Wisconsin’s proposed 2014 list of lakes and river stretches that do not meet water quality standards is available for public comment until March 6 and is the topic of a webinar set for Wednesday, Feb. 12.
The list identifies waters that need additional attention to join the other 751 Wisconsin waters that are judged as having good water quality in the current assessment period.
Several of those included in the new list lie in Oneida, Vilas and Iron counties:
Oneida County: Big Fork Lake, Big Lake, Big Stone Lake, Fifth Lake, Fourth Lake, Hancock Lake, Kawaguesaga Lake, Minocqua Lake, Pickerel Lake, Second Lake, Third Lake , Cranberry Lake (Oneida/Vilas), Squaw Lake (Oneida/Vilas), and Sevenmile Lake (Oneida/Forest).
Vilas County: Big Sand Lake, Big St Germain Lake, Clear Lake, Eagle Lake (Eagle Chain), Lake Content, Little Crooked Lake, Muskellunge Lake, Oxbow Lake, Placid Twin Lake, North, Turtle Lake, South, and Kentuck Lake (Vilas/Forest).
Iron County: Turtle Flambeau Flowage.
“Overall, long-term trend and satellite monitoring show that water quality is good and is improving in many ways,” Susan Sylvester, who leads the Department of Natural Resources’ Water Quality Bureau, says.
Limits on pollutants from wastewater dischargers, urban and rural runoff, new approaches for controlling water pollution, and partnerships with lake associations, local government and others have made a big difference.
“But based on information available for specific waters from expanded monitoring, we’ve identified lakes and rivers where more work is needed to improve water quality for fish to thrive, and for people to enjoy them recreationally,” Sylvester says.
One-hundred ninety-two water bodies are newly proposed for the impaired waters list. A majority of those new listings – 137 – are for lakes or river stretches that exceed new phosphorus standards that took effect in December 2010 and many are in areas with restoration plans already in development. By comparison, Minnesota proposes to add 275 new waters to its draft 2014 list and Michigan proposes to add 214.
“Their listing does not necessarily mean that phosphorus levels in these waters got worse,” Aaron Larson, the water resources management specialist who is coordinating the listing process, said. “Phosphorus levels may be improving in some, but not enough yet to meet these new standards, and many of these waters were not assessed for previous listing cycles.”
In fact, phosphorus, ammonia and sediment levels have decreased during the past 20 years in major rivers statewide as a result of stricter limits in wastewater, improved farming practices, construction site erosion control, and urban storm water management, Larson says.
Listing waters as “impaired” requires the state to develop restoration plans for them and also may make them eligible for state and federal cleanup funds. The department has routinely updated listings every two years since 1998.
Sylvester encourages people to review the proposed Impaired Waters list and tune in to the webinar on Feb. 12 at 11 a.m. to learn more about the process DNR used to develop the list and to ask any questions about that process and specific listings.
Comments can be emailed to DNR at DNRImpairedWaters@wisconsin.gov or sent by U.S. mail to Aaron Larson, DNR, Water Evaluation Section (WY/3), P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707.
The draft list and related materials are available on the Wisconsin DNR website at dnr.wi.gov; search keywords “impaired waters.” The 2014 list materials can be found on the main impaired waters topic page.
Listing can accelerate restoration of lakes and rivers
Wisconsin and other states are required every two years to assess and report to the federal government on water quality and what the state is doing to protect, monitor and restore it.
That comprehensive assessment is underway now to update figures from 2012, when 75 percent of Wisconsin lakes assessed for the report exhibited excellent or good water quality, and 70 percent of the rivers and streams assessed supported healthy aquatic life, according to Aaron Larson, the water resources management specialist who is coordinating the listing process.
DNR’s impaired waters list is part of the comprehensive report and focuses on reviewing monitoring results for those waters that may have a problem, Larson says.
Lakes and river segments that do not meet water quality standards for different pollutants or problems like degraded habitat are added to the impaired waters list. Listed water bodies become eligible for funding to develop or implement restoration plans known as Total Maximum Daily Loads, or TMDLs.
These plans are essentially a pollution “budget” for a water body or watershed that sets reductions needed from rural, urban and point source discharges to meet water quality standards. For the 2014 listing cycle, 13 water bodies are proposed to be removed from the list.
One water, Argus School Branch in Green County, is being removed because restoration projects improved stream habitat and aquatic life conditions, Larson says.
“The good news is that identifying these issues through the Impaired Waters listing process helps concentrate efforts, attention and funding on these waters,” he says. “It’s an important first step on the road to working with partners to help restore these waters to where they should be to benefit fish, wildlife and people.”
People interested in participating in the webinar should register at the following link: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/377966673.