Lower Little Wolf TWA 2015

Title

Lower Little Wolf River TWA WQM Plan (WR06) 2017
Dave Bolha, Primary Author and Investigator

Lower Little Wolf River TWA WQM Plan (WR06) 2017

Purpose

In 2015, DNR Water Resources staff evaluated water quality improvements made in the Lower Little Wolf River Watershed from Best Management Practices installed in the watershed from 1997 through 2008 as part of the Lower Little Wolf River Priority Watershed Project. This project determined if the goals of the Priority Watershed Project to protect and improve the watershed water quality were met by collecting fish, aquatic macroinvertebrate, habitat, temperature, and inorganic chemistry information throughout the watershed.

The water quality monitoring in 2015 demonstrated some water quality improvements (Spiegelberg Creek at Cemetery Rd) and declines (Thiel Creek at Swan Rd) since the implementation of the Priority Watershed Project of the late 1990s and early 2000s. The Mainstem of the Lower Little Wolf River maintained good to excellent fish and aquatic macroinvertebrate communities and indicated a reduction in baseflow NO3+NO2 as N. Thiel, Little, and Shaw Creeks are not meeting their potential uses, demonstrate high nutrients, and sedimentation limits available fish and aquatic macroinvertebrate habitat; therefore, the need for watershed improvements remains throughout portions of the Lower Little Wolf River Watershed.

There are a few challenges to consider when comparing the pre-Priority Watershed monitoring results with the results of 2015. First, the majority of the Best Management Practices (BMPs) installed during the Priority Watershed Project implementation were soft practices (tillage and nutrient management).

These practices may have been discontinued by the farmers in the watershed. Second, there may be unaccounted farming changes, such as fertilizer application rates and tillage adjustments throughout the watershed over time, that had an impact on the water quality of the Lower Little Wolf River and its tributaries observed in 2015. Thirdly, there may have been an increase in the land disposal of manure within the watershed since the beginning of the Priority Watershed Project. Lastly, watershed improvements may have been made since the implementation of the Priority Watershed that impacted the water quality observed in 2015. Therefore, the monitoring in 2015 does not solely reflect the changes in the watershed from the Priority Watershed Project implementation.

The BMPs that were implemented during the Priority Watershed Project were nutrient, residue, and barnyard-runoff management, streambank shaping, and manure storage throughout the watershed. Some of the land use characteristics observed during the 2015 monitoring project that can have a negative impact to the water quality of the Lower Little Wolf River and its tributaries were limited buffer protection along the stream corridors, eroding streambanks, cropland erosion, and sedimentation of fish and aquatic life habitat. Although good efforts were made to decrease the pollutant load during the Priority Watershed implementation, there are more opportunities to install practices to lower the nutrients and sediment reaching the Lower Little Wolf River.

Management Priorities
1. Improve the water quality of Little and Thiel Creeks by reducing the phosphorus and sediment loads from reaching the stream.
2. Maintain the water quality of the Lower Little Wolf River and its habitat for fish and aquatic life.

Management Goals
1. Reduce summer time phosphorus concentrations to below NR 102 water quality standard (0.075mg/L) in Thiel and Little Creeks.
2. Identify target areas within Thiel and Little Creek watersheds in need of BMPs to reduce phosphorus and sediment.

Purpose

Project purpose
This project evaluated water quality improvements made in the Lower Little Wolf River Watershed from BMPs installed in the watershed from 1997 through 2008 as part of the Lower Little Wolf River Priority Watershed Project. The Lower Little Wolf Watershed was identified as the drainage area downstream of Big Falls to the Little Wolf River confluence with the South Branch of the Little Wolf River near Royalton (Map 1-2). This project determined if the goals of the Priority Watershed Project to protect and improve the watershed water quality were met by collecting fish, aquatic macroinvertebrate, habitat, temperature, and inorganic chemistry information throughout the watershed.

Resources

Watershed Overview
The Lower Little Wolf River watershed is 152 square miles and lies in central Waupaca County. Approximately 27 miles of the Little Wolf River are in this watershed, from the confluence of the South Branch Little Wolf River (watershed WR08) to the dam at Big Falls. The Winnebago Comprehensive Management Plan ranked this watershed as a medium priority for watershed selection due to local soil erosion and animal waste problems. The data for the Wolf River Basin Plan indicated that problems related to polluted runoff exist in this watershed.

The Lower Little Wolf River Watershed was selected as a priority watershed in 1995 and expired at the end of year 2008. The priority watershed plan was prepared cooperatively by the DNR, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), and the Waupaca Land and Water Conservation Department, with assistance from the University of Wisconsin-Extension and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The approved watershed plan is considered an amendment to this plan. The soils, geology and other physical resources of the western and central 20 percent of this watershed indicate the area is highly susceptible to groundwater contamination by poor land use practices (WDNR and WGNHS, 1987). The remaining 80 percent of the watershed lies in an area of medium susceptibility. A data search revealed groundwater samples contaminated mainly from pesticides.

Population, Land Use, Site Characteristics
The Lower Little Wolf River watershed is 153.60 mi. Land use in the watershed is primarily agricultural (48%), forest (29%) and a mix of wetland (16%) and other uses (5%) (Figure 2). This watershed has 189.20 stream miles, 1,038.51 lake acres and 21,932.16 wetland acres.

Outstanding and Exceptional Resource Waters
Waters designated as ORW or ERW are surface waters which provide outstanding recreational opportunities, support valuable fisheries and wildlife habitat, have good water quality, and are not significantly impacted by human activities. There are six o/erw waters in the watershed. Blake Creek, Little Wolf River, Blake Creek-N. Fork, Blake Creek - S. Fork,
Spaulding Creek, Whitcomb Creek.

