UW-La Crosse receives nearly $500,000 donation for fresh water research vessel

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Researchers at UW-La Crosse have a unique opportunity to study the country’s largest river. Thanks to a nearly $500,000 donation, UWL will get a new water vessel designed for this research.

Sometimes you have to look below the surface to find an opportunity.

“The river is a thread that runs through all of our lives here in La Crosse.”

The nearly half-million-dollar donation has the director of the UW-La Crosse River Study Center, Roger Haro, smiling from ear to ear.

“I am ecstatic,” said Haro who is also the associate dean at UWL’s College of Science and Health.

The Paul Fleckenstein Trust, community members will remember from its donation to UWL’s new Prairie Springs Science Center, gave this money to the La Crosse Community Foundation. The donation allows UWL to purchase a new research vessel for its own La Crosse River Studies Center.

“It’s a real neat opportunity for us as we look to the future in developing the next generation of water leaders for Wisconsin and the country,” Haro said.

Environmental services and harbor management company J.F. Brennan Company will store and maintain the new vessel. Vice president of business development Mark Binsfeld said his company relies on science technology programs like UWL for future workers.

“We have over 85 divers on staff. Basically, every day they go underwater; they do underwater construction,” Binsfeld said.

Not easy work by any stretch of the imagination.

“They do things that most construction companies do above water, they’re doing them underwater every day,” Binsfeld said.

UWL forms a bridge for the next generation of freshwater professionals. Not to mention studies that tell scientists about the health of this vital resource.

“Both looking at the physical aspects of the river, but also then the biology and water quality issues,” Haro said.

A new chance to better understand and take advantage of what lies beneath the surface. Leaders also want to take K-12 teachers out on the water and expand hands-on freshwater education. A builder in Seattle will construct the boat designed specifically for this training and research.