Madison Alder District 13 Q&A
The Friends of Lake Wingra asked each candidate five questions about their connection to Lake Wingra, District 13’s unique environmental challenges, their approach to watershed management, and strategies to understand and represent Lake Wingra’s needs.
- What does Lake Wingra mean to you?Lake Wingra is the reason I moved to this neighborhood. Before moving to my home on Keyes Ave. in 2006, I lived on Morrison St overlooking Lake Monona. Moving to this neighborhood, I wanted to be in walking distance of open water. From where I live now it’s a short five- minute walk to the treasure that is Lake Wingra. One of my favorite walks is the six mile walk all the way round the lake. Wingra means “duck” in Ho Chunk, so it’s clear we need to protect and preserve an ecosystem that’s been around much longer than Europeans. It’s critical that we balance use with nature and honor the history of those who settled this area long before us. John Muir once said, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature brings healing and strength to body and soul.” As our city grows, we must be very careful not to let go of that. This speaks to the Edgewood issue, in that supporters claim since we are a growing city we need to put up with more noise and less dark sky. I oppose the stadium because it’s a poor fit for a traditional residential neighborhood defined in large part by its proximity to Lake Wingra.
- What do you think District 13’s biggest environmental and water quality challenges are? Today, February 11, the city just announced it was going to salt all our city streets. Road salt creates serious problems for Lake Wingra and has doubled the chloride levels in Well 14 since 2000. Wingra is also impacted by the rather mediocre job we do with leaf collection. And then there’s the issue of large impermeable surfaces, which both create non-point runoff and lessen infiltration. Because Wingra doesn’t recharge in the same manner as the Yahara lakes, the contaminants accumulate. Monona Bay has different issues. Last summer’s flooding was an abrupt wake-up call as to the impacts of climate change.
- Watersheds do not follow jurisdictional boundaries. If elected, how will you collaborate with other officials, organizations, or interest groups to encourage effective watershed management and protection of the views to and from Lake Wingra? As Alder, I would work closely with FOLW to engage Clean Lakes Alliance, city and county staff, other district alders and county supervisors to prioritize the Wingra watershed. I would support FOLW’s Heritage Plan to secure the natural shoreline around Lake Wingra as well as the Skyshed. The Vilas Master Plan will be an opportunity to enhance and protect the Vilas Beach shoreline, and as Alder I would consult with FOLW to make sure Wingra priorities are advanced.
- The Common Council adopted the Wingra Watershed Management Plan in 2016 to help meet certain goals for a healthy Lake Wingra. As Alder, how will you ensure the City continues to support and actively implement the Wingra Watershed Management Plan? It’s my understanding the Plan has not been implemented, that it’s basically collecting dust on a shelf. From what I’ve been able to glean from reviewing the Plan, the scientific analysis is solid. As Alder I would call for an Ad Hoc Wingra Watershed Plan Implementation Committee consisting at least two FOLW reps, city staff, a representative of the local Commercial Snow Removal industry, a representative of the local Commercial Landscape industry, the D14 Alder and myself. The city must take the next steps to protect and rejuvenate our lake.
- Lake Wingra experiences many issues similar to other Madison lakes, like phosphorus and flooding. Because it is an urban watershed, it also faces unique issues. For example, agricultural runoff is not an issue for Wingra, yet chloride levels are the highest of all the lakes by far. In what ways will you help make sure Lake Wingra’s unique issues are not overlooked? Clean Lakes Alliance does a great job focusing on the Yahara Watershed, but does not pay sufficient attention to Wingra. As Alder, I would work to advance Wingra priorities to be on par with those of our other lakes.
- What does Lake Wingra mean to you? Lake Wingra is the body of water I swam in recreationally growing up in Madison. It is also a centerpiece of the Arboretum’s ecosystem, an incredible and unusual natural retreat within our city’s boundaries. Madison’s lakes in general are one of the things that make our city such a unique and wonderful place to live; appropriately protecting Lake Wingra is part of keeping Madison special.
- What do you think District 13’s biggest environmental and water quality challenges are? District 13 is defined by its proximity to not only Lake Wingra but also Lake Monona, so in general its biggest environmental/water quality challenge is mitigating the impact of human activity on the lakes and watersheds. This includes making sure we use an appropriate amount of salt in the winter, making sure our street cleaning and leaf collection are as effective as possible, and making sure that as climate change-driven flooding events become more common, we are minimizing the amount of contamination flowing into the lakes.
- Watersheds do not follow jurisdictional boundaries. If elected, how will you collaborate with other officials, organizations, or interest groups to encourage effective watershed management and protection of the views to and from Lake Wingra?
In general I plan to be the kind of Alder who builds relationships with as many other officials, organizations, and interest groups as possible, and then brings them all to the table on a multitude of issues. The key here, in my opinion, is that I not only reach out when there is a specific issue that needs addressing, but build relationships more generally. That will enable me to be the most effective advocate for Lake Wingra, because I will be able to keep it in their minds at all times, not only when specific issues are being discussed.
- The Common Council adopted the Wingra Watershed Management Plan in 2016 to help meet certain goals for a healthy Lake Wingra. As Alder, how will you ensure the City continues to support and actively implement the Wingra Watershed Management Plan?
It is essential that we regularly measure our progress, both in terms of outcomes but also simply in terms of whether we’ve been following the plan, and make course corrections to ensure that we are actually following the plan. For example, I’m not aware of us having done anything specifically to address the observation in the report that local businesses are often particularly significant offenders when it comes to overuse of salt during the winter. I think there is an opportunity there to do something like Alder Zellers’ pending ordinance about leaving air conditioning running with doors and windows wide open.
- Lake Wingra experiences many issues similar to other Madison lakes, like phosphorus and flooding. Because it is an urban watershed, it also faces unique issues. For example, agricultural runoff is not an issue for Wingra, yet chloride levels are the highest of all the lakes by far. In what ways will you help make sure Lake Wingra’s unique issues are not overlooked?
In general my approach on matters like this is to build strong relationships with relevant stakeholders and interest groups, consult them regularly so that I remain informed about all relevant issues, and then use my position as a city leader to effectively advocate for the concerns or needs that have been expressed. To this end, I would prioritize building a strong relationship with Friends of Lake Wingra; with that in hand, I would rely on the expertise present in that group to help me identify the unique needs Lake Wingra has and how to best advocate for them. It is important to not use a cookie cutter approach to environmental issues or any other issues for that matter; good policy comes from knowing the specific details.
General response to all five questions:
I can see Lake Wingra out the front windows of my house. It is a wonderful natural resource I most closely associate with recreation like swimming at the beach, ice hockey, and boating.
There is no doubt it’s health is threatened, and leaders across the various stakeholding organizations in our community should collaborate to improve its vitality for future generations. As alder, I would seek to implement portions of the watershed management plan from 2016 that combine the best combination of realistic impact, feasibility, and cost.
The questions posed by the Friends of Lake Wingra are useful in understanding their perspective as an advocacy organization and I would be eager to engage the group on how best to preserve the lake for generations to come. I want to bring up two major issues that I would be focused on but aren’t prominently featured here or in the watershed plan:
1) The flooding from this past summer demonstrated how woefully prepared Madison is to deal with extreme weather events, including the flooding associated with a swollen Lake Wingra. Disaster planning must become a higher priority for protecting our natural resources.
2) One of the solutions for Phosphorous reduction that should have been mentioned in the 2016 plan was increased was increased pruning of trees by the city on its public easements. By reducing the amount of annual foliage growth, less Phosphorous will end up in the lake. We can focus a little less on leaf collection if there is less falling on the ground each year.