Trout Waters
High quality trout waters (Class I) that have sufficient natural reproduction to sustain populations of wild trout, at or near carry capacity. Consequently, streams in this category require no stocking of hatchery trout. These streams or stream sections are often small and may contain small or slow-growing trout, especially in the headwaters. Class II streams may have some natural reproduction, but not enough to utilize available food and space. Therefore, stocking is required to maintain a desirable sport fishery. These streams have good survival and carryover of adult trout, often producing some fish larger than average size. Class III are marginal trout habitat with no natural reproduction occurring. The following streams are trout waters: Blake Creek, Whitcomb Creek, Blake Creek-S. Fork, Spaulding Creek, Blake Creek-N. Fork.

Impaired Waters
Every two years, Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act requires states to publish a list of all waters that do not meet water quality standards. Impaired waters in this watershed are impaired for historical discharges, mine tailings, and runoff issues. School Section Lake is impaired with the impairment of excess algal growth from the pollutant total phosphorus and is currently under total maximum daily (TMDL) development.

Lower Little Wolf River (WR06)

Ecological Landcapes

The Lower Little Wolf River Watershed lies primarily in two ecological landscapes: the Central Lake Michigan Coastal Ecological Landscape in the south and the Forest Transition Ecological Landscape in the north. The Central Lake Michigan Coastal Ecological Landscape stretches from southern Door County west across Green Bay to the Wolf River drainage, then southward in a narrowing strip along the Lake Michigan shore to central Milwaukee County. Owing to the influence of Lake Michigan in the eastern part of this landscape, summers there are cooler, winters warmer, and precipitation levels greater than at locations farther inland.

Dolomites and shales underlie the glacial deposits that blanket virtually all of the Central Lake Michigan Coastal Ecological Landscape. The dolomite Niagara Escarpment is the major bedrock feature, running across the entire landscape from northeast to southwest. A series of dolomite cliffs provide critical habitat for rare terrestrial snails, bats, and specialized plants. The primary glacial landforms are ground moraine, outwash, and lake plain.

Historically, most of this landscape was vegetated with mesic hardwood forest composed primarily of sugar maple, basswood, and beech. Hemlock and white pine were locally important, but hemlock was generally restricted to cool moist sites near Lake Michigan. Areas of poorly drained glacial lakeplain supported wet forests of tamarack, white cedar, black ash, red maple, and elm, while the Wolf and Embarrass Rivers flowed through extensive floodplain forests of silver maple, green ash, and swamp white oak. Emergent marshes and wet meadows were common in and adjacent to lower Green Bay, while Lake Michigan shoreline areas featured beaches, dunes, interdunal wetlands, marshes, and highly diverse ridge and swale vegetation. Small patches of prairie and oak savanna were present in the southwestern portion of this landscape.

The Forest Transition Ecological Landscape lies along the northern border of Wisconsin's Tension Zone, through the central and western part of the state, and supports both northern forests and agricultural areas. The central portion of the Forest Transition lies primarily on a glacial till plain that was deposited by glaciation between 25,000 and 790,000 years ago. The eastern and western portions are on moraines of the Wisconsin glaciation.
The growing season in this part of the state is long enough that agriculture is viable, although climatic conditions are not as favorable as in southern Wisconsin. Soils are diverse, ranging from sandy loam to loam or shallow silt loam, and from poorly drained to well drained.

The historic vegetation of the Forest Transition was primarily northern hardwood forest. These northern hardwoods were dominated by sugar maple and hemlock, and contained some yellow birch, red pine and white pine. Currently, over 60% of this Ecological Landscape is non-forested. Forested areas consist primarily of northern hardwoods and aspen, with smaller amounts of oak and lowland hardwoods. The eastern portion of the Ecological Landscape differs from the rest of the area in that it remains primarily forested, and includes some ecologically significant areas. Throughout the Ecological Landscape, small areas of conifer swamp are found near the headwaters of streams, and associated with lakes in kettle depressions on moraines.

Hydrology

The hydrology of the Lower Little Wolf River Watershed begins below the Big Falls Dam. The Lower Little Wolf River generally flows southeast through pre-dominantly agriculture landscapes. Overall, the Lower Little Wolf River is a slow, clear and hard warmwater river with some sections of rapids and moderate current. The watershed that drains into the Lower Little Wolf River from the west is more of a mix of forest, wetlands and agriculture. The watershed that drains from the east of the Lower Little Wolf River is dominated by agriculture with a lower percentage of wetland and forested landscape. There is one notable dam and associated millpond in the City of Manawa between Big Falls and the Lower Little Wolf River confluence with the Wolf River near Royalton. The tributaries on the west side of the watershed have a higher groundwater proportion of their flow and are generally cooler. The tributaries on the east side of the watershed demonstrate higher surface runoff inputs creating higher flow volumes for shorter periods of time or flashiness.

Methods & Procedures

During the growing season of 2015, Total Phosphorus (TP) samples were collected at 12 locations once per month from May through October. In addition to the TP samples, Total Dissolved Phosphorus (TDP) samples were collected in August through October 2015 at 10 of the 12 locations. Thirdly, Dissolved Nitrates + Nitrites as Nitrogen (NO3+NO2 as N) samples were collected in June and August 2015 at 12 locations in the Lower Little Wolf River Watershed. Finally, Total Suspended Solids (TSS) samples were collected in May through October 2015 at 10 of the 12 locations.

