Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The raindrop's journey: A stormwater trail through the Arboretum's west watershed

By David S. Liebl, Chair, UW-Madison
Arboretum Storm Water Committee
Reprinted from NewsLeaf, Dec. 2007

Two and a half miles northwest of Nakoma Road & Manitou Way, the landscape rises to a small hill just west of Research Park Blvd. From this vantage (43°03.382’N, 89°29.149’W), 272 feet above Lake Wingra, the far horizon features the State Capitol to the east and the driftless area to the west. Low in the landscape, the UW-Arboretum is hidden from view, as is the path of storm water runoff draining from this most western interfluve [divide] between the Mendota and Wingra watersheds.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Help needed for Buckthorn removal

Si Widstrand and Jim Baumann are organizing buckthorn removal from the woods along the southern border of Milward Drive, during September and October, 2013.

Si is a retired employee of Madison's Parks Department, certified in the use of herbicides.  Jim Baumann is a resident of the neighborhood, a retired DNR employee, and Board member of the Friends of Lake Wingra.

Volunteers are needed to stack removed buckthorn branches into piles.


For details, contact Jim Baumann, 277-0020.

Buckthorn is an invasive species, without any native pests to control it.  Removal is necessary because buckthorn...
  • Crowds out native species.
  • Degrades wildlife habitat.
  • Contributes to erosion.
  • Serves as a host to pests.
  • Makes woods dense and unattractive.
Become a steward of your neighborhood public lands, and get to know your neighbors!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Improvements for Odana Hills Park

On Dec. 2, 2012, eight neighbors* met at Odana Hills Park to discuss native plantings along the border of Odana Pond.  The informal meeting was called by Si Widstrand, a retired employee of the Parks Department.

Lots of lore about what has been happening in the park and Odana pond came to light, which I'll repeat below to the best of my memory.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Odana Pond is a wet retention pond, built on an old wetland

"The Lake Wingra watershed contains eight major wet retention ponds:  the Odana Hills Park pond, the Nakoma Golf Course pond, and six ponds in the UW-Arboretum. Approximately 60% of the watershed’s storm sewers convey runoff to wet retention ponds, which are among the most effective stormwater treatment methods available." "Each pond provides a single, discrete location for removing sediment, pollutants, and nutrients from runoff originating from a broad, diffuse area."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fish kill at Odana ponds, vultures feast

Spring runoff from urban areas is so salty that it's toxic to fish.

On April 1, six carp were found dead next to one of the ponds in Odana Hills Golf Course. Eleven vultures were loitering about, having finished with all the carp reachable from shore (vultures don't swim).

A likely cause of death for the carp was the "first flush" of spring. That's when all the dirt and salt spread during winter runs off from the streets and parking lots. From there the filth runs into our stormsewers, streams, and lakes.

The large Odana Pond, visible from the beltline, is the first destination for much of the runoff from the west side. From there, the water has had three alternate paths.
  • The historic path was to filter through a ridge of sand dunes along the east edge of the golf course. Originally, there was no surface outlet for the pond. The Odana basin, including lower parts of the golf course, was a wetland.
  • Then the City partially drained the wetlands, by creating a storm sewer outlet to the East, through a pipe under the dunes. The big Odana Pond flows east by a short creek to two smaller ponds, and then to the storm sewer.
  • Finally, Madison Gas and Electric created a third pathway for water from Odana Pond. They pump about 50 million gallons a year into the sand. This two-million-dollar facility represents a mitigation deal with DNR to compensate for water the West Campus CoGen plant withdraws from Lake Mendota.
Yes, MG&E pumps this same water that killed the fish... 50 million gallons of it a year... into the groundwater. Into your drinking water.

Now, it turns out, their permit to discharge this water has expired. They have applied to renew it. But, it turns out that test wells near where the dirty water is being pumped into the ground, have revealed high levels of salt, above levels which require DNR and MG&E to take preventative action.

But the plan they have come up with continues the pumping, for at least an hour a day even during the highest salt levels of spring, and so will be inadequate to solve the salt problem.

Vultures enjoy a  picnic at the golf course.

 Since many Madisonians will be drinking that same water as those fish, when it reaches the aquifer, the vultures might as well hang around.

# # #

* Kurt Welke of the DNR said fish kills are common this time of year. He attributed the cause to low oxygen levels, brought on by the heavy snow cover of last winter, which inhibited oxygen production by algae, plus depletion of oxygen from decomposition of organic matter. But since salt is also toxic to fish, and because this kill occurred during the salt flush period, the fish kill may have been due to salt, or to both causes together.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Groundwater at Odana exceeds standards for salt

The Cogeneration plant on the west side of the UW campus is allowed to withdraw large amounts of water from Lake Mendota, based on a complicated swap agreement with DNR.

That agreement called for an infiltration field at the Odana Hills Golf Course, where up to 60 million gallons a year of stormwater are pumped into the soil.  Background.

One of the problems with this agreement is that the water being pumped into the soil is rather salty, due to overuse of road salt in the area. Several test wells in the area show levels of salt over the Enforcement Standard.  In other words, the groundwater is starting to become polluted with salt.