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Microsoft in your community

Restoring watershed corridors in southeastern Wisconsin

In the coming year, two critical southeastern Wisconsin watershed corridors will again become a welcoming habitat for coastal Lake Michigan’s imperiled native species—and accessible natural space for the public. Root-Pike Watershed Initiative Network (WIN) and Microsoft are joining forces to restore prairie and wetland habitats in Racine County: Cliffside Park along the shores of Lake Michigan and Lamparek Creek in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin.

Enhancing native flora and open wetlands at Cliffside Park

In September 2023 the Root-Pike WIN team kicked off wetland restoration at Cliffside Park. This 40-acre park is listed as “Highly Critical” in the Wind Point Watershed Restoration Plan approved by the US EPA and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Root-Pike WIN’s effort to develop this and other critical projects in the Root-Pike watersheds is being funded by Microsoft. The restoration approach will recreate open-water refuge and enhance native flora to encourage migratory bird stopovers, boost pollinator foraging, and reduce sheet runoff to the eroding Lake Michigan Bluffs. Funding for the design and construction of the wetland improvements is being provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Aerial view of a wetland with a large body of water in the distance
Once used to grow hops for Milwaukee breweries, fallow farmland will be restored back to open wetlands for waterfowl, amphibians, and pollinators at Cliffside Park. (Photo courtesy of Racine County)

Recovering lost prairie and stream buffers along Lamparek Creek

Root-Pike WIN and Microsoft have also partnered to restore the critical habitat in the Lamparek Creek watershed in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin. Launched in June 2023, this project will restore 100 acres of prairie and forest, and 1.5 miles of severely degraded stream buffers, to a native, resilient condition. The restoration team will also re-meander the creek to encourage a healthier aquatic habitat, reduce erosive flood events, and improve water quality as recommended in the EPA/DNR-approved Pike River Watershed Restoration Plan.

Supporting the ecosystem and the community

These watershed projects benefit the ecosystems and all those who live in and around them. The Lamparek Creek riparian zone, for example, has the potential to provide a rich habitat for diverse wildlife, and a sense of place for the Village of Mount Pleasant. When complete, the improved stream will buffer and wetland areas will filter runoff pollutants, and reduce stormwater volume and velocity, actions which are critical to improving the health of the impaired Pike River watershed.

Community is at the center of these wetland restoration projects. The Lamparek Creek project will transform a degraded agricultural ditch into a publicly accessible environmental corridor. “Restoring Lamparek Creek and implementing the Pike River Restoration Plan are important goals for the community, and we are thankful for Microsoft’s support of this work,” observes Dave Giordano, Executive Director of Root-Pike WIN. Cliffside Park will similarly become more accessible to the public with improved trail conditions and a wildlife viewing stand.

A healthier ecosystem carries benefits for all. As US Senator Tammy Baldwin noted at Cliffside Park’s groundbreaking ceremony: “I am delighted that the Wisconsin Southeastern Community will have such a wetland to enjoy at Cliffside Park, supporting habitat for migrating birds and other wildlife riches of our ecosystem and providing natural spaces that we can all enjoy.”

January 2024 project update from the team at Root-Pike WIN

“In late December, aerial drone footage taken by Racine County (featured below) revealed the movement of sediment and nutrients from Lamparek Creek into the north branch of the Pike River. Sediment and nutrients promote algae growth and reduce sunlight, causing toxic aquatic conditions that make for one dirty ditch! According to the EPA-approved Pike River 9-key element plan, restoration goals for the Pike River Watershed include nutrient load reductions per year of roughly 60k lbs for nitrogen, 26k lbs for phosphorus, and 20k lbs for suspended solids, the sediment seen in the video. With the support of Microsoft, Root-Pike WIN is working to restore this area that once complete, is modeled to reduce nitrogen by ~ 7k lbs, phosphorus by ~1.5k lbs, and sediment by ~1k lbs, bringing the Pike River watershed one step closer to its overall restoration goals. Don’t take your eyes off this project! 2024 will be a landmark for the Lamparek as collaborative forces work together to turn this once-dirty ditch into a clean creek.”

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