All samples were collected using the standard DNR grab sampling method for a total of 159 samples (WDNR 2014). Neither baseflow nor storm or snowmelt event sampling were targeted during this project, following the protocol of Wisconsin Consolidated Assessment and Listing Methodology (WisCALM 2014). However, the June sampling was conducted following a rain event based upon the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) historical precipitation data (NOAA 2016). Additionally, the August and October samples were collected during baseflow conditions. All nutrient samples were shipped to Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene (WISLOH) for analysis. The WISLOH entered all sample analysis data into the DNR Surface Water Integrated Monitoring System (SWIMS).

Eleven creek and river locations were sampled for aquatic macroinvertebrates in October 2015. Blake Creek and its South Fork were sampled in May 2016 for macroinvertebrates to fill out the dataset. All sites were sampled using the DNR Guidelines for Collecting Macroinvertebrate Samples from Wadeable Streams (2000). A D-shaped kicknet with 600 micron mesh was used at all sites by standing upstream from the net and placing it firmly on the stream bed while digging into the substrate with the heel or toe to free the macroinvertebrates from the substrate. Riffles were targeted at each of the sites, but if none were present then overhanging vegetation, woody debris, or other vegetation would be sampled. This was done by jabbing the net into the vegetation to free the invertebrates. For a representative sample of the aquatic macroinvertebrate community, a minimum of 100 aquatic macroinvertebrates collected in each sample was targeted. The aquatic macroinvertebrates were preserved in a 70-80% ethanol solution inside quart ?Mason? jars. If necessary, multiple ?Mason? jars were used per sample depending upon how much sediment and organic material was collected with the aquatic macroinvertebrates. Within the next 24 hours, the samples were re-preserved with another 70-80% ethanol solution. Samples were taken to the UW-Stevens Point Aquatic Entomology Laboratory (AEL) for lowest possible taxonomic identification. Staff at the AEL entered the data into the SWIMS database in 2016.

Between July and September 2015, wadeable fish surveys were conducted at 13 sites. Wadeable fish surveys were conducted at 10 of the 11 sites. Beaver Creek at County Hwy O was dry during the scheduled sampling event period; therefore, no survey was conducted. The 13 wadeable fish surveys were conducted following the DNR Guidelines for Assessing Fish Communities of Wadeable Streams in Wisconsin (2001).

All 13 wadeable sites were surveyed in July through September 2015 during the guidance-recommended summer time survey period. Stream flow and water chemistry data was recorded at each wadeable site prior to conducting the fish survey. The wadeable fish survey stations were a minimum of 35 times the mean stream width (overall minimum of 100 meters, overall maximum of 400 meters). An otter sled stream shocker with a 4000 Peak Watt generator was used for 6 of the 13 wadeable sites with appropriate stream width and/or depth. A 12 Volt, 18 Amp Hour battery-powered backpack shocker was used for 7 of the 13 sites based upon the streams? smaller width and depth. Catch per effort sampling procedures were used for this project (no particular species was targeted, all captured). A single upstream pass was made using 0.125 inch mesh nets to collect the fish. At the end of the station, captured fish were identified and counted and all game fish were measured for length. Once all data was collected, the fish were returned to the creek. Fish survey data was entered into the Fisheries and Habitat Management Database (FHMD) by DNR Water Resources staff.

Continuous Meter:
Onset Hobo Pendant thermistors were deployed to collect temperature data from May through October at 14 locations in the Lower Little Wolf River Watershed. Temperature measurements were taken once per hour at each location from May through October or November. Temperature measurements were taken with an Onset Hobo Pendant thermistor attached to a fence post driven into the stream bed of the creek or river. The thermistor was attached to the fence post in such a manner as to suspend the thermistor in the water column low enough to stay under water in low flow conditions and high enough to not get buried in bottom substrate (~ 6 inches above the bottom). The thermistor was placed in a shaded location when possible. Temperature data were uploaded into the SWIMS database by DNR Water Resources staff.

Quantitative habitat surveys were conducted at 10 locations in the Lower Little Wolf River Watershed in October 2015. In May 2016, a quantitative habitat survey was conducted in Little Creek at County O. All sites were surveyed following the DNR Guidelines for Evaluating Habitat of Wadeable Streams (2002). Each quantitative habitat survey station length was 35 times the mean stream width of the survey station. Following the determination of station length, the station was divided into 12 transects. At each transect, substrate, sedimentation, erosion, water depth, and riparian land use data were collected. DNR Water Resources staff entered the quantitative habitat data into the FHMD.

Natural Communities

Each fish community surveyed was used to verify or update the modeled Natural Community for that stream segment. The modeled Natural Community for the Little Wolf River was verified as Cool-Warm Mainstem from County Hwy C to County Hwy BB. Each of the 10 tributary streams? Natural Community was verified or changed based upon the fish caught in the survey (and any historical known surveys in that stream segment). Verifying or changing the modeled Natural Community was important since the Natural Community determines which FIBI was used to determine the water quality of that stream segment. The results of the calculated FIBI calculations displayed in Table 17 and Chart 8 are based upon the verified or changed Natural Community.

Results

Total phosphorus
The 2015 TP sample analysis results in the Lower Little Wolf River Watershed ranged from 0.0172 mg/L at Spaulding Creek in May to 0.749 mg/L at Thiel Creek in July (Table 10, Chart 2). The TP sample analysis results in the Little Wolf River Mainstem ranged from 0.0182 mg/L at County Hwy C in October to 0.209 mg/L at County Hwy BB in June (Table 9, Chart 1). Four of the 12 locations in this project had an average TP concentration (mg/L) exceeding the Wisconsin Administrative Code ch. NR 102.06(3)(b) water quality criteria (WQC) for creeks and rivers at 0.075 mg/L (Table 9-10, Chart 1-2). Eight of the 12 locations had average TP concentrations less than the WQC (Table 9-10, Chart 1-2). The average TP concentrations for the 12 sites in this project ranged from 0.0376 mg/L in the Little Wolf River at County Hwy C to 0.2958 mg/L in Thiel Creek at Swan Road (Table 9-10, Chart 1-2).

