Treasures of Oz

Celebrating the Natural Gems of Ozaukee County

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Congratulations go to two of our Wizards for Oz for being recognized with the Conservationist of the Year Award by Gathering Waters Conservancy. The award will be given in Madison on September 26th.

Their award is all about their efforts in creating the Milwaukee River Watershed Fish Passage Program. Here is the story behind the award thanks to the Ozaukee- Washington Land Trust and the Ulao Creek Partnership, who jointly nominated Dale and Andrew:

“Visionaries spawn great ideas, which may, with favorable current, move downstream into reality. Sometimes they are landed by engineers, who pull them in and develop them into working models. On rare occasion, the visionary is also the engineer. In a perfect scenario, there is an ideal partner, who is the engine.

The engineer: Dale Buser is a hydrogeologist and the founder and Principal Hydrogeologist for Northern Environmental Technologies.

Dale loves fish and he loves Ozaukee County. He spent much of his childhood outdoors, always observing the natural things that made up his playground. Over time, he became disturbed that the waterways were changing and the fish were no longer able to get upstream to spawn. He began to envision reconnecting the streams and rivers from Lake Michigan to the streams and wetlands in the Milwaukee River Watershed. He shared his vision with Ozaukee County Director of Planning and Parks, Andrew Struck, and Ozaukee County Director of Land and Water Management, Andy Holschbach, over and over and over, until everyone was seeing not only the same thing, but feeling the passion to make things right.

The engine: Andrew Struck is the Director of Parks and Planning for Ozaukee County. Andrew makes things happen for the environment in Ozaukee County. He is the force behind the expanding park system, the force behind the Interurban Trail, the force behind Farmland Preservation in Ozaukee. As stated in Treasures of Oz’s tribute to Andrew, “he is everywhere that is connected to environment in Ozaukee.” (February 2012 – Wizard of Oz – Andrew Struck)

The program in brief: The project enhances watershed habitat along the Milwaukee River by removing dams, installing nature-like fishways and removing low-head barriers. It is reconnecting 158 stream miles to Lake Michigan. Data is collected 24/7 in many ways, including an underwater fish camera, and yes, the fish are returning in greater numbers and greater variety.

The process – a mini-version: The fish passage program began with inventories in 2006 through a Wisconsin Coastal Management grant. This was followed by intensive work with all the Ozaukee communities connected to the project. (Because of the shape of the county, every single community was involved.)

The county received a NOAA grant in 2009 for the program. For the first six months, Dale and Andrew were the entire program. By 2010, they had hired a director, Matt Aho, and two interns.

More and more grants followed, leveraging well over eight million dollars to fund the creation and implementation of the Milwaukee River Watershed Fish Passage Program. What simply cannot be described in dollars has been the passion, energy, time and dedication that Dale and Andrew have put into this program. It is priceless.

Today Ozaukee County has a world recognized fish passage system that is still in the making, and already the fish are coming home.”