Water and Sediment Control Basin/Grassed Waterway
Lake Winnebago, WI

Grantee: Fond du Lac County Land Conservation Department
Basin Program Funds: $5,051
Non-federal Funds: $11,785
Project Duration: 06/1998 - 09/1999
Status: complete

Problem Statement
Sediment and nutrient pollution to Lake Winnebago is serious. Among other problems, it causes algae blooms. One best management practice, identified locally as an effective solution to agricultural nonpoint source pollution, is a water and sediment control basin with a grassed waterway. Farmers are unwilling to install unfamiliar and potentially expensive projects without a clear understanding of potential benefits.

Before photograph: West end of grassed waterway.

Lake Winnebago is 137,700 acres in size with several cities located on its banks including Oshkosh, Fond du Lac and Appleton. It drains through the Fox River to Green Bay and then to Lake Michigan. Water quality has been poor due to nonpoint source pollution, such as nutrients and sediment. In 1997, for example, nutrient loading was so severe that a large algae bloom occurred in that summer. As a result, the Lake Winnebago Citizens Alliance and the Fox-Wolf Basin 2000 group sponsored several public forums to address algae issues on the lake. The meetings discussed one obvious solution, reducing sediment and nutrient input from the agricultural land surrounding the lake.

One of the goals of the Lake Winnebago East Priority Watershed is to improve water quality by reducing nutrient and sediment pollution. Lake Winnebago was designated a priority watershed under Wisconsin's Nonpoint Source Pollution Abatement Program initiated in 1978 to improve and protect the state's natural resources. In priority watersheds, local land conservation department personnel administer watershed programs which give landowners cost share monies to install best management practices improving water quality.

Water and sediment control basins with grassed waterways have been identified as an effective best management practice to address agricultural runoff. Although cost share funds are available, farmers are reluctant to install expensive projects with which they are unfamiliar. These projects require a certain amount of cropland be dedicated to their construction, so landowners tend to weigh the initial cost more than longer term gains that can be realized by the project. The Fond du Lac Land Conservation Department decided that installing a water and sediment control basin in a very visible area with easy access would be one way to expose local landowners to the potential benefits of the project.

The water and sediment control basin is an earthen dam that catches runoff water and allows sediment and nutrients to settle out. Any runoff moving beyond the basin itself settles into the grassed waterway. Construction on the project began at the end of June 1998. Project personnel cleared the site and constructed a dam. Mulching and seeding of both the basin and grassed waterway followed.

This basin drains 96 acres of farmland. Project personnel estimate that over the anticipated ten year life of the project, the basin will save 1,137 tons of soil. Land conservation department personnel have given presentations on the basin at several hunting and fishing clubs, as well as speaking at local fairs and on the local radio station. Approximately 100 people have heard about the project. The project site will be used for future demonstration and information sessions.

Contact: Colleen Lapham, (920) 923-3033


Great Lakes Commission des Grands Lacs.  2805 S. Industrial Highway, Suite 100.  Ann Arbor, MI  48104-6791.  phone: 734/971.9135.  fax: 734/971-9150.  projects.glc.org. Join the Friends of the Great Lakes GLIN Partner