At 10 of the 12 TP sample locations, TDP analysis was conducted on samples collected in August, September, and October 2015. The 2015 TDP concentrations in the Lower Little Wolf River Mainstem ranged from 0.0138 mg/L at County Hwy C in October to 0.0556 mg/L at Railroad St Trail in September (Table 11, Chart 3). The 2015 TDP concentrations in the Tributaries of the Lower Little Wolf River ranged from 0.0137 mg/L in Spiegelberg Creek in September to 0.172 mg/L in Little Creek in September (Table 12, Chart 4).

Nitrogen
At the 12 locations in Table 1, NO3+NO2 as N analysis was conducted on samples collected in June and August 2015 (Table 13, Chart 5). The 2 samples at County Hwy C had the lowest and highest NO3+NO2 as N concentrations in the Lower Little Wolf River Mainstem, 0.863 mg/L in June and 2.24 mg/L in August 2015, respectively (Table 13). The 2015 NO3+NO2 as N concentrations of the Tributaries of the Lower Little Wolf River Watershed ranged from 0.052 mg/L in June in Spaulding Creek to 2.01 mg/L in August in Little Creek (Table 13, Chart 5).

Total suspended solids
TSS analysis was conducted on samples collected at 10 of the 12 Lower Little Wolf River Watershed project locations during the same sampling events as TP in 2015. TSS samples were collected once per month from May through October (Table 14-15, Chart 6). Wisconsin does not have a water quality standard for TSS; however, this data provides useful information about the watershed, background information for future comparison, and additional support for adding these systems to the CWA 303d list for habitat degradation. The TSS concentration of the Lower Little Wolf River Mainstem ranged from No Detection (ND), which is <2.0 mg/L, to 33.5 mg/L in June at County Hwy BB (Table 14, Chart 6). The TSS concentrations of the Tributaries in the Lower Little Wolf River Watershed ranged from ND to 67.4 mg/L in July in Shaw Creek at County Hwy O (Table 15, Chart 6).

Macroinvertebrates
Aquatic macroinvertebrate communities were sampled at 11 locations in October 2015 (Table 5). In addition, macroinvertebrate samples were collected from Blake Creek at County K and its South Fork at County E in May 2016.
Some aquatic macroinvertebrate species are tolerant of environmental degradation, while some species are moderately tolerant, and some others are intolerant. Based upon the representative macroinvertebrate sample collected and associated tolerance to environmental degradation, an Index of Biotic Integrity (MIBI) was calculated to indicate the water quality condition of the stream or river (Table 16, Chart 7).

In general, the higher the MIBI score, the better the water quality rating for a waterbody. The MIBI scores ranged from 3.63 in Little Creek at County O to 8.3 in the Little Wolf River at County BB (Table 16, Chart 7). The Condition Categories for the 13 sites ranged from Fair to Excellent. The 3 Little Wolf River Mainstem samples demonstrated a macroinvertebrate community that ranged from having some slight to no apparent impact from environmental degradation. The 10 tributary macroinvertebrate communities indicated significant to some slight impact from environmental degradation.

Fisheries
July and September 2015 13 sites in the Lower Little Wolf River Watershed were surveyed for representative fish communities. Some fish species are tolerant of environmental degradation, while some species are moderately tolerant, and some others are intolerant. Based upon the representative fish collected during the survey and their associated tolerance to environmental degradation, an Index of Biotic Integrity (FIBI) was calculated to indicate the water quality of each creek or river (Table 17, Chart 8).

The FIBI scores ranged from 20 in Shaw, Thiel, and Little Creeks to 100 in the Little Wolf River at County Hwy C (Table 17, Chart 8). The Condition Category for the 13 sites ranged from Poor to Excellent. All 3 fish surveys in the Little Wolf River Mainstem indicate a Condition Category of Excellent, with the FIBI scores ranging from 90 to 100. Three of the remaining 10 tributary sites demonstrated a Condition Category of Excellent (Table 17, Chart 8). Two sites had a Condition Category of Good and 2 sites showed a Condition Category of Fair. The remaining 3 sites had a Condition Category of Poor based upon the fish surveys (Table 17, Chart 8).

Natural communities
Each fish community surveyed was used to verify or update the modeled Natural Community for that stream segment. The modeled Natural Community for the Little Wolf River was verified as Cool-Warm Mainstem from County Hwy C to County Hwy BB. Each of the 10 tributary streams? Natural Community was verified or changed based upon the fish caught in the survey (and any historical known surveys in that stream segment). Verifying or changing the modeled Natural Community was important since the Natural Community determines which FIBI was used to determine the water quality of that stream segment. The results of the calculated FIBI calculations displayed in Table 17 and Chart 8 are based upon the verified or changed Natural Community.

