Dane County is cleaning up Token Creek this summer as part of the county’s Suck the Muck restoration program.
Suck the Muck began last year in Dorn Creek and led to the removal of 11,000 tons of sediment containing 75,000 pounds of pure phosphorus, the major chemical contributor to destructive algae blooms throughout the Yahara Chain of Lakes system.
Work in Token Creek is expected to begin later this summer in July for just under $1 million.
Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said the sediment dredging will bear immediate and positive effects in Token Creek, but the overarching goal is to improve quality within the Yahara lakes themselves and will take much longer.
“The lakes themselves, we’re in it for the long haul,” Parisi said. “It took a long time for them to become this degraded, and it will take years until we see cleaner lakes … but you do see pretty immediate results in the stream itself.”
A roughly 1-mile stretch of Token Creek within county-owned land was identified by researchers as the target area. Some places within that stretch contain up to 7 feet of harmful sediment, Parisi said, and it needs to be removed due to high levels of phosphorus caused largely by farmland runoff.
Portions of the creek will also be re-meandered back to a historical course.
“What this is, is decades and in some cases centuries of runoff that accumulated in area streams,” Parisi said. “What we found is that if we don’t go in and remove what’s already in the water, it would add decades to the time it takes us to clean the lakes.”
Algae blooms occur during warm summer weather and choke out the natural ecosystem, discoloring the water and creating a foul odor. Because the natural chemical balance is out of whack, life must struggle even more to survive.
Hydraulic vacuums were selected to remove the sediment instead of digging it out because the vacuum process is more environmentally friendly, according to Parisi.
“This hydraulic suction … is so much lighter on the environment,” he said.
Windsor Village President Bob Wipperfurth said that although the work is being conducted in county-owned land, he is optimistic that the village will see benefits from work being done there.
“Whatever they can do to improve (water quality) before it gets to Lake Mendota should be a good thing for us,” Wipperfurth said. “It’s a novel idea they came up with … but hopefully it will pay dividens.”
The county will also utilize various habitat restoration techniques to further improve the water’s chemical balance and natural resilience. Boulders and root wads will be placed within the creek, along with two rock deflector zones and several hundred feet of bank protection. The Dane County Board of Supervisors awarded the $985,550 dredging job to Petersen Companies, Inc. last Thursday. In 2017, the board approved $12 million for the entire program. Parisi said the county plans on at least four years of Suck the Muck.
“We expect to continue doing research and assessing additional streams to see if there’s more that needs to be done,” Parisi said.
The county estimates 20,000 tons of phosphorus-containing sediment will be removed from the section of Token Creek this year. That equals about 1,500 dump truck loads of muck.