Monday, August 28, 2006

Continued development threatens Dane County aquifer

While a conservancy protects Pheasant Branch Creek, surrounding development and the growing need for groundwater remain threats. The creek relies on groundwater from the same sandstone aquifer that feeds municipal wells. (Photo by Craig Schreiner, Wisconsin State Journal).

Originally uploaded by Wisconsin River Groups.
A recent Wisconsin State Journal article (8/27/06) highlighted the stress development is putting on the deep sandstone aquifer that supplies all Dane County communities with their drinking water. Aquifer withdrawals have been increasing steadily over the last few decades, with especially rapid growth in some of the Madison suburbs. The increasing withdrawals have already affected natural resources that depend on the groundwater, with springs disappearing, wetlands drying up and the base flows of streams such as Token Creek dropping. Even protected waters—such as Pheasant Branch Creek, protected by the Pheasant Branch Conservancy—can be affected by nearby municipal wells.

The county currently does not have a comprehensive water management plan, which might help in future decisions about additional well sitings and withdrawals.

To read the full story on the State Journal’s Web site, click here.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Ken Anderson's Lost River

Pat Durkin column: Fishing for memories
Childhood memory turns into search of a lifetime
All fishermen who grew up in the sport have at least one secret place in their heart and mind where they fished once or twice with their father, caught lots of fish, and never returned.
For Ken Anderson, 61, of Eagle River, that special place is a cold creek in a deep forest valley near the Wisconsin-Michigan border.
He remembers a hillside view of the valley. He remembers two open bends in the creek as it flows into a beaver pond. He remembers he and his dad caught their limits of brook trout, which in those days was 10 fish of at least 6 inches each.
You can continue this article at the Green Bay Press Gazette

Stories like this are what River Alliance of Wisconsin is looking for their River Words.
River Words is designed to display and capture memories and inspiring moments. We encourage you to take inspiration from the stories posted on our website, and feel inspired to add your own story -- about one of the rivers described there, or another one that you call your "home river."
Send your River Words essay to Keep it under 500 words, and please include a digital photo of yourself on, in, or near your river if you have some. Identify yourself and your home town.
River Alliance reserves the right to edit the essays for length and content.
You can view the River Words by clicking here

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

FLOW Family Campout!

FLOW Canoe and kid
Originally uploaded by Wisconsin River Groups.
FLOW (Friends of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway) will be hosting their annual "FLOW Family Campout" on August 19 & 20. Everyone is welcome to participate! Families with children and/or first time river users are especially encouraged to join the fun and learn how to use the river safely.

The group will be tent camping on a sandbar near Spring Green on Saturday night, Aug. 19.

The organization will regroup at 1pm Sunday, Aug. 20 for a hike to the top of the Spring Green Nature Conservancy.

FLOW volunteers will ferry the camper's tents and gear by motorboat to the campsite on Saturday morning. After setting up camp; the group will shuttle canoes to paddle from the Arena boat launch to the campsite. This could very well be the LAST time you and your children will have the opportunity to view unspoiled landscape similar to what Marquette and Jolliet saw when they came down the river 334 years ago. (A communications tower with strobe lights will soon be erected near the Nature Conservancy)

People who only want to paddle are welcome to join just for the day trip. People who only want to go along on the hike up the Conservancy can come just for that on Sunday.

For more information (or to be added to FLOW's email list) send an email to: or call:

Timm Zumm FLOW Co-chair 608-575-0325

A Movement With Over 160 Moving Parts

-From Allison Werner, River Alliance Local Groups Program Manager

Recently a River Alliance of Wisconsin friend made the comment that local river groups are the heart and soul of the River Alliance of Wisconsin. As the new manager for the Local Groups Program, I liked his sentiment, but it also made me wonder how true that statement was.

It is true that local river groups are central to the River Alliance’s mission. We define local groups as grassroots river or watershed based organizations. A local group can be all-volunteer or have many staff, and they can work on specific issues or cover broad concerns in their watershed.

