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Watershed Council is moving forward with plans for 2018
ristow wth trout
LOCAL FARMER and member of the Tainter Creek Watershed Council, Bruce Ristow, holds a brown trout he caught while fishing with Len Harris during the catch-and-release season. You could start keeping the fish on Saturday, May 5 when the regular season opened.

CRAWFORD AND VERNON COUNTIES - The Tainter Creek Watershed Council’s plans for 2018 just got a little bit bigger with the almost doubling of DATCP Producer-Led Watershed Grant funds awarded to the group as a result of recent state legislation. The group’s funding increased from $17,000 to $30,004.

Vernon County Conservationist Ben Wojahn reported that the revised application for the recently increased amount of funds was based on the group’s original application.

“Previously they denied the group’s requests for funds for well-water testing in the watershed,” Wojahn said. “Now, you have been approved for well water testing in the amount of $5,000.”

Wojahn encouraged the group to set up a sub-committee to discuss how the well water testing dollars will be distributed to residents in the watershed. He explained that the fund will pay to test 18 wells, with the owner paying $50 and the grant funds paying $200. More information will be available at the group’s next meeting, scheduled for Monday, June 25, 7:30 p.m., at the Franklin Town Hall in Liberty Pole.

Plans for events

The group’s funding was also increased for educational events. Currently, the group has funding for a total of five educational events. The funding allows for $750 per event, plus $1,000 for speakers and $500 for farmer honorariums for holding the event on their farm. The total amount is $8,500.

The group’s first event will take place on Saturday, June 2 at Bruce Ristow’s farm, 50324 County Road B, in rural Soldiers Grove. The farmers of the Tainter Creek Watershed are proud of the watershed’s excellent quality, which has allowed it to be designated as a Class One trout stream since 2003. The farmers invite the general public to a Celebration of Tainter Creek’s Water Quality.

The event is designed to coincide with the DNR’s ‘Free Fishing Day,’ which is a day when no fishing license or trout stamp are required in order to fish.

There will be multiple education stations and fishing demonstrations for participants to enjoy, as well as food and beverages. Participants will be able to learn about the fish of Tainter Creek from Wisconsin DNR Fish Biologist Kirk Olson. There will be several fish shocking events, which will allow participants to see all of the different fish that are present in the stretch of water at the event site.

Insects from the creek will be discussed by DNR Ecologist Mike Miller and Dr. Jason Freund of UW-La Crosse. Fly and spin rods will be available, and casting lessons will be provided by members the Coulee Region Trout Unlimited and by noted local outdoor author Jay Ford Thurston. There will be casting games and fly-tying for kids as well.

The Mississippi Valley Conservancy will be on hand to discuss land protection and restoration efforts across the region, and TUDARE will discuss their work to protect the coldwater watersheds in the Driftless Region, and their plans for work in the summer of 2018 in the Tainter Creek Watershed. Valley Stewardship Network will explain and demonstrate their citizen water monitoring program and techniques. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will also provide a rainfall simulator, which demonstrates what happens with soil and runoff during small, moderate and catastrophic rain events.

Tainter Creek runs through Ristow’s property, and the Ristows have been longtime participants with Valley Stewardship’s  ‘Water Action Volunteer’ program, which conducts water quality sampling in the Driftless Region. Ristow has also been active in supporting the activities of Trout Unlimited Driftless Area Restoration Effort (TUDARE) activities in the watershed.

To RSVP for the event, contact Sarah McDowell with the Vernon County Land Conservation Department at 608-637-5480.

The group is also looking into securing Ray Archuleta, described as the “Mick Jaeger of Soil Science,” for an educational field day. Tentative dates, if Archuleta is confirmed, would be July 25-26 for a Wednesday dinner event, and a Thursday field day.

The group agreed by unanimous acclamation to spend up to a total of $4,000 to bring Archuleta to the area, and other funding sources will be sought as well.

Another event the group is working on is to take a group of farmers from the watershed to attend an event in Sauk County at the farm of the 2017 State Conservation Farmer of the Year, the Yanke family of Echo-Y Farms. At the event to be held August 17 near Loganville, conservationists and farmers from around the state will gather to celebrate and learn with farm tours, lunch, and presentations.

Cover crop funding

The last thing the group discussed was the work of the cover crop sub-committee in recommending how to award the $13,500 in funds to promote installation and use of cover crops in the watershed. With the increase in funding, the amount per acre has increased from $15 per acre to $27 per acre, still for a total of 500 acres.

Berent Froiland reported to the group that at the time of the meeting he knew of interest expressed for the installation of 400 acres of cover crops in the watershed. Four or five farmers had expressed interest in “getting started very soon.”

This prompted a discussion among group members about the difference between a ‘nurse crop,’ planted in the spring, and a ‘cover crop,’ typically planted in the autumn. The group agreed that they preferred to dedicate their funding to cover crops versus nurse crops.

Derek Petersheim provided the group with informtion about what the total cost of installation of cover crops typically is.

“Just to buy the seed will cost pretty close to $27 per acre,” Petersheim explained. “And then there is the question about whether you’re installing a one-species or a multi-species cover crop. Installing multiple species will cost more.”

Ben Wojahn said that NRCS estimated the cost to install a multi-species cover crop as about $70 per acre, with the seed distributed through Crawford County’s aerial planting program.

The cost of participation in Crawford County’s aerial cover crop planting program is about $30 per acre plus the cost of seed. The Vernon County Conservationist reminded meeting participants that it is also not too late to sign up for NRCS EQIP funding for installation of cover crops in the fall of 2018. If a Tainter Creek Watershed farmer in Vernon County wants to participate in Crawford County’s program, they will simply stipulate an assignment of payment to go to Crawford County. Applications are due to local USDA Service Centers by May 18, 2018.

Grant Rudrud reported that he understood that the cost of custom application is $15 per acre, with the seed costing about another $30. Berent Froiland said that Chaseburg Co-op will do custom application for $4 per acre.

There was also discussion of what the ideal time frame for installation of cover crops is. Wojahn said that the ideal date is by September 15, and definitely before the end of October.

Derek Petersheim pointed out that some of the worst erosion is coming off fields with soybean stubble. He said it might make sense for the group to prioritize cover crops installed on fields that were cropped in soybeans in the 2018 growing season.

The group decided on the following priorities in awarding cover crop installation funds:

• installation into fields grown in row crops in 2018;

• maximum of 40 acres per applicant; and

• preference for multi-species planting and innovative approaches.

Jeff Ostrem made a motion to approve these priorities, Danny Sheldon seconded the motion, and the group approved the priorities.