Save the Bay Initiative

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Save the Bay Initiative, organized by Congressman of Wisconsin’s 8th district, Reid Ribble is a collaborative initiative that involves several different fields in order to combat pollution, specifically phosphorus from getting into the Bay of Green Bay, the Fox River, Lake Winnebago, and Lake Michigan. The original initiative was to focus on rural farms in Brown, Kewaunee, and Winnebago counties, but has recently pushed north into Oconto County. Current representative of Wisconsin’s 8th district, Mike Gallagher has continued the initiative after Ribble did not seek reelection in 2016.

What is Save the Bay Initiative

The Save the Bay Initiative was a response from then Congressman of Wisconsin’s 8th congressional district, Reid Ribble to the ongoing pollution problems that faced the Bay of Green Bay, Fox River, Lake Winnebago and Lake Michigan. The collaborative effort by many people in many areas of studies is working to reduce the amount of phosphorus getting into the water in order to restore dead zones that are a result from pollution. [1]

Why Save the Bay?

The Bay and other natural sources of water is used for not only its water, but also by people for recreation and food and wild life as well. When people in the agricultural fields are not careful with how much fertilizer or what kind of fertilizer they put on their fields, harmful runoff seeps into bodies of water that lead to invasive species such as algae blooms. These invasive species work to take the oxygen out of the water which kills fish, and effects the water content. This catastrophic effect on the environment can be avoided by the simple actions in Congressman Ribble’s Save the Bay Initiative. [2]

Phosphorus in the Bay of Green Bay and Lake Michigan

A study as early as 1975 by Paul Sager and James Wiersma (both professors at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay) established the Bay, Fox River, and Lake Winnebago as highly polluted from phosphorus from industries and rural runoff. [3] Recent studies have suggested that runoff from these farms is the number one source of these toxic algae blooms. One of the reasons why agricultural runoff is as big of a problem it is that farms are regulated under the Clean Water Act as fertilizer is considered a nonpoint source of pollution.[4]

Who is Involved?

Save the Bay has many contributing people from different fields that include the government, farmers, conservation groups, academia, and other people interested in the subject.[5] The diversity of people involved allow for all options to be weighed in making the best decisions for Wisconsin business in the most environmental friendly way.

Reid Ribble

Reid Ribble was the congressman in Wisconsin’s 8th congressional district from 2010-2016. Being the author of the initiative, Ribble organized summits for farmers and other groups of interest to the subject to try and develop a plan. At one of his summits, John Pagel, owner of the largest dairy farm in Brown and Kewaunee County, admitted that “I am part of the problem,” but later went on to say, “I am also part of the solution.” Ribble was recognized by various local groups for his commitment to restoring the water quality in northeast Wisconsin.[6]

Mike Gallagher

Mike Gallagher is the current congressman of Wisconsin’s 8th district. Gallagher won the 2016 election and took over for Reid Ribble who retired. Shortly after taking office, congressman Gallagher stated that he will continue Ribble’s Save the Bay effort. Gallagher wrote in the Midwest Agriculture Almanac: “Northeast Wisconsin and its resources do not just belong to us — they belong to future generations as well. It’s our moral obligation to ensure those who live in our communities long after we are gone will continue to enjoy the lands and waters, which have given so much to our families and communities. This is why I was honored to inherit the Save the Bay initiative from my predecessor, Reid Ribble.”[7]

Expansion of the Initiative

Because of a donation from ST Paper Company in Oconto Falls, a town in Oconto county that boarders Brown county, Oconto was able to hire a full time conservationist to work with the county to reduce their county’s runoff.[8]


  1. Verbeten, Sharen. “Reb. Ribble Hopes to Save the Bay through Phosphorus Reduction,” Treatment Plant Operator. March 28, 2016.
  2. Ongley, Edward. “Fertilizers as Water Pollutants in Control of Water Pollution from Agriculture. Burlington Canada: Natural Resources Management and Environmental Department, 1996.
  3. Sager, Paul E., and James H. Wiersma. "Phosphorus Sources for Lower Green Bay, Lake Michigan." Journal (Water Pollution Control Federation) 47, no. 3 (1975): 504-14.
  4. Chandler, Kurt. “Reviving Green Bay’s Dead Zones,” University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Research. Feb. 13, 2017.
  5. Lundstrum, Jim & Jackson Parr. “Saving Our Shores: Gallagher Continues Save the Bay Initiative,” Door County Pulse. May 5, 2017.
  6. Golden, Kate. “Farmers vow to Reduce Phosphorus Bane of Green Bay,” Wisconsin Watch. April 1, 2015.
  7. Gallagher, Mike. “Save the Bay Initiative Keeps Moving Forward,” Midwest Agriculture Almanac. December 2, 2017.
  8. Tempus, Kent. “ST Paper Steps up to Protect Green Bay Water” Green Bay Press Gazette. Jan 29. 2016.

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