Each of the River Alliance’s program areas are connected to local groups. Many local groups have alerted us to pressing state-wide water issues, submitted comments to or spoken at public hearings, and have informed and supported our Water Policy Program. Local river groups have been at the forefront in advocating free flowing streams through dam removal. These are also the groups that hold events to celebrate, clean, and monitor the water quality of the rivers in Wisconsin.

The core purpose of our Local Groups Program is to support, strengthen and sustain the more than 160 local watershed groups found throughout Wisconsin. We help them build a solid foundation on which to grow their organization by consulting, offering trainings, workshops and conferences, and much more.

I firmly believe in the value of organizational trainings, and not merely because the River Alliance offers them. I know workshops such as Benchmarking and Leadership Development as well as statewide river conferences are valuable because as the former executive director of the Root-Pike Watershed Initiative Network, I participated in these River Alliance trainings. Taking the time to evaluate the organization and my skills, and plan for the future of our watershed, made Root-Pike WIN a more effective organization. Beyond the usefulness of the information, it was always great to meet other river people and learn how they were addressing issues in their watersheds.

As volunteers or staff of a local watershed group I hope you consider contacting us to discuss the assistance we can provide you. Our door is always open.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Foster a butterfly

When Barb Agnew found out that the MMSD construction project in Wauwatosa involved bulldozing a monarch butterfly nesting site, she decided to take action. Barb rescued hundreds of monarch eggs from the County Grounds and brought them to her home for safe keeping. She is now fostering the eggs while they grow into larvae and then butterflies. She is overwhelmed with the number of monarch eggs, and is looking for foster homes for some of her charges. If you know how to foster monarch eggs and have access to fresh milkweed, you are the perfect foster parent!

Contact FMR to find out more about this opportunity: 414-287-0207 x28 or

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

River Stencils for Wisconsin Groups

River Bloggers,

I invited Lori Daniel, from Earthwater Stencils to let you know of their good products for your river protection efforts. Here's what she says:

Dear Wisconsin Watershed Groups,

Storm drain stenciling is fun, easy, and a great way to involve a broad spectrum of community members in local service and stewardship. Let Earthwater Stencils, a non-profit supporting watershed protection, assist you with your watershed education program. We carry a variety of stencils including custom and specialized message and image options. We have numerous stock aquatic life images to represent your ecosystem. Design your message with the name of your local watershed or watershed group – make a connection to make a difference. We also offer program support with educational materials and a detailed checklist to make your stenciling project a success. Please visit our new website at: for complete product information - we look forward to working with you to protect your watershed!


Lori Daniel

Graphic Designer, Earthwater Stencils

Friday, July 28, 2006


Jay Krienitz
Originally uploaded by jaykrienitz.
Recently, one of the bloggers commented on the Little Plover River article. Ray left us all more informed about this terrible groundwater problem facing Wisconsin. Take a look at his comment by clicking on the "comment" link on the bottom of the posting of the LPR article. I'd be very interested to hear if other groups are seeing the signs Ray points out to us on your home rivers. Maybe we can learn from this "canary in a coal mine" that may fortell a problematic future for many of Wisconsin's watersheds.

-Jay Krienitz
River Alliance of Wisconsin

Monday, July 24, 2006

Friends of Starkweather Creek receive 6 shorts in MSJ

Life On The Creek

Wisconsin State Journal

Saturday, July 22, 2006
SANDY CULLEN 608-252-6137

At the corner of Milwaukee Street and Starkweather Creek, where a busy Madison roadway crosses an urban waterway, blues musicians Shari Davis and Bill Beckman have cars racing past the front of their house, and ducks lounging in back.

Like the ducks -- upwards of a dozen at times -- Beckman and Davis take refuge in a natural oasis they have created in their yard along narrow Clyde Gallagher Avenue, which separates their property from the creek's banks.

They are among a contingent of stalwart East-siders who share a deep connection with the creek, which for decades had been dismissed by many as a drainage ditch for storm water runoff and industrial waste and a dumping ground for everything from shopping carts to bicycles.

But those who know the creek and its diverse natural and human habitat more intimately see it differently.

For residents like Jane Rowe, a former public school librarian who chose a home for her retirement on a stretch of the creek's west branch between the gritty traffic of Milwaukee Street and the quiet beauty of Olbrich Gardens, living on Starkweather rivals the prized waterfront homes rimming lakes Monona and Mendota.

