synergies might exist between our two organizations,” Lawrence said.

Field trips

In the course of discussion of ideas for future ‘Go with the FLOW’ field trips, Don Golembiewski said that, though he had decided to step down from the board, he would still be available to assist with planning of field trips. Ideas brainstormed included night sky watching, and birding, and insects on prairies at the former Badger Ammunition Plant site.