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Dane County lakes see fewer algae blooms because of weather, clean-up projects

MADISON (WKOW) — Algae blooms in Dane County’s lakes are down this year due to better weather and efforts around the county to clean and protect the watershed.

Blue-green algae blooms are an all too common sight in Madison during the summer, shutting down beaches and causing an awful smell.

“When we get a half-inch of rain or more, that’s when we tend to see a lot of nutrients get into the water and that creates good conditions for the blue-green algae,”

Jennifer Braun with Public Health Madison & Dane County says the blooms haven’t been as bad this year compared to last.

In fact, there were 187 beach day closures as of August 2nd of last year.

This year there have only been 85.

Braun says part of that has to do with the weather this summer, but also projects happening all over the area like Dane County’s Suck the Muck program which started last September.

“We go in there and hydraulically dredge this sediment from these rivers and streams,” Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said. “We’re getting thousands of pounds of phosphorus that’s in there now with the water, just flushing it into the lakes.”

County Executive Parisi says in 2018 they removed 75,000 pounds of phosphorous from Dorn creek, which flows into Lake Mendota.

That would make around 37.5 million pounds of algae in the lakes.

Even though this summer has been much better than last year, the area will still see blue-green algae blooms.

At James Madison Park, the beach was closed Friday because of a bloom that spread all the way to the Memorial Union Terrace.

However, in 2018 it was closed four times as often as this year.

Officials with the Dane County Land and Water Resources Department say we’re never going to get rid of the blooms because it is a natural process.

All the work is to make sure it doesn’t happen more than it needs to.

The next step of the Suck the Muck project will be dredging Token Creek.

It’s currently full of sediment that has been building up for nearly a hundred years.

Braun said that work from the Clean Lakes Alliance has stopped nearly 500,000 pounds of phosphorus from entering the lakes through the Yahara River watershed.

Even work that people do every day at home helps, like properly disposing of yard waste and keeping it out of rainwater drains.

“Every little bit that they do helps and we might be seeing some of that as a result of our lower closures this year,” Braun said.

Both Parisi and Braun emphasized that a massive change isn’t going to come from one year to the next, but that’s just another reason why they have to keep working.

For Parisi, it helps to see that they’re making progress already.

“To actually be able to have an impact in my home, on the lakes that I grew up on, knowing that’s what this community wants and how that impacts so many people, is incredibly rewarding,” he said.



Francisco Almenara

Reporter, WKOW

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