For the past several years, members of the nonprofit group Friends of Starkweather Creek have been working on their own, as well as with the city of Madison, to clean up and preserve the urban stream and increase awareness of the importance of its wetlands, as well as the special habitat it harbors.

Now, more and more people are discovering what those who live along or near Starkweather Creek find so appealing.

For other articles posted in the WSJ about the Friends of Starkweather Creek:

OPEN TO MORE. Paths on Starkweather Creek. WSJ.





Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Little Plover River Dries up Again!

2005 event where LPR dried up Little Plover River Dries Up DOUG WOJCIK/Stevens Point Journal

For the second year in a row, the Little Plover River, just outside of Stevens Point, dried up. Last year, the local community of Plover, Wisconsin, and conservationists from around the state were shocked with the news that one of Wisconsin’s small, yet beautiful rivers dried up.

Since then, a local river group has formed and is advocating for the protection of the Little Plover River. Barb Feltz, one of the leaders of the group and a local citizen, cannot believe that it’s happening again. “The creek stops flowing right at my property. I walked about a ¼ mile down what is now only a dry river bottom riddled with dying river creatures and saw enough. Well meaning people procrastinated again until she quit flowing.”

Even with river monitoring and a working group made up of key decision makers and stakeholders, steps were not taken to protect adequate groundwater flow to the LPR. “The village sent an employee to check on it daily, the University of Wisconsin captured flow data, and every day I watched the Little Plover recede” says Barb.

2005 event where LPR dried upThe Little Plover is a groundwater-fed stream, obtaining almost 90% of its flow from groundwater. Because the stream is groundwater fed, the water temperature is naturally cooler, making it ideal for a cold-water fishery. The LPR has historically been a Class 1 trout stream with native naturally reproducing brook trout. The Little Plover has continually shown decreased flow rates due to extensive water use for agricultural and municipal purposes. However, even in previous periods of severe drought, the river has never gone dry. Drying up for a second year in a row adds to the continued decline of what was once a river teeming with life.

Barb Feltz and the rest of the Friends of the Little Plover River are committed to working for the protection of their home river. “Each time she quits, a little life is drained from her, and she will never be the same” Says Barb. “Last year I was really helpless because I didn’t know who to contact, this year the list is extensive and she still dried up. Where do we go from here?”

The Friends of the Little Plover River's reccomended action item:

write a letter to the village of Plover asking them to implement a watering ban and offer water conservation tips…talk to your representative on the Portage County citizen’s groundwater advisory committee at the Portage County Groundwater Website

Monday, July 17, 2006

Using Rivers as Toxic Dumps

The DNR and EPA will soon propose to amend our hard-fought $400 million dollar Fox River PCB and mercury cleanup plan to allow polluters to leave several permanent hazardous waste dump sites in the river, capping the toxins only with sand, rock and in some areas geotextile fabric. This method has never been successfully demonstrated in a large flowing river like ours, especially over many centuries of erosion and disturbance. In fact, several recent attempts at other sites have failed. Capping is a cheap, short-term fix with a high risk of failure and recontamination in the long term, yet the polluters hope to be relieved of all future liability after the capping is complete.

We need your help to create a brief flurry of intense statewide attention and pressure during a public hearing and comment period planned for this September and October.

The agencies are proposing a final cleanup plan which represents a major modification or amendment to the cleanup "Record of Decision" (ROD) we fought so hard for back in 2002 and 2003. The original ROD had called primarily for dredging and landfilling of all sediments greater than 1 ppm PCBs, at a total cost of $400 million dollars (including monitoring). Dredging would have been conducted using a vacuum-style hydraulic dredge to produce only minimal leakage.

For more information, please visit:

Rebecca Katers
Clean Water Action Council

  • Friday, July 14, 2006

    Unlocking the Mystery to Organizing For Rivers

    Jay Krienitz
    Originally uploaded by jaykrienitz.
    Ellen Barnard never imagined that she would be the founder of a new local river group. But like may people around the Cherokee Marsh, within the Upper Yahara River watershed just north of Madison, she was compelled to act: the large housing development proposed for her neighborhood is progressing rapidly, and the thought of losing everything she loves about the area was too much to take.

