Located just off Arbor Drive and Monroe Street, in the UW-Madison Arboretum, the Council Ring Spring has an average annual flow of 221 gallons per minute. Situated below the Kenneth Jensen Wheeler Council Ring (designed by the famed landscape architect, Jens Jensen in honor of his nephew who died at a young age) the Council Ring Spring is in the heart of one of Madison’s best known warbler-watching spots during the annual spring migration in May.
Bird habitat here is ideal: fresh water, food sources, vegetative cover, and a variety of nesting sites from ground level to the oak canopy of the nearby Wingra Oak Savanna.
The Council Ring Spring flows on to Ho-Nee-Um Pond, an artificial pond dug between March 1938 and October, 1939 by the National Park Service when it ran the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) housed at Camp Madison in the UW-Madison Arboretum.
The pond flows into Lake Wingra over two small dams about a foot above lake level at either end of a dredge spoil island that shields the pond from Lake Wingra. The pond was , for many years, also supplied by a storm sewer pipe that used to enter Ho-Nee-Um Pond at the foot of Knickerbocker Street, making Ho-Nee-Um Pond a large storm water detention pond. The storm water brought in urban sediment that gradually filled the pond to the point that in recent years it is barely navigable, even with a canoe.
However, Ho-Nee-Um Pond did provide a sort of filtering function and captured some sediments and contaminants, perhaps protecting Lake Wingra a bit from the direct assault. But A few years ago City of Madison Engineering re-routed the storm water pipes about a block or so east so that the storm water now flows directly into Lake Wingra.
I’m not sure that this “cure” is any more desirable than the problem it was intended to fix. The larger issue, as the Friends of Lake Wingra (FoLW) have been pointing out for years, is that storm water continues to run into the lake. According to a Friends of Lake Wingra report (2009) one-third of Lake Wingra’s water supply is from storm water; this is up from an estimated 8% storm water contribution prior to European settlement of the Madison area. The contribution of spring flow to Lake Wingra has fallen from an estimated 50% pre-settlement to 35% today (FoLW 2009).
This does not seem like a sustainable situation, neither for fish, wildlife, recreation, or for drinking water supplies. See the Friends of Lake Wingra watershed management planning for their recommendations for change and improvement.
Lake Winga: a vision for the future. 2009 Friends of Lake Wingra. Madison, WI