2014 "NEW Watershed Champion" Named: High School Teacher Charlie Frisk for Leadership on Baird Creek Work
Mayor and County Executive Lauded for Water Quality Improvement Efforts
Robert Atwell of Nicolet Bank Presents a Gift for Water Education & Improvement
While California's drought rages on, Wisconsin enjoys an abundance of water - but faces a host of water quality impairment challenges, say water experts in Green Bay.
The Lower Fox River is considered an "impaired" body of water, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. A "dead zone" in the bay of Green Bay has locals concerned, but a host of "unsung heroes" are working diligently to improve water quality - away from the spotlight.
To celebrate efforts made toward water quality improvement, and to bring awareness to the water issues facing our community, NEW Water, the brand of the Green Bay Metropolitan Sewerage District, and the Green Bay Water Utility teamed up for a "World Water Day" event at the Jack Day Environmental Education Center.
The first annual "NEW (Northeast Wisconsin) Watershed Champion" Award goes to: Luxemburg-Casco High School teacher Charlie Frisk, and his students from the Conservation Club for their work in Baird Creek. Their work - a collaborative community effort - has been instrumental in bringing the storied Baird Creek back to life, under Mr. Frisk's leadership. Mr. Frisk is also president of the Baird Creek Foundation.
World Water Day is a commemorative event begun by the United Nations in 1993, to bring awareness to global water issues. Globally, 783 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation (unwater.org). Water challenges facing the U.S. include aging infrastructure, cessation of federal funds for infrastructure, and impairment.
"We're delighted to recognize some champions for their water quality improvement efforts here in Green Bay," says Tom Sigmund, Executive Director of NEW Water. "With excessive phosphorous creating a 'dead zone,' we need all hands on deck to improve our waters. Pulling together as a community, we can achieve that dream of having 'fishable, swimmable' waters again right here in our back yard."
"There could not be a better individual to receive this award," said Debra Hitchner, whose daughter Dakota is one of Charlie's students at Luxemburg-Casco High School. "The passion and knowledge he instills just multiplies. I feel so grateful as a parent that Dakota had that influence - her whole high school experience, and her development as a young adult. She truly blossomed in her love of nature, and science."
Dakota spoke at Friday's event, and gave a presentation on their work in Baird Creek, which includes the planting of vegetation and buffer strips, which are important in holding back agricultural runoff.
"I live in an agricultural area," Dakota said, "we don't have buffer strips there, but I hope one day we do."
Mayor Jim Schmitt was awarded with a Certificate of Appreciation for the City's partnership and support of the Jack Day Environmental Education Center, which is a community center for water quality improvement efforts and environmental education.
County Executive Troy Streckenbach was awarded with a Certificate of Appreciation for the County's phosphorous committee efforts, and support of and collaboration on the Baird Creek improvement project.
Another Green Bay citizen concerned about water quality issues joined the day's festivities: Robert Atwell, CEO and Chairman of Nicolet National Bank.
"You don't have to you don't have to be a biologist to know we have serious water quality challenges in Northeast Wisconsin. Even a banker can figure it out," said Robert K. Atwell, CEO and chairman of Nicolet National Bank. "We have industrious hard working people, we have very productive land and we have the world's largest sources of freshwater all around us. As we think about how to compete for good jobs in the future, let's not overlook the obvious or the uncomfortable. … . let's not make our economic development slogan a bad 'Saturday Night Live' skit,' - 'move to Wisconsin, enjoy all the problems of California without that annoying warm weather'."
To support the continuation of Mr. Frisk's conservation efforts, Mr. Atwell presented a gift of $1,000 to Luxemburg-Casco High School for Water Quality Improvement Education."We're so used to operating on a shoestring, I don't even know if we can spend it all this year!" Mr. Frisk said.
This year's World Water Day theme was Energy and Water - two issues intertwined, because a sustainable future must consider both resources in tandem. In just a couple of months, NEW Water will break ground on an energy-efficient new solids' handling facility, called Resource Recovery and Electrical Energy or R2E2. This facility is expected to reduce energy usage by 50% and reduce emissions equivalent to that from 15,000 cars. R2E2 is the embodiment of NEW Water's vision to view what is sent here as a resource to be recovered and reused, rather than a waste to be disposed of.
Green Bay Water Utility also is focusing on the energy-water nexus.
"We're looking to improve the watershed by being the most efficient we can be in both water quantity and quality," said Nancy Quirk, General Manager of the Green Bay Water Utility who outlined a number of energy efficiencies employed by her organization, including improving pump performance, doing energy audits of their facilities, and upgrading to more energy-friendly lighting.
To create a sustainable community, an all-hands-on-deck approach is needed. "It's exciting to be collaborating across water agencies to recognize how important water is to our community," said Quirk. "For example, we are partnering with NEW Water to keep phosphorous out of our watershed."
Photo Top: Mayor Jim Schmitt was awarded with a Certificate of Appreciation for the City's partnership and support of the Jack Day Environmental Education Center, which is a community center for water quality improvement efforts and environmental education. Photo Bottom: County Executive Troy Streckenbach was awarded with a Certificate of Appreciation for the County's phosphorous committee efforts, and support of and collaboration on the Baird Creek improvement project.