Save the Bay
Mission: Save 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
In 2015, then Congressman Reid Ribble (WI-08) hosted a summit on phosphorus and its impact on hypoxic pools – often referred to as dead zones – in the waters of Green Bay. The overwhelming response to the summit sparked conversations on reducing the levels of phosphorous in 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.”
Congressman Mike Gallagher is continuing the initiative and hosted his first Save the Bay meeting in February 2017. Save the Bay meetings provide opportunities for producers, scientists and other experts actively engaged in agriculture, soil health and water quality to collaborate on practices to reduce phosphorus leaving farm fields and entering waterways.
Door County Pulse: Congressman Gallagher Continues Save the Bay Initiative
Press Gazette: Gallagher reconvenes Ribble's Save the Bay effort
Brillion News: Gallagher to keep Ribble's Bay initiative going
Soil Health: Scientific studies have found improved soil infiltration can reduce the loss of sediment and phosphorus from farm fields. Simply put: 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, compact 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 will be the focus for conservation practices in the Lower Fox watershed, while manure management will be 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 have organized into three watershed workgroups: Lower Fox, Upper Fox/Wolf and Door/Kewaunee. The three workgroups have identified priorities for their watersheds and are developing actions plans to implement in 2017.
PARTNER PROJECTS & PROGRAMS
Field days, producer educational offerings, roundtables, conferences and Save the Bay meetings are a few ways by which information on ag conservation practices is shared throughout the Green Bay and Lake Michigan watersheds. Click on the links below to learn more.
Fox Demo Farms
The Lower Fox River Watershed is home to six demonstration farms that test new and standard conservation practices in reducing phosphorus and sediment and share outcomes. Look for them on Facebook and Twitter: Fox Demo Farms. For text messaging for Field Days on the Fly, text FoxDemoFarms 88202.
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.
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.
Peninsula Pride Farms
Peninsula Pride Farms is a farmer-led initiative in the Door-Kewaunee watershed with 46 dairies, nearly 40,000 cows and nearly 80,000 acres, equaling about 50 percent of the number of cows and acres in the watershed. Members of the non-profit group must show continuous improvement in implem enting water quality practices and conduct independent analysis of Nutrient Management Plans. All PPF members share the core belief that Kewaunee and Door Counties can enjoy clean, safe water, along with a thriving farm community. The group formed so that farmers could participate in initiatives such as Save the Bay in a meaningful way.
Alliance for the Great Lakes
Lower Fox Perennial Forage Project is a three-year project (2016-2019) to highlight how perennial forages are a win-win for agriculture and water quality. By adding cool-season European grasses to alfalfa fields, agricultural producers can increase tonnage on their hay fields while maintaining a high quality feed. The grasses increase cover density across the field, providing benefits for soil health and water quality.
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.
Silver Creek Adaptive Management Pilot Project with NEW Water