    Despite good laws like the Clean Water Act, and hundreds of state and local laws and ordinances, every day in Wisconsin there is a reason for ordinary people like Ellen to be outraged, and organize to protect their river. Manure spills kill fish, Milwaukee sewage overflows foul Lake Michigan, and construction sites send three times more soil to rivers on a per-acre basis than a cornfield. Political pressure not to enforce water quality laws and economic pressures to create jobs, build thirsty water parks and golf courses, all work against river protection.

    This is why more and more river and watershed protection groups spring up across the state, now numbering around 160. People like Ellen take their newfound awareness of the issues affecting their home rivers and organize their communities to find real solutions.

    Many river groups start up in ways similar to Ellen’s Friends of Cherokee Marsh and the Upper Yahara Watershed. Groups form around one particular burning issue, which builds energy for community organizing. However, when that original issue eventually gets resolved—the housing development gets built, the factory closes down, the dam gets taken out, the farm cleans up its act—groups find themselves without direction. They wonder why they don’t have the members they need, the volunteers they want, and the leaders to continue the good work of the organization. This happens regardless of if they won or lost their fight.

    All the groups that continue to have energy and success have one thing in common: they are aware of all the important issues affecting their river, now and into the future. They also understand many of the following factors:

    • Solving the issue must result in a real improvement in the water body they have organized to protect
    • People should get a sense of their own power, as citizens exercising their democratic rights
    • They must address an economic angle that would benefit the community
    • Their issue must be easily understood, and people must see a path to winning
    • They must know what “success” would be, and have a clear timeframe for it
    • The group builds leadership through its work on the issue
    • Their organizing alters the relations of power by giving strength to local citizens
    • Their issue must be presented in a way that builds unity amongst the community and appeals its core values.

    River groups may form when they have a big issue to take on, but those groups that sustain themselves and succeed are mindful of many of these factors. And as they succeed, they find the keys to unlocking the mysterious nature of grassroots organizing.

    Look on the River Alliance of Wisconsin’s website,, or on this Wisconsin River Groups Blog,, for information about these groups. Learn how you can help them or, just as good, learn how they can help you.

    Thursday, July 13, 2006

    Friends of Riverfront mimic a Sunday Afternoon

    From the Associated Press:

    The Friends of Riverfront planned this scene [mimicking Seurat's "Sunday Afternoon in the Park"] and took a photo of the result. The group will use the photo to promote a new August event called "Saturday in the Park with Friends."

    Jeff Adams, a member of Friends of Riverfront, said he thought of Seurat's painting while looking for ways to promote the new event. Seurat's 1884 painting shows people enjoying a day along a river.

    Friends Executive Director Becky Moffett and a local photographer picked a spot along the Rock River that looked similar to the scene in the painting.

    For the full story, click here
    Visit the Friends of Riverfront at

    Tuesday, July 11, 2006

    River Network's River Rally 2006 and its great resources for local groups

    Several of Wisconsin’s local groups were able to attend River Network’s annual River Rally, thanks to scholarships provided by the Department of Natural Resources and the good offices of Todd Ambs. We asked the conference attendees to share some of the great resources they discovered at the conference. A few of the suggested materials are below. For the entire list click here.

    Fundraising for Grassroots Groups

    · Big Gifts For Small Groups: A 1-Hour Board Member’s Guide to Securing Gifts of $500 to $5,000, by Andy Robinson

    · Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Network & Fund ( includes materials and grant sources for projects in the great lakes basin

    Want to see the Rally Presentations?

    · The River Rally presentations can be downloaded from post.cfm?doc_id=933

    What's a Watershed Assessment?

    · Stony-Brook-Millstone Watershed Association’s “Municipal Assessment: Partnering with Local Governments”, http://

    · Rocky Mountain Watershed Network

    Advice from the queen of fundraising

    Wisconsin River Groups Blog


    Dear Kim:

    I am the Development Director for a very small environmental organization that until recently was self-funded and run by all volunteers. I am designing a development program from the ground up and I would like to build our individual donor base. Currently, there are 200 names in our database, 53 of whom made donations last year, for a total of just over $15,000. We are not a membership organization. My question is: What is the best way to increase the number of donors/prospects in our database? (Other than board brainstorming.)