Water temperature
Water temperature data was collected from May through October or November 2015 at 14 locations in the Little Wolf River Watershed (Table 7, Map 1-2). Monthly average temperatures were reported for months with complete data only. The water level in Beaver Creek became too low to accurately collect temperature data by mid-July 2015; therefore, only the average temperature for June 2015 was reported (Table 18, Chart 9). The hobo pendant deployed in the Little Wolf River at County Hwy C was vandalized during the summer; therefore, no temperature data was available for that location (SWIMS ID 693151). The temperatures at the sites monitored in 2015 during the time of deployment ranged from 32.2F in Whitcomb Creek at County Hwy E on 11/22/2015 to 84.7F in Spiegelberg Creek at Cemetery Rd on 8/14/2015. The average monthly temperatures ranged from 59.4F in the North Fork of Blake Creek at County Hwy E in June to 73.8F in the Little Wolf River at Railroad St Trail in July (Table 14, Chart 8). The Maximum Daily Averages (MDM) ranged from 66.1F in Shaw Creek to 78.1F in the Little Wolf River at Railroad St Trail.

Quantitative habitat surveys
In October 2015, quantitative habitat surveys were conducted at 10 locations in the Lower Little Wolf River Watershed (Table 19, Map1-2). A quantitative habitat survey was conducted at one location (Little Creek) in May 2016 (Table 19, Map 2). Quantitative habitat assessments evaluate a representative stream reach (35 X Mean Stream Width) for the quantity and quality of habitat for game fish and compare the habitat to reference streams in Wisconsin.

Based upon the assessment data collected during the 2015 and 2016 surveys, a habitat rating was calculated for the 11 locations (Table 19, Chart 10). The quantitative habitat scores ranged from 25 in Spiegelberg Creek at Cemetery Road to 82 in the Little Wolf River at County Hwy C (Table 19, Chart 10). The Little Wolf River at County Hwy C was the only location to have a habitat Condition Category of Excellent. Six of the 11 surveys demonstrated a habitat Condition Category of Good, with scores ranging from 55-70 (Table 19, Chart 10). Whitcomb Creek, Spaulding, Little and Shaw Creeks had a Fair Condition Category, with scores ranging from 25 to 48 (Table 19, Chart 10). None of the habitat surveys demonstrated Poor habitat.

Discussion of Results

Purpose of project
The purpose of this project was to evaluate water quality improvements made in the Little Wolf River Watershed from BMPs installed in the watershed from 1997 through 2008 and determine if the goals of the Lower Little Wolf River Priority Watershed Project were met. The overall goal for the Priority Watershed Project was to enhance and protect the water quality of the surface waters of the sub-watersheds to ultimately improve the water quality of the Lower Little Wolf River. Nutrient and suspended solids samples, aquatic biological community evaluations, and habitat assessments were conducted to determine the water quality of the Lower Little Wolf River Watershed. The total phosphorus, aquatic macroinvertebrate, and fish monitoring in this project demonstrated that the water quality in the Lower Little Wolf River Watershed ranges from poor and excellent condition.

About the watershed
The Lower Little Wolf River Watershed drains a 152 square-mile watershed before discharging into the Wolf River near Royalton, Wisconsin. The Lower Little Wolf River Watershed is located entirely within Waupaca County. The Lower Little Wolf River begins at the downstream side of the Big Falls hydroelectric dam and continues downstream roughly 27 miles until its confluence with the South Branch of the Little Wolf River. There are 189 named and unnamed stream miles in the watershed.

Land use
The watershed is dominated by agricultural land use at 52%, while 22% is wooded. Less than 5% is considered developed. Typically, as increases in agricultural land use occur, there is a correlating increase in TP and TN concentrations in creeks in the watersheds in Wisconsin. Water clarity (secchi depths) decreases and chlorophyll a concentration (which is an indication of algae populations) increases as TP and TDP increases. Water clarity and chlorophyll a concentration are indicators of water quality in Wisconsin lakes (WisCALM 2014).

Historical monitoring
Between September 1995 and September 1996, biological, physical and chemistry monitoring was conducted by the DNR to summarize the existing conditions of the Lower Little Wolf River Watershed prior to the implementation of the Priority Watershed Project. In early 1997, the Lower Little Wolf River Priority Watershed Surface Water Resources Appraisal Report was prepared by DNR staff Bradley Johnson (WDNR 1997). In addition, water quality monitoring was conducted in 2001 by staff at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point Center for Watershed Science and Education (CWS) throughout the Lower Little Wolf River to target which sub-watersheds have the greatest need for BMPs to reduce non-point sediment and nutrients from reaching the Little Wolf River. In 2003, a Water Quality Assessment of the Lower Little Wolf River Watershed was prepared by CWS staff (Turyk, et. al. 2003). A comparison of the 1995-2001 data to the data that was collected in 2015 can provide some indication of water quality changes over time as a result of the Priority Watershed Project.

The 1995-1996 nutrient and suspended solids concentration data were mainly collected during runoff events, with a few baseflow conditions monitored (WDNR 1997) (Table 20-23, Chart 11-14). In 2001, both runoff events and baseflow conditions were targeted for collecting nutrient samples, while only runoff events were sampled for suspended solids concentrations (Turyk et. al. 2003) (Table 20-23, Chart 11-14). In 2015, runoff event (June 2015) and baseflow nutrient and suspended solids conditions (August and October 2015) were monitored as part of this project. If multiple sampling events were conducted during baseflow or runoff conditions, then the average concentration was calculated for that set of monitoring results.

Comparisons of recent data with historical data
The concentrations of NO3+NO2 as N varied considerably from year to year and from location to location during baseflow conditions in the Lower Little Wolf River Watershed. The average baseflow NO3+NO2 as N concentrations in the Little Wolf River Mainstem at County Hwy C and County Hwy BB decreased from the 1995-1996 Watershed Appraisal concentrations to the 2015 concentrations in this project (Table 20, Chart 11). Baseflow NO3+NO2 as N concentrations in Blake, Spaulding, and Whitcomb Creeks maintained relatively similar concentrations from pre-existing and 2001 monitoring results to the 2015 baseflow concentrations.

