Adoption of Soil Health Conservation In the Rat River Watershed

Winnebago County Land and Water Conservation Department in partnership with Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance announced today that they received a $200,000 grant from the Great Lakes Commission (GLC) to reduce sediment and phosphorus pollution that enters the Winnebago System.


Phosphorus and sediment pollution negatively impact water quality of the lakes and rivers throughout the region. This has resulted in poor water clarity, degraded habitat, and harmful algal blooms. These impairments reduce recreational enjoyment, potentially limiting economic potential from tourism dollars in the area.


There are several human activities that contribute phosphorus and sediment pollution to the Winnebago System including certain land use practices in agricultural and urban areas and point source discharge from permitted entities such as wastewater treatment plants.


The Rat River Watershed in Winnebago County, the focus of this grant project, is listed as a priority for reducing sediment and phosphorus pollution from agricultural sources in the Winnebago Waterways Lake Management Plan. The Plan serves as a strategy for region-wide, multi-partner efforts to restore the health of the Winnebago Lakes.


The Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance partnered with the Winnebago County LWCD to help implement this project. Winnebago County LWCD will be working with 3 to 4 local Farmer Champions to overcome hurdles of installing cover crops, no-till, and low-disturbance manure injection for 3-years on 200 acres of cropland. The soil health practices that will be implemented by the Farmer Champions will reduce 484 pounds of phosphorus and 72 tons of sediment pollution each year in the Rat River Watershed.


“This grant will enable our staff to target one of the highest pollutant loading watersheds within the County with soil health initiatives”, said Chad Casper, Director of the Winnebago County LWCD. “Our staff will help the Farmer Champions overcome potential barriers with on-farm solutions and showcase the benefits of soil health practices to other farmers in the region.” 


Farmer Champions will receive cost-share and incentive payments in exchange for documenting and sharing their successes, barriers, and solutions for conservation farming practices. The goal is to increase adoption of these conservation practices by other farmers for the long-term through on-farm demonstrations and other outreach activities. In other areas where these practices have been consistently implemented multiple years in a row, farmers have found significant benefit to their business’s bottom line and soil health while also helping to protect local water quality. This results in win-win scenarios for our lakes and farming communities.


This project is one of several efforts taking place in the region to improve and protect the Winnebago Lakes. Find out more at