January Program: Challenges to Water Quality of the Upper Rock River in Wisconsin

Greg Farnham

Greg Farnham

Greg Farnham, Commissioner for the Lake Sinissippi Improvement District in Hustisford, Wisconsin lead a discussion on January 19 about the headwaters of the Rock River.

Lake Sinissippi is a 3,000-acre impoundment of the Rock River in Dodge County, Wisconsin. The river drains a 500-square mile watershed of the upper river basin in south central Wisconsin. The three branches of the headwaters merge in the Horicon Marsh where the river begins its 300-mile journey through Wisconsin and Illinois to the confluence with the Mississippi River at Rock Island.

Watershed activities and the quality of tributary waters determine the quality of the Rock as it flows down a gentle gradient towards the Mississippi.

The Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972 (Clean Water Act) requires states to identify surface waters that fail to meet minimum water quality standards. The list of these impaired waters is commonly referred to as the “303(d) list.” The upper Rock River and Lake Sinissippi are on the 303(d) list for impairments of eutrophication and habitat destruction due to nutrient enrichment by phosphorus and excessive sedimentation.

Chapter 33 of the Wisconsin Statutes titled Pubic Inland Waters, which became law in 1973, provides the statutory framework for local communities to establish public inland lake districts. Lake districts have taxing authority and designated powers and are created for the purpose of undertaking programs of lake protection and rehabilitation.

Our lake district and county, state and federal agencies have legal responsibilities to devise methods that identify and mitigate the sources of pollutants in the watershed and, in time, improve water quality so minimum quality standards are achieved.

We’ll discuss ways in which our lake district is attempting to meet the challenges to water quality and thereby help protect and rehabilitate our lake and the Rock River.

Greg Farnham was one of the organizers of Lake Sinissippi Improvement District, established by Dodge County, Wisconsin, in 2000. He serves as an elected commissioner of the district and works with municipal, county, state and federal agencies and has testified at legislative hearings in Madison regarding projects, programs and regulations to protect and rehabilitate the lake and river.  He also serves as coordinator of the Rock River Trail Initiative, a two-state public private partnership to establish a series of recreational trails on and along the Rock River through Wisconsin and Illinois.

Join us at the Moline Public Library Bronze Room at 7PM.

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