The Madison lakes are the center of the community, and that’s why a nonprofit organization, the Clean Lakes Alliance, is working to advocate for, build partnerships and work with others on lake quality.
James Tye, founder and executive director of Clean Lakes Alliance, talked about the organization’s efforts at the Sept. 28 Waunakee Rotary meeting. The Alliance’s mission is to build a group of businesses, individuals and nonprofits to protect the Yahara watershed.
James said the lakes are sick.
“They are federally impaired,” he said. “They don’t meet the standards for fishing, swimming or public health.”
Each pound of phosphorus that enters the lakes can create 500 pounds of algae, James added.
Most of the phosphorus, 70 percent, comes from rural areas, while 30 percent comes from urban areas.
“Everything goes downhill toward the lakes,” James said.
E-coli is also turning up in lakes. Lake monitoring found e-coli on  four days at James Madison Beach that went undetected by the health department, which doesn’t test the lakes every day.
Runoff into the lakes is exacerbated by heavy rainfall, afterwards closing beaches. James recalled the June 16 large algae blooms following a large rainfall. Temperatures rose and the lakes became stagnant, resulting in a fish kill at the UW Boathouse that spanned to Maple Bluff, he said.
The good news, James said, is a survey shows community members are willing to invest in lake clean-up.
The Clean Lakes Alliance is working with many partners, including governmental bodies, to help educate others. The organization puts together an annual state-of-the-lakes report measuring the progress, as well.
Total phosphorus levels have decreased, James said, adding that the goal is a 50 percent reduction.
In 2010, the county, the Department of Natural Resources and others put together a road map of projects that identified the cost per pound of phosphorus removal.
The Clean Lakes Alliance worked with area farmers, including Jeff Endres of the Waunakee area, who formed Yahara Pride Farms. Those farmers have changed their practices to reduce runoff. Recently, the Alliance raised $70,000, and with a match from Dane County, purchased a manure injection machine to hook up to a tractor. A cooperative of farmers uses the device. It not only reduces odors, but the amount of manure left on top of the soil that can be washed off in a rain event.
New efforts in urban areas are also underway. In Waunakee, a campaign is beginning to encourage residents not to places leaves in the streets. When they get wet they have a tea-like effect and leech phosphorus into the watershed.
“You can make the biggest impact in an urban community by getting leaves out of the street,” James said.
In Waunakee, postcards are being sent to residents reminding them to rake leaves onto the terrace for pickup.
Billboards are in other communities will have the same reminder.
“How can you make an impact? Remove leaves from the street,” James said.   

Other news:
–President Jim Kattner said $750 has been raised toward the goal if $1,000 that will be matched for hurricane relief.
–Schumacher Farm has a volunteer opportunity for Rotary at its Halloween event.
–Sign-ups for the Food for Kidz event were circulated.
Guests: Steve Kraus, guest of Todd Schmidt; Jason Gallagher, guest of Jim Kattner; Rick Kroll, guest of Drew Lawrence.
Visiting Rotarians: James Tye, Downton Madison  
Birthdays: None.
Anniversaries: Oct. 5, Dan and Kristin Statz; Oct. 8, Jim and Linda Pingel.
Greeters: Oct. 5, David May and Mark McFarland; Oct. 12, James Meyer and Danny Miller; Oct. 19, Nicholas Mischler and Shelley Moffatt; Oct. 26, Eric Montie and Richard Murphy.