Save the Bay

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MissionSave the Bay is a Northeast Wisconsin collaborative initiative in which agriculture, academia, industry, government and nonprofit leaders identify, share and promote conservation practices to reduce phosphorus, nitrogen and sediment flowing into the waters of Green Bay and Lake Michigan.

Vision: A viable community that works toward clean water and sustains a healthy Lake Michigan.

ABOUT SAVE THE BAY

How it began

Threats to the ecosystems in the Great Lakes and waters of NE Wisconsin include hypoxic pools – often referred to as dead zones.

Hypoxic days have been recorded in the Lower Fox River basin since the 1920s. According to the Green Bay Metropolitan Sewerage District, however, the number of days of low oxygen levels (5 mg/ltr) have increased from 13.5/year between 1986 and 1995 to 32.4/year for 2007-2013. Dead zones (<2 mg/liter) increased from 3.5 days to 14.5 days.

In 2015, then Congressman Reid Ribble (WI-08) hosted a summit on contributors to hypoxic pools in the waters of Green Bay. The overwhelming response to the summit sparked conversations on reducing the levels of phosphorous in the bay. Thus, he launched an initiative to "Save the Bay."

Understanding Hypoxic Pools: Layers are created in bodies of water when summer sun warms the surface and cold water sinks to the bottom. During the summer months, the upper layer pulls oxygen from the air. The cool (deep) zone gets re-oxygenated in the fall when upper water level temperatures drop to match the lower level temperatures, allowing waters to mix. Water layers are typically not a problem in oceans or deep lakes, because the large cold layer provides sufficient oxygen for aquatic life. It can be a problem in shallower waters, such as in Green Bay and Lake Winnebago, because the cold layer is thinner, making it prone to run low on oxygen in late summer.

A dead zone refers to a low oxygen (hypoxia) pool that causes serious stress on aquatic life. Dead zones occur when algae that grows near the surface dies and sinks to the bottom. As algae decomposes, oxygen is consumed. If algae consumption is excessive, a cold zone becomes a "dead zone" and cold zone organisms that do not have air bladders have difficulty leaving these impacted areas. The greater the expanse of algae, the greater the risk for hypoxic pools. Phosphorus, which is prevalent in manure, plants and other sources, feeds algal blooms. Studies have identified agriculture as a contributor to phosphorus loads in tributaries leading to Green Bay and Lake Michigan.

Hypoxic days have been recorded in the Lower Fox River basin since the 1920s. According to the Green Bay Metropolitan Sewerage District, however, the number of days of low oxygen levels (5 mg/ltr) have increased from 13.5/year between 1986 and 1995 to 32.4/year for 2007-2013. Dead zones (<2 mg/liter) increased from 3.5 days to 14.5 days. 

Standing idly by as the number of Green Bay's dead zone days increased was not acceptable to then Congressman Reid Ribble. Thus, he launched an initiative to "Save the Bay."

PATH FORWARD

Congressman Mike Gallagher continued the initiative to provide opportunities for producers, scientists and other experts actively engaged in agriculture, soil health and water quality to collaborate on practices that reduce phosphorus leaving farm fields and entering waterways.

 

cropped save the bay field day 2017 Rep. Gallagher and Farm Bureau

Door County Pulse: Congressman Gallagher Continues Save the Bay Initiative

 

Soil Health: Scientific studies have found improved soil infiltration can reduce the loss of sediment and phosphorus from farm fields. Healthy soils absorb and hold nutrients more effectively than compacted soils. Liken soil to a sponge. A new sponge can absorb water, whereas an overused and worn-out sponge cannot. Poorly managed, overworked soils are hard, compacted and void of microbial activity that can draw up nutrients and retain water. Conversely, healthy soils retain water, allowing uptake of nutrients to plants and reducing runoff of phosphorus and contaminants.

Soil health is the focus for many conservation practices in the Northeast Wisconsin, while manure management is critical in areas with shallow soils and karst topography.

With variability in soil composition, landscapes and producers' needs, a one-size-fits-all solution simply does not exist. The approach to this complex problem must be systemic, involving soil health, manure management and a growing number of innovative practices.

