submitted by Mary Borland; photo by Mary Ellen O’Brien
Joe Parisi, Dane County Executive since 2011, shared information with downtown Rotarians about area lake cleanups; mental health assistance in our schools and an update on airport expansion.
To address algae growth in our lakes due to too many nutrients flowing into them, partnerships have been formed to address run off at their sources. In urban areas, this means creating more retention ponds and in rural areas, partnering with local farmers to plan buffer strips and to utilize manure digesters. These digesters remove about 60% of the phosphorus which leads to algae bloom. Then with the use of nutrient concentration systems, the remaining 40% of phosphorus is removed!
In addition, centuries old streams contain high phosphorus levels in their muck. Two years ago, the County began a 4 year $12M project to “suck the muck/phosphorus” out of streams. This is proving to be a highly successful project and we have another 33 miles of stream to go.
As we are starting to experience warmer and wetter winters and will likely see more frequent high impact rains according to climate change experts, the County is using software to analyze which “choke points’ along the waterways are moving too slow so they can be opened up. For example, they are looking to remove a lot of muck between lakes Monona and Waubesa and to utilize weed cutters more to help keep the water moving so it doesn’t back up.
With increasing population growth, lands to protect are being identified and will be purchased to keep them available to absorb rain and more wetlands may be purchased for water storage.
The County is investing millions of dollars to increase energy and renewables in county buildings. With MG&E, the county is building a 41 acre solar farm near the airport. We are “walking the walk” and when doing good for the environment we are also doing good for the bottom line”, stated Parisi. We all need to consider climate change action plans.
Regarding mental health services, which is a big part of the county’s budget, partnering with schools is a large initiative. Building Bridges is a school-based mental health program that is a collaboration with Catholic Charities. Some area schools now have mental health professional staff available to meet with young people instead of engaging with law enforcement. Issues are being identified early and students are getting the help they need. In 2019, an 11th school district is being funded.
Our airport is growing! 2018 brought 5 new destinations bringing the total of non-stop destinations to 19. Terminal modernization is being planned to include larger spaces, new seating and more dining.
In closing, Parisi stated the goal is to not rest until all county residents have access to all we have to offer.