North Branch Beaver Creek TWA WQM Plan 2017
Little Peshtigo River (GB08)
Andy Hudak, Biologist and Author, WDNR
North Branch Beaver Creek WMQ Plan
Purpose of Project
The purpose of this study was to conduct evaluation monitoring, which can be used to identify potential stressors on the health of aquatic systems through chemistry, physical or biological monitoring, or to create additional background information for bioassessment criteria development and related work. The study also involved overall baseline condition data in the larger subwatershed.
Summary of Study
The North Branch of Beaver Creek is an 11.86 mile long tributary to the Peshtigo River within the Little Peshtigo River watershed in southern Marinette County. The North Branch Beaver Creek sub-watershed is 20.8 square miles with mainly cool to cold water streams. The North Branch Beaver Creek is an excellent brown and brook trout stream with hard, clear, and slightly alkaline waters conducive to high productivity. Nearby Walker Creek and smaller unnamed headwater streams comprise waters all capable of supporting trout and mottled sculpin; these are all classified as Outstanding Resource Waters. There are no waters listed as impaired under the Clean Water Act in the sub-watershed.
The overall goal of this plan is to improve and protect water quality in the basin. This Targeted Watershed Assessment monitoring project provided substantial data to analyze current conditions and to make recommendations for future management actions in the area. This plan is designed to present monitoring study results, identify issues or concerns in the area found during the project and to make recommendations to improve or protect water quality consistent with Clean Water Act guidelines and state water quality standards.
Little Peshtigo River (GB08)
The North Branch of Beaver Creek is an 11.86 mile long tributary to the Peshtigo River located within the Little Peshtigo River watershed in southern Marinette County. The North Branch Beaver Creek sub-watershed is 20.8 square miles in size and supports mainly cool to cold water streams.
The North Branch Beaver Creek is an excellent brown and brook trout stream with hard, clear, and slightly alkaline water conducive to high productivity. Walker Creek, and a smaller unnamed headwater stream, comprise the surrounding waters capable of supporting trout and mottled sculpin. These waters are designated Outstanding Resource Waters (see Outstanding Waters, NR 102 Wisconsin Adm. Code). No waterways are currently known to be impaired in the subwatershed. Currently, there are no permitted wastewater dischargers in the area; however, one concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) is located just north of, and outside of, the watershed boundary.
Land use in the North Branch Beaver Creek sub-watershed is primarily forested wetlands with some agricultural production along the southern and northern borders of the watershed. The land use along the creek?s riparian corridor is largely conifer wetlands comprised of white cedar. Like most of southern Marinette County, historical logging practices followed by fire and subsequent agricultural development have led to what are called ?legacy impacts? on area streams. These include susceptibility to erosion, hydrologic modification, and an elevated level of turbidity compared to what may have existed prior to human induced landscape change.
Conservation work to protect the stream dates back to the 1950?s when the first project to fence the stream (to reduce streambank erosion from trampling banks by livestock) occurred. Since that time, the state has acquired significant land ownership within the watershed, which has reduced degradation of stream quality due to land uses in stream corridors.
The headwaters of the North Branch of Beaver Creek are of special importance. Williston Springs, the origin of Beaver Creek, is joined downstream by a series of spring seeps along the banks of the river to form the headwaters.
North Branch Beaver Creek is located in the Little Peshtigo River watershed which is 158.43 mi?. Land use in the watershed is primarily agricultural (45%), wetland (25%) and a mix of forest (21%) and other uses (9%) (Figure 2). This watershed has 206.41 stream miles, 2,168.89 lake acres and 24,619.22 wetland acres.
Outstanding and Exceptional Resource Waters
Wisconsin has designated many of the stateï¿½s highest quality waters as Outstanding Resource Waters (ORWs) or Exceptional Resource Waters (ERWs). 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. The ORW and ERW designation is reserved for waters that the State of Wisconsin has determined warrant additional protection from the effects of pollution.
DNR uses three categories to classify the different types of trout streams throughout Wisconsin. Efforts have been made to list all trout streams in the State of Wisconsin, but it is recognized that this listing in not exhaustive. Trout waters in this watershed are listed in Table 2. 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. They require annual stocking of trout to provide trout fishing.