Many of these conservation practices are experimental and can be costly for producers to implement. Specialized equipment for plantings and manure applications are expensive and often difficult to find. Weather events are consistently inconsistent. Needless to say, implementing conservation practices on farms has its challenges.

To address each watershed's unique needs, partners in the Save the Bay effort organized into three watershed workgroups: Lower Fox, Upper Fox/Wolf and Door/Kewaunee. The three workgroups annually identify priorities and develop actions plans for each watershed.

 

RESOURCES, PROJECTS & PROGRAMS

Field days, producer roundtables, conferences and Save the Bay meetings are a few ways by which information on field conservation practices is shared throughout the Green Bay and Lake Michigan watersheds. Click on the links below to learn more.

Demonstration Farms are networks of farms, many of which are funded in part by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, designed to showcase and demonstrate leading-edge conservation practices that improve Great Lakes water quality by reducing phosphorus and sediment from leaving the landscape and entering waterways. The network demonstrates to farmers and the public that the right combination of traditional conservation practices and other new, innovative technologies functioning on the landscape can produce viable and sustainable economic and environmental benefits. Below are six demonstration farm networks in the 8th Congressional District.

Lower Fox Demonstration Farms Network (“Fox Demo Farms”): The first of its kind in the Great Lakes region, the partnership consists of eight producers within the Fox River Basin, their crop consultants, Brown and Outagamie County Land and Water Conservation Departments, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, and the University of Wisconsin-Extension.

Door-Kewaunee Watershed Demonstration Farm Network: The WI Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service are tackling this effort in cooperation with Peninsula Pride Farms, a farmer-led organization. Groundwater and surface water quality are top priorities for the farmers of this network, who contend with shallow, fractured bedrock that can provide a direct path for contaminants.

Upper Fox Demonstration Farm Network: The partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Waupaca County Land & Water Conservation Department, with Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Marquette, Outagamie, Portage, Shawano, and Winnebago counties and the Green Lake Association addresses the effectiveness of current conservation systems used to reduce nonpoint source pollution.

Between the Lake Demonstration Farm Network: The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Calumet County Land & Water Conservation Department, in partnership with Fond du Lac, Sheboygan and Manitowoc counties launched the Between the Lakes Demonstration Farm Network. This is the fifth demonstration farm network in Wisconsin that NRCS has collaborated with conservation partners to establish.

Green Bay West Shore Demonstration Farm Network: This is the newest demonstration farm network, launched in March 2021, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Oconto County Land & Water Conservation Department, and Marinette and Shawano counties.

Producer-led Groups: The WI Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection provides funding to producer-led groups that focus on nonpoint source pollution abatement activities. Each application must come from a group of at least five farmers in the same watershed, collaborating with conservation agencies, institutions or nonprofit organizations. Below are three groups in the 8th Congressional District.

Peninsula Pride Farms: This is the first local collaboration of its kind in an area dealing with decades-long water quality issues. In spring 2016, farmers and supportive businesses came together to address agriculture’s role in improving water quality in Kewaunee and southern Door counties in northeastern Wisconsin. Today, the growing group has over 50 members, with farms of all sizes, representing half of the cows and tillable acres in the region, in addition to business members.

Calumet County Agricultural Stewardship Alliance: Working with the Calumet County Land and Water Conservation Department, the Calumet County Agricultural Stewardship Alliance has identified two initial projects: hosting an education/field day focusing on proper nutrient handling, especially in Karst areas susceptible to groundwater contamination; and baseline testing of wells across the county that are at high risk for nitrates and bacteria.

Farmers for Tomorrow: This group in the Tomorrow River/Waupaca River watershed, with its highly permeable sandy soils, is focused on groundwater protection. To reach their goal of reducing nitrates entering groundwater from farm fields and barnyards, they offer incentives for planting cover crops and cost-sharing for manure testing that can help prevent over-application. Waupaca and Portage County UWEX and Wisconsin Farmers Union are collaborators.

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR PRODUCERS & LANDOWNERS

UW-Discovery Farms

UW Discovery Farms, part of UW-Extension, is a farmer-led research and outreach program focused on the relationship between agriculture and water quality. The program is unique in that it conducts research on privately-owned farms throughout Wisconsin. UW Discovery Farms works with the U.S. Geological Survey to gather credible and unbiased water quality information from monitored sites.