    --People Who Need People Are the Luckiest People

    To learn what advice Kim had to say, click here

    Upper Yahara and Cherokee Marsh group in Wisconsin State Journal

    Cherokee Marsh

    Photo: STEVE APPS - State Journal

    Originally uploaded by Wisconsin River Groups.


    From the edge of Cherokee Marsh, a layperson might view the ferny, leafy plants in the Yahara River as weeds.

    But Russ Hefty, city of Madison conservationist, says the sago pondweed, long-leaf pondweed and duck potato are extremely valuable aquatic plants - despite what their names may imply.

    They're also happy signs of progress in Hefty's battle to save the region's last large marsh from further erosion. More than 640 acres have been washed away by high waters and wind over the past 150 years.

    So, after all that work, if anything were to threaten the marsh - or its fens, prairies and woodlands - the longtime city employee would be the first to complain.

    Read the rest of the article at Wisconsin State Journal website

    Friday, June 30, 2006

    Local groups and statewide conservation organizations join forces to protect 1,100 miles of rivers!

    News! On June 28, 2006, the Natural Resources Board unanimously voted to extend protections to approximately 1,100 miles of rivers in northern Wisconsin on 45 different rivers. These protections allow economic development while at the same time ensure that the water will remain clean for future generations.

    Midwest Environmental Advocates joined the River Alliance of Wisconsin and 42 other local and statewide conservation organizations in a petition to the Natural Resources Board calling for greater protection for the top 100 northern Wisconsin river segments.

    For more information, go to: the River Alliance of Wisconsin or Midwest Environmental Advocates

    Tuesday, June 13, 2006

    FMR Wins Make a Difference Day Award!

    From USA

    Extreme volunteering: Daring urban river cleanup

    Working along 75-foot-tall, overgrown riverbanks in freezing drizzle, amid clumps of dead fish, is no treat. Grappling with 6 tons of trash, including scrapped shopping carts, bikes, tires, a wheelchair -- even a 15-foot-long, snaking guardrail -- is no treat, either.

    But it is a treat to have a clean river in your neighborhood. That's what 80 Milwaukee South Side residents of all ages -- half of whom were first-time volunteers -- learned on Make A Difference Day.

    "The difference is staggering," says Derek Dunn, 24, who researched Make A Difference Day online and helped organize the Kinnickinnic River cleanup through Friends of Milwaukee's Rivers. "This massive effort was the community coming out and reclaiming its river."

    For the complete article CLICK HERE

    For more about this event and photos from the FMR website CLICK HERE

    Friday, June 09, 2006

    Make a Date With a River!

    Come and join fellow river folk this summer! The River Alliance has a great schedule of exciting events for everyone from 9 to 92. Find our more at
  • River Alliance Upcoming Events
  • Thursday, June 08, 2006

    Friends of Pheasant Branch

    The Friends of Pheasant Branch have successfully won ambitious local campaigns to protect the Pheasant Branch and the land around it. If ever there was a local group to inspire, they'd be at the top of the list. Want to know their story? How'd they raise over 1 Million dollars to conserve land? Email them your questions and comments. You can find their information on the local groups directory linked on this blog.

    Wednesday, June 07, 2006

    Friends of the Little Plover River

    This is a great shot of a small, yet fantastic local group. The Little Plover River dried up in 2005 due to groundwater pumping. This group hopes that the river never dries up again. Send them your encouragement, and help them reach their goal to protect this jewel in central Wisconsin. You can find their information on the local groups directory link on this blog. Thanks!

    Monday, June 05, 2006

    New Blog for Wisconsin River Groups!

    Greetings! This is the first attempt to publish an online blog for river and watershed organizations in Wisconsin. It will be a place where important information relating to local groups can be shared amongst this network. Currently, there are over 160 organizations in Wisconsin that have river or watershed protection within their mission. We hope this can be a good place for people to post and share important information. Good luck!