The 2015 baseflow NO3+NO2 as N concentrations were higher in Little, Spiegelberg, and Thiel Creeks than previous baseflow concentrations. Shaw Creek had the lowest baseflow NO3+NO2 as N concentration of any of the Lower Little Wolf River tributaries in 2015. The NO3+NO2 as N baseflow concentration in Shaw Creek of 0.05 mg/L in 2015 was considerably lower than 1995-1996 and 2001, 0.5725 mg/L and 3.0 mg/L respectively (Table 20, Chart 11). The lower NO3+NO2 as N in baseflow in the Mainstem suggests that the groundwater influx to the Mainstem and its tributaries has overall decreased in NO3+NO2 as N concentration following the Priority Watershed Project.

The runoff event monitoring NO3+NO2 as N results were consistently lower than the baseflow concentrations in the Lower Little Wolf River and its tributaries. This was likely due to the dilution effect of snowmelt and rain to the NO3+NO2 as N concentrations in groundwater. When comparing the monitoring results from 1995, 1996, and 2001 to the 2015 runoff event results, the Little Wolf River Mainstem NO3+NO2 as N concentrations were relatively similar. The Little Wolf River at County Hwy C demonstrated the largest difference with a decrease from 1.7mg/L event average in 2001 to 0.9mg/L event average in 2015 (Table 21, Chart 12). Beaver, Blake, Spaulding, Spiegelberg, Thiel and Whitcomb Creeks runoff concentrations either remained relatively similar or showed some slight decrease in NO3+NO2 as N concentration. Runoff events in Little and Shaw Creeks increased in NO3+NO2 as N concentration from 2001 to 2015.

The flux in concentrations of TP from year to year and from location to location during baseflow conditions was minimal to significant in the Lower Little Wolf River Watershed. The average baseflow TP concentrations in the Little Wolf River Mainstem at County Hwy C decreased slightly from the 2001 concentrations to the 2015 concentrations in this project (Table 22, Chart 13). At County Hwy BB, the average baseflow TP concentration increased from 2001 to 2015, 0.027mg/L to 0.0375mg/L, respectively. Baseflow TP concentrations in Blake, Shaw, Spaulding, Spiegelberg, and Whitcomb Creeks maintained relatively similar concentrations from 2001 monitoring results to the 2015 baseflow concentrations (Table 22, Chart 13). The 2015 baseflow TP concentrations were lower in Beaver, Little, and Thiel Creeks than the 2001 baseflow concentrations. Little Creek had the highest baseflow TP concentration of any of the Lower Little Wolf River tributaries in 2015.

In contrast to the runoff event NO3+NO2 as N monitoring results, the runoff event TP results were consistently higher than the baseflow concentrations in the Lower Little Wolf River and its tributaries. This was likely due to the increased phosphorus attached to sediments from the landscape and stream bank erosion reaching the streams and river, amongst other contributing factors. When comparing the runoff event monitoring results from 1995, 1996, and 2001 to the 2015 runoff event results, the Little Wolf River Mainstem TP concentrations were consistently higher in 2015. The Little Wolf River at County Hwy BB demonstrated the largest difference with an increase from 0.08mg/L event average in 2001 to 0.209mg/L event average in 2015 (Table 22, Chart 13). Beaver, Blake, Thiel, and Whitcomb Creeks runoff concentrations increased in TP concentration over that same time period. Runoff events in Little, Shaw, and Spiegelberg Creeks decreased in TP concentration from 1995, 1996, and 2001 to 2015.

Impairment assessment
In addition to comparing the 2015 TP results to historic phosphorus data collected, an impairment assessment was conducted to verify whether the Lower Little Wolf River Watershed TP concentrations meet the Wisconsin Administrative Code ch. NR 102 WQC or if the waterbodies should be placed on the United States Environmental Protection Agency Clean Water Act Section 303d Impaired Waters List (CWA 303d IWL).

The sampling requirements to demonstrate if WQC for TP were being met, clearly exceeded, or overwhelmingly exceeded were accomplished through this project. The impairment assessment protocol requires a parametric statistical approach to assess stream and river TP data against the applicable water quality criterion found in NR 102 (WisCALM 2014). This approach involves the calculation of a 90% confidence limit around the median of a TP sample dataset. If the lower 90% confidence limit (LCL) exceeds the criterion for TP, then that stream or river segment (assessment unit) is considered to be exceeding the criterion. The LCLs were calculated for each complete set of TP samples (Table 23). Beaver Creek was dry in August; therefore, the sampling requirements to assess whether or not the TP exceeded the WQC were not met. All of the Little Wolf River Mainstem sample sets met the WQC of 0.075mg/L. Two of the seven tributary LCLs overwhelmingly exceeded (LCL of >0.15mg/L) the water quality criterion for TP (Table 23, Chart 14). Little and Thiel Creeks will be recommended for the 2018 CWA 303d IWL due to the pollutant phosphorus.

TSS
In addition to TP and NO3+NO2 as N, TSS was indicated as a pollutant of concern in the Priority Watershed Nonpoint Source Control Plan in 1997. In the Lower Little Wolf River Watershed in 1995-1996 and 2001, runoff event samples were collected for TSS analysis. When multiple runoff events were sampled, the average TSS concentration for those samples was calculated (Table 24, Chart 15). When comparing the monitoring results from 2001 to the 2015 runoff event results, the Little Wolf River Mainstem TSS concentrations increased at County Hwy C and BB. The event sample in June 2015 from Blake Creek at Hwy 22 was 35.7mg/L, which was considerably higher than the average event TSS concentrations in 1995-1996 and 2001 (Table 24, Chart 15). However, the maximum runoff event TSS concentration from 1996 (49mg/L) was higher than the 2001 and 2015 maximum TSS concentrations, 21mg/L and 35.7mg/L respectively, in Blake Creek. Beaver, Little, Spiegelberg and Whitcomb Creeks decreased in runoff TSS concentrations (Table 24, Chart 15).