Waterway Network

The WaterWay Network is a peer-to-peer forum for Wisconsin and Minnesota farmers and crop consultants to share information and collaborate on topics related to water quality and soil conservation.

UWEX Tile Drainage

The Tile Drainage Resources site is designed to provide farmers, conservationists, and agronomists a variety of information and resources related to agricultural tile drainage.

UW-Green Bay

University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and Purdue University are leading one of the first large-scale attempts to directly link in-field soil health parameters with intensive edge-of-field water quality monitoring across the Great Lakes Basin – including 5 monitoring systems in the Lower Fox basin. The results of this work will provide direct management recommendations for improving the health and quality of the Great Lakes.

Alliance for the Great Lakes

Fox Wolf Watershed Alliance

Land & Water Conservation Association

NEW Water

The Nature Conservancy

USDA-NRCS

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

U.S. Geological Survey National Water Dashboard

More on Save the Bay

December 8, 2020 Press Release

Rep. Mike Gallagher, a member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, today released the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Water Resources and Development Act of 2020. The bill, which passed the House unanimously, authorizes projects to improve flood and storm protection, strengthen our ports and harbors, and protect inland waterways.

September 16, 2020 Press Release
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) today announced that Outagamie County Land Conservation was awarded a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) grant of $199,268 to increase water storage capacity in the Lower Fox River Basin. The Lower Fox River Basin project comes after a study indicated increased water storage can benefit water quality and reduce flooding events.
September 2, 2020 Press Release

GREEN BAY, WI — Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) today joined farmers, agronomists, and conservationists for his fourth annual Save the Bay Field Day. The event included a tour of farms in Denmark and Greenleaf, both of which are using innovative strategies and technologies to improve their soils and improve water quality.

 

August 12, 2020 Press Release
Rep. Mike Gallagher (WI-08) today joined U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler in announcing the completion of more than two decades of cleanup at the Fox River Superfund Site. The efforts have removed more than 6 million cubic yards of PCB-contaminated sediment in the Lower Fox River and are the result of a $1 billion investment by the EPA, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and companies deemed responsible for contamination.
August 5, 2020 Press Release

Rep. Mike Gallagher (WI-08) today applauded the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) announcement that it would support clean water infrastructure projects in the Village of Sister Bay and the City of Gillett. The funding was made available through the USDA's Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program, which supports projects to modernize water infrastructure projects in rural communities.

July 29, 2020 Press Release
Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) today applauded the passage of H.R. 7575, the Water Resources and Development Act of 2020. The bill, which passed the House unanimously, authorizes projects to strengthen our ports and harbors, inland waterways, and improve flood and storm protection.
 
July 22, 2020 Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) today released the following statement after the House passed the Great American Outdoors Act by a vote of 310 to 107. The bill requires mandatory funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and addresses the maintenance backlog facing the nation’s national parks and public lands. The bill passed the Senate last month by a vote of 73-25. President Trump today indicated he would sign the bill into law. 

July 15, 2020 Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), in consultation with Wisconsin stakeholders and constituents, today secured critical conservation priorities for Northeast Wisconsin in H.R. 7575, the Water Resources and Development Act of 2020. The bill, which unanimously passed out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, authorizes projects to strengthen our ports and harbors, inland waterways, and improve flood and storm protections.

October 22, 2019 Press Release

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) today applauded the Environmental Protection Agency’s updated action plan to protect and restore the Great Lakes under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). The plan, GLRI Action Plan III, will strengthen the clean-up of toxic pollutants, control invasive species, reduce algal blooms, and continue Great Lakes education and outreach efforts. More information on the plan can be found here.

September 6, 2019 Press Release

 

Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-WI) today joined farmers, agronomists, and conservationists for tours of Tauchen Harmony Valley and Erickson Dairy Farm as part of his annual Save the Bay Field Day. The Tauchen and Erickson farms are two of 10 farms that have partnered with the Natural Resources Conservation Service to demonstrate emerging best practices and new technologies that reduce costs and environmental impacts while improving soil health.

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