The Delavan Lake Improvement Association provides support to farm conservation programs throughout the watershed. This practice began with our past president, Jim Campbell. While on his morning walk, Jim noticed muddy runoff entering the lake during storms and snow melts. Jim contacted Brian Smetana, of the Land Use & Resource Management department at Walworth County to see if there was a solution.
The two began working together to invite local farmers to participate in conservation practices such as buffer strips. These filter strips on hillsides were planted in tall grass designed to slow down the runoff and absorb water back into the soil. Benefits to the soil are reduced erosion, increased organic material, increased nitrogen cycling, weed suppression & insect support / suppression. Benefits for the lake are reduced sediment and chemicals finding their way through the watershed to the Delavan shores.
The role of the DLIA is to pay the land operator (farmer) for their lost profit from taking land out of production. This is typically done on a per acre basis renewed annually.
The first projects were along South Shore Drive. Due to property changing hands or different operators taking over, only one of the original projects remains. A concerned farmer contacted Jim a few years ago to suggest an additional project. Several DLIA members toured the property with Jim to see what the farmer had in mind. On his property, he had already created a swale or low runway and planted grasses to slow the runoff across Highway F. He also sloped the back of the property, so water would run into the swale. In addition, he built a small dam to further slow down the runoff. The DLIA agreed to take on this farm as well.
Brian engaged another farmer on South Shore who qualified for a grant to contour his property as a water management practice, but did not qualify for ongoing planting. He bought this project to the DLIA and we agreed to compensate the farmer annually.
During the research for the grant projects, Brian Smetana and Maggie Zoellner, Program Director of the Kettle Moraine Land Trust, ran into another opportunity. A farmer in the Elkhorn area (still our watershed) wanted to create a conservation project on his land. Brian suggested grass species to reduce runoff, “having this 1.6 acres in permanent vegetation is potentially keeping 70% of the phosphorus leaving the farm field from reaching Jackson Creek and Delavan Lake”, Brian noted.
In the Summer of 2017 Brian once again suggested a location for cover crop. The DLIA now supports over 10 acres of cover crops at the NW corner of Highway 43 & 67.
Currently the DLIA supports a total of 5 farm projects in the watershed. We continue to work closely with the County to identify opportunities to implement best management practices for increased water quality.