Launched in 2014, the Silver Creek Project seeks to implement best management practices to improve water quality. NEW Water has established a monitoring program that will provide data to demonstrate the impact of implementing these practices on the land. By planting cover crops, installing grassed waterways, and greening up shores with buffer strips, NEW Water prevented 689 pounds of phosphorus and 2,270,000 pounds of sediment from entering area waterways. Over the past winter, 70 percent of the land was in cover crops—an increase from 30 percent at the beginning of the project. Seven percent of the crop acres have been restored to wetlands, which improves water quality and base flow. The project is achieving a range of environmental benefits beyond what the permit requires.
Grassed waterway in Silver Creek: before and after installation.
“NEW Water has created a framework for cooperation between a wastewater treatment facility and agriculture. This is an innovative way to approach conservation,” said Barry Bubolz of the Natural Resources Conservation Service. “The farmers in Silver Creek are participating in a project which will have an environmental and economic impact on Northeast Wisconsin. This teamwork approach with NEW Water and conservation agencies is demonstrating success.”
NEW Water is engaging in partnerships throughout the watershed to improve area waters. Here, NEW Water is presenting an Interseeder to help with cover crop planting.
As a part of this collaborative approach, the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin is a key partner. In the video, “Water Knows No Boundaries,” Oneida Chairwoman Christina Danforth said, “There has to be a balance of the use of land and its impact on the streams and the waters. If we take care of the environment, the environment will take care of us. And nothing can replace that.”
Bill Hafs hopes that this project will provide a template for further adaptive management projects, and inspire other non-traditional partnerships between point and nonpoint sources. “Economics and water quality are really driving this train,” Hafs says. “It is really a multiple win: for the farmers, for NEW Water, for the ratepayers, and for the environment. The real question is, can we apply what we’ve learned, and go full scale?”
NEW Water has received project support grants from public and philanthropic sources such as the EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Fund for Lake Michigan, and Ducks Unlimited for the Silver Creek Project.
Partners in this effort include: the Oneida Tribe of Indians, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service, US Geological Survey, UW Green Bay, Brown County and Outagamie County Land and Water Conservation Departments, The Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, private agronomists, and the farmers in Silver Creek. CH2M has been retained to facilitate the project.