The Yahara River watershed includes lakes Mendota, Monona, Waubesa, Kegonsa, and Wingra in central Dane County. The Yahara River begins north of Lake Mendota in Columbia County and flows south 62 miles (including the surface waters of the lakes), connecting Lakes Mendota, Monona, Waubesa, and Kegonsa, and then flowing into the Rock River in Rock County.

Our goals include:

  • raising community awareness of the issues facing the watershed,
  • advocating for the welfare of the lakes,
  • working with government partners and area farmers to prioritize and implement actions that will reduce phosphorus loading to our lakes, and
  • helping to procure the necessary funding to improve and protect our waterways.

CLA was instrumental in producing and funding the Yahara CLEAN (Capital Lakes Environmental Assessment and Needs) Strategic Action Plan, which provides timelines and cost-per-pound estimates for actions that research has shown will reduce phosphorus loading in the Yahara River watershed by 50% to reduce algal blooms and improve water clarity in our lakes. In turn, these actions will contribute to overall reductions in agricultural runoff in the Upper Mississippi River watershed.

The major programs and services of CLA include:

  • implementation of the Yahara CLEAN plan for phosphorus reduction in both agricultural and urban areas,
  • policy work and research on water quality and agricultural issues, and
  • watershed engagement that includes educational programming, volunteer opportunities, and resources for citizen action.

Past Achievements

One of the greatest achievements of the CLA to date has been our role in helping to found Yahara Pride Farms, an organization with a farmer-led model that fosters farmer-to-farmer education, environmental stewardship, and community. CLA and YPF work hand in hand, with members sitting on each other’s board of directors. CLA staff supports YPF farmers by directing, managing, and coordinating the programs of YPF, working to procure funding for YPF programs, and advocating for local policy that supports area farmers. Our focus has included fostering the creation and growth of conservation farming and education, and expanding educational and outreach opportunities that bring together farmers, agribusiness, researchers, local government staff, and urban residents.