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. The list, also known as the Impaired Waters List, is updated to reflect waters that are newly added or removed based on new information. Impaired waters in this watershed are impaired for historical discharges, mine tailings, and runoff issues (Table 3).
The Little Peshtigo River Watershed is primarily located within the Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Ecological Landscape in northeastern Wisconsin and includes Green Bay and the northern part of the Door Peninsula. Local landforms consist of the Niagara Escarpment, a prominent dolomite outcrop along the east side of Green Bay, a lacustrine plain along the west side of Green Bay, and ground moraine in nearby land features. Cliffs, sinkholes, and dolomite ledges are associated with the Niagara Escarpment.
Soils in the area are diverse; in some areas, lacustrine sands are found overlying clays or bedrock within only a few feet of the surface. In the Door Peninsula, soils are typically stony loamy sands to loams. Poorly drained sands are common in the lake plain or in depressions between dunes and beach ridges.
On the western side of Green Bay, ground moraine is composed of moderately well drained, rocky, sandy loams, interspersed with lacustrine sands and clays, with peat and muck also common. Historic vegetation included maple-basswood-beech forest, hemlock-hardwood forest, northern white cedar swamp, hardwood-conifer swamp, wet meadows, and coastal marshes. Conifer dominated upland forests that resemble boreal forest were once present along Lake Michigan; they contain a significant component of white spruce and balsam fir.
Current vegetation consists of more than 60% non-forested land, most of which is in agricultural crops, with smaller amounts of grassland, wetland, shrubland, and urbanized areas. Forested lands are dominated by maple-basswood, with smaller amounts of lowland hardwoods, aspen-birch, and lowland conifers. High quality areas of exposed alkaline bedrock beach occur on the northern Door Peninsula, providing habitat for many rare plants. Several islands lie off the Door Peninsula and these also provide critical habitat for rare species and colonially nesting birds.
Methods & Procedures
Methods, Equipment and Quality Assurance
In this study water quality monitoring was conducted at eight wadeable sites throughout the watershed during the spring, summer, and fall of 2014. During each field visit basic water quality parameters including air temperature, water temperature, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, dissolved oxygen percent, pH, flow, and water clarity were collected (Figure 5). Total phosphorous samples were collected by citizen volunteers once per month throughout the growing season from May through October. A continuous temperature (HOBO instrument) was installed on the stream and continuous water temperature readings were collected between May and October.
Continuous Water Temperature Monitoring
An Onset Hobo water temperature data logger was placed within the sample station used for fish and habitat survey at the station nearest the pour point upstream of CTH P. Temperature readings were collected every 15 minutes from May thru October. Temperature data will be used to determine relative thermal regimes for the sample station and to ascertain average daily summer time maximum temperatures.
Fish surveys were completed through the identified sample station. A direct current electrofishing backpack shocker or tow behind stream shocker was used to collect all fish possible through an upstream pass through the sample station. Typically the back pack units were used on the small streams up to 3 meters with a single probe and the stream shockers were used with a generator and 2 probes on the remainder of sites over 3 meters. All fish were collected, identified, and counted. All gamefish were measured. All other DNR sampling protocols were used to assess the fish community for purposes of calculating the index of biotic integrity.
At the established pour point station, a quantitative habitat evaluation was completed. A total of 12 transects were located equidistant throughout the station to sample representative available habitat. Quantitative habitat metrics were collected such as average stream width and depths, depths of fines, substrate, embeddedness of substrate, macrophyte or algal growth, canopy cover, riparian buffers, land use, stream bank erosion, and fish cover. The station length was established at a distance 35 times the mean stream width. The remaining stations had qualitative habitat assessment completed which utilize a condensed protocol to obtain the same habitat metrics as if complete quantitative habitat protocols were used.
Macroinvertebrate samples were obtained by kick sampling a collection using a D-frame net at all 8 sites in the watershed in fall. These samples were sent to the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point for taxonomic classification, analysis, and computation of a Macroinvertebrate Index of Biological Integrity (M-IBI) and other metrics.
Site Selection & Study Design
The study sites were selected so to reduce bias for a specific type of stream order, location, or natural community; however, sites may have been targeted based on ease of access and the need to update information due to limited or outdated data for a particular stream reach. Data collection stations were established to limit outside influences and to enable staff to use DNR field procedures that require 35 times the mean