Macroinvertebrates
In October 1995, aquatic macroinvertebrate surveys were conducted at 8 locations in the Lower Little Wolf River Watershed (WDNR 1997). The DNR MIBI protocol was followed during the surveys; thus, the MIBI scores from 1995 can be compared with the MIBI surveys conducted in 2015 as part of this project. All 8 locations surveyed in 1995 were close enough to the locations in this project for comparison to the 2015 surveys (Table 25, Chart 16). Four of the 8 2015 MIBI scores were similar (+<1) when compared to the 1995 MIBI scores (Table 25, Chart 16). Thiel and Spiegelberg Creeks increased in MIBI score from 1995 to 2015 (Table 25, Chart 16). The samples collected from Whitcomb and Blake Creeks indicated decreases in MIBI score or lower water quality and decreased in Condition Category from 1995 to 2015.

Fisheries
In August 1996, fish surveys were conducted at 25 locations in the Lower Little Wolf River Watershed (WDNR 1997). FIBI protocol was followed during the surveys; thus, the FIBI scores from 1996 can be compared with the FIBI scores from 2015 as part of this project. Just as in 2015, the 1996 FIBI surveys were used to verify the Natural Community of the river or creek. The 1996 FIBI scores and Condition Category were based upon the verified Natural Community. None of the Natural Communities verified or changed in 2015 were changed based upon the 1996 FIBI surveys. Eleven of the 25 locations surveyed in 1996 were close enough for comparison to the 2015 surveys (Table 26, Chart 17). Nine of the 11 2015 FIBI scores were similar or increased when compared to the 1996 FIBI scores (Table 26, Chart 17). Thiel and Shaw Creek decreased in FIBI score and Condition Category from 1996 to 2015 (Table 26, Chart 17).

Monitoring Recommendations

1. Little and Thiel Creeks should be added to the state?s 2018 303(d) list of impaired waters due to the pollutant phosphorus. The department should increase the water quality monitoring in these sub-watersheds to determine which areas need BMPs to reduce phosphorus delivery to the streams.
2. Monitoring of temperature, phosphorus, and sediment concentrations above and below Big Falls and Manawa should continue to assess the impacts from the millponds on the water quality of the River.
3. Monitoring of phosphorus and nitrate concentrations in the streams of the Lower Little Wolf River should continue.

Management Recommendations

1. The department should work with Waupaca County Land and Water Conservation Department (LWCD) and Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) to implement BMPs to reduce non-point source sediment and nutrients reaching surface waters from stream bank and cropland erosion.
2. Little and Thiel Creeks should be added to the state?s 2018 303(d) list of impaired waters due to the phosphorus levels. The department should increase the water quality monitoring in these sub-watersheds to determine which areas within the sub-watershed need BMPs to reduce phosphorus delivery to the streams.
3. Monitoring of phosphorus and nitrate concentrations in the streams of the Lower Little Wolf River should continue.
4. Monitoring of temperature, phosphorus, and sediment concentrations above and below Big Falls and Manawa should continue to assess the impacts from the millponds on the water quality of the River.
5. Reduce summer time phosphorus concentrations to below NR 102 water quality standard (0.075mg/L) in Thiel and Little Creeks.
6. Identify target areas within Thiel and Little Creek watersheds in need of BMPs to reduce phosphorus and sediment.

Partner Recommendations

1. The department should work with Waupaca County LWCD and NRCS to implement BMPs to reduce non-point source sediment and nutrients reaching surface waters from stream bank and cropland erosion.

Water Quality Monitoring and Planning

This Water Quality Management Plan was created under the state�s Water Quality Management
Planning and Water Resources Monitoring Programs. The plan reflects Water Quality Bureau and Water
Resources Monitoring Strategy 2015-2020 goals and priorities and fulfills Areawide Water Quality
Management Planning milestones under the Clean Water Act, Section 208. Condition information and
resource management recommendations support and guide program priorities for the plan area.
This plan is hereby approved by the Wisconsin DNR Water Quality Program and is a formal update to the
Wolf River Areawide Water Quality Management Plan and Wisconsin�s Statewide Areawide Water
Quality Management Plan. This plan will be forwarded to USEPA for certification as a formal plan
update.

Contributors

Dave Bolha, Primary Author and Investigator, Eastern District, Wisconsin DNR
Victoria Ziegler, Program Support, Water Quality Bureau, Wisconsin DNR
Lisa Helmuth, Program Coordinator, Water Quality Bureau, Wisconsin DNR

Partners

Waupaca County Land and Water Conservation Department
Waupaca County Natural Resources Conservation Service

Bibliography

NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), 2015, Precipitation data, accessed on March 15th, 2016, at http://water.weather.gov/precip/.

Turyk et al UWSP-CWSE (University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Center for Watershed Science and Education). 2003. Water Quality Assessment of the Lower Little Wolf Watershed.

(Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources). 1997. Lower Little Wolf River Priority Watershed Surface Water Resources Appraisal Report.

WDNR (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources). 1997. Nonpoint Source Control Plan for the Lower Little Wolf River.

WDNR (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources). 2000. Guidelines for Collecting Macroinvertebrate Samples from Wadable Streams.

WDNR (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources). 2001. Guidelines for Assessing Fish Communities of Wadable Streams in Wisconsin.

WDNR (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources). 2002. Guidelines for Evaluating Habitat of Wadable Streams.

WDNR (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources). 2010. Wisconsin Administrative Code ch. NR 102: Water Quality Standards for Wisconsin Surface Waters.

WDNR (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources). 2014. Total Phosphorus Sampling Methods: Water Action Volunteers Manual 2014.

WDNR (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources). 2014. Wisconsin Consolidated Assessment and Listing Methodology Guidance Document.

Abbreviations

AEL: Aquatic Entomology Laboratory at UW Stevens Point. The primary laboratory for analysis of macroinvertebrate taxonomy in the State of Wisconsin. BMP: Best Management Practice. A practice that is determined effective and practicable (including technological, economic, and institutional considerations) in preventing or reducing pollution generated from nonpoint sources to a level compatible with water quality goals.

DATCP: Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. The state agency in partnership with DNR responsible for a variety of land and water related programs.

DNR: Department of Natural Resources. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is an agency of the State of Wisconsin created to preserve, protect, manage, and maintain natural resources.

END: Endangered Species. Wisconsin species designated as rare or unique due to proximity to the farthest extent of their natural range or due to anthropogenic deleterious impacts on the landscape or both.

ERW: Exceptional Resource Water. Wisconsin?s designation under state water quality standards to waters with exceptional quality and which may be provided a higher level of protection through various programs and processes.

FHMD: Fisheries and Habitat Management Database. The state?s repository for fish taxonomy and auto-calculated metrics involving fish assemblage condition and related.

FIBI: Fish Index of biological integrity (Fish IBI). An Index of Biological Integrity (IBI) is a scientific tool used to identify and classify water pollution problems. An IBI associates anthropogenic influences on a water body with biological activity in the water and is formulated using data developed from biosurveys. In Wisconsin, Fish IBIs are created for each type of natural community in the state?s stream system.

HUC: Hydrologic Unit Code. A code or sequence of numbers that identify one of a number of nested and interlocked hydrologic catchments delineated by a consortium of agencies including USGS, USFS, and Wisconsin DNR.

MIBI: Macroinvertebrate Index of biological integrity. In Wisconsin, the MIBI, or macroinvertebrate Index of biological integrity, was developed specifically to assess Wisconsin?s macroinvertebrate community (see also Fish IBI).

NC. Natural Community. A system of categorizing water based on inherent physical, hydrologic, and biological assemblages. Streams and lakes are categorized using an array of natural community types.

MDM: Maximum Daily Averages. Maximum daily average is a calculated metric that may be used for temperature, dissolved oxygen and related chemistry parameters to characterize water condition.

mg/L: milligrams per liter. A volumetric measure typically used in chemistry analysis characterizations.

Monitoring Seq. No. Monitoring Sequence Number. A unique identification code generated by the Surface Water Integrated Monitoring System (SWIMS), which holds much of the state?s water quality monitoring data.

NOAA: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. A federal agency responsible for water / aquatic related activities involve the open waters, seas and Great Lakes.

ND: No detection. A term used typically in analytical settings to identify when a parameter or chemical constituent was not present at levels higher than the limit of detection.

NRCS: USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. The federal agency providing local support and land management outreach work with landowners and partners such as state agencies.

ORW: Outstanding Resource Water. Wisconsin?s designation under state water quality standards to waters with outstanding quality and which may be provided a higher level of protection through various programs and processes.

SC: Species of Special Concern. Species in Wisconsin designated as special concern due to proximity to the farthest extent of their natural range or due to anthropogenic deleterious impacts on the landscape, or both.

SWIMS ID. Surface Water Integrated Monitoring System (SWIMS) Identification Code. An unique monitoring station identification number for the location where monitoring data was gathered.

TDP: Total Dissolved Phosphorus. An analyzed chemistry parameter collected in aquatic systems positively correlated with excess productivity and eutrophication in Wisconsin waters.

TMDL: Total Maximum Daily Load. A technical report required for impaired waters Clean Water Act. TMDLs identify sources, sinks and impairments associated with the pollutant causing documented impairments.

TP: Total Phosphorus. An analyzed chemical parameter collected in aquatic systems frequently positively correlated with excess productivity and eutrophication in many of Wisconsin?s waters.

THR: Threatened Species. Wisconsin species designated as threatened due to proximity to the farthest extent of their natural range or due to anthropogenic deleterious impacts on the landscape, or both.

TWA: Targeted Watershed Assessment. A study design described in Wisconsin?s Water Resources Monitoring Strategy 2015-2020 that integrates multiple program goals and interests for monitoring, assessing, and planning for maintaining, protecting and managing the state?s resources.

TSS: Total suspended solids. An analyzed physical parameter collected in aquatic systems that is frequently positively correlated with excess productivity, reduced water clarity, reduced dissolved oxygen and degraded biological communities.

WATERS ID: The Waterbody Assessment, Tracking and Electronic Reporting System Identification Code. A unique numerical sequence number assigned by the WATERS system, also known as Assessment Unit ID code.

WBIC: Water Body Identification Code. DNR�s unique identification codes assigned to water features in the state. The lines and information allow the user to execute spatial and tabular queries about the data, make maps, and perform flow analysis and network traces.

WISLOH: Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene. The state�s certified laboratory that provides a wide range of analytical services including toxicology, chemistry, and data sharing.

WQC: Water quality criteria. A component of Wisconsins water quality standards that provide numerical endpoints for specific chemical, physical, and biological constituents.