Climate Strike Draws Hundreds to Downtown Madison

Not even a failed screening of activist Greta Thunberg’s speech at the United Nations, nor humid September weather, could slow down protestors at the Madison climate strike demonstrations Friday. 

Conservative Group Promotes Clean Energy Policy in Wisconsin

As the cost of renewables like wind and solar continues to decline dramatically—by 69% and 88% respectively over the last decade, according to recent analyses—the conversation around energy is changing in Wisconsin and across the country. 

While some groups, like RENEW Wisconsin, have been advocating for renewable energy in the state for decades, a new nonprofit, the Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum, has also recently begun promoting clean energy policy in the state. The Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum (WCEF) was founded in December 2017 with the goal of bringing conservatives to the table to discuss the benefits of clean energy for Wisconsin’s economy and actuating the transition through lobbying. The group is part of the Conservative Energy Network, which is also active in Minnesota, Michigan, and states around the country. WCEF’s platform might come as a surprise to some who see clean energy as tied to left-of-center policy proposals like the Green New Deal, but the forum’s director, Scott Coenen, sees a middle ground where the expansion of clean energy aligns with conservative values. Earlier this spring, Madison Commons sat down with Coenen to understand his organization’s perspective on the energy transition.

Plant Dane Native Plant Program accepting orders through March 20th

Plant Dane is now accepting plant orders for their 14th annual native plant program. The program provides discounted plants native to Wisconsin to schools, non-profits, municipalities and residences in Dane County. These native plants are important to local ecosystems, and provide a natural habitat for local animals and improved water quality. Dane County Land and Water Resources Department and the Madison Area Municipal Stormwater Partnership (MAMSWaP) sponsor this program to improve water quality, according to Christal Campbell, the Stormwater Education Coordinator for Dane County. “Native plants have long, deep root systems that allow stormwater to soak into the ground preventing runoff from washing pollutants down the storm drain into our lakes, rivers and streams,” Campbell said.

Environmental issues persist after heavy rainfall last summer

With more than three months since the heavy rainfalls hit Madison in August, many of the immediate, visible impacts of flooding in the city have been addressed. However, the potential for future environmental issues still lingers. The first issue is shoreline erosion which can result from ice damage. As winter approaches, there is some potential for adverse impacts to Madison’s shoreline areas as water freezes at higher-than-normal lake levels. According to Richard “Dick” Lathrop, a former Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources employee and current honorary fellow with the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Limnology, ice damage to shorelines is one outcome likely to occur when lakes freeze before water recedes to normal winter levels.

August rainfall caused citywide flooding, but high lake levels threaten more

In late August, significant rainfall pummeled Madison, causing flooding throughout the city, damaging infrastructure and private residences, and costing the city millions of dollars. According to a report by Daniel Wright, assistant professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering at UW-Madison, the amount of rain that fell on the Yahara watershed was by no means historical. Rather, Wright wrote, it fell around a 30 year recurrence interval, meaning “over the course of a 30-year mortgage, a homeowner will, on average, experience one storm similar in magnitude.”

The four inches of rain that fell across the lakes produced a 100-year flood event in Madison due to the high lake levels of Lakes Monona, Mendota, Waubesa and Kegonsa — especially Lake Mendota. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources set the minimum and maximum lake levels in 1979. The storm on August 20 caused the lake levels to rise well above their minimums and 100-year flood levels.

Volunteers endure rain during Madison Parks’ cleanup challenge, while officials brace for ice damage due to high lake levels

Madison residents braved rainy and wet conditions in early November to take part in the Flood Clean-up Challenge hosted by the City of Madison Parks Division. The event, which took place at 11 different parks in Madison, addressed the impact of the flooding that occured in the city over the summer. With the gradual recession of flood waters since mid-September, many parks situated along shorelines in the city were left with debris, trash, and large swaths of seaweed on their beaches, which had been washed ashore during the flooding. In response, the Madison Parks Division developed a cleanup plan that relied, in part, on volunteers. “I was really taken with the opportunity to volunteer for the city [and] to clean it up,” said Emily Reynolds, one of the volunteers who came to help with the effort.

City Engineering plans to track flood damage with new website

The City of Madison recently launched a new website to report storm-related problems following the historic flooding in late August. More than 10 inches of rain fell on Madison over the course of eight hours on August 20. Immediate flash flooding occurred, and Madison’s lakes swelled to historic highs. Lake Mendota rose 16 inches, and Lake Monona rose more than 10 inches above it’s record elevation. Some areas of the city saw five-feet deep flood waters.

Madison toward 100 percent renewable energy and net-zero carbon emissions

A resolution was adopted in July at a City Council meeting that will transition Madison to a 100 percent renewable energy. Madison is one of three Wisconsin municipalities that adopted a 100% renewable energy goal. The other cities are Eau Claire and Middleton. In 2017, Madison established a community-wide energy and carbon goal of 100 percent renewable energy and net-zero carbon emissions, and the city selected Sustainable Engineering Group LLC to provide a plan for city operations to achieve goals of 100 percent renewable energy and net-zero carbon. The resolution allowed the city to enter a contract with OneEnergy Renewables, an independent developer of community and utility-scale solar energy projects across North America, with a focus on commercial, institutional and utility customers, for the annual purchase and sale of renewable energy credits (REC) from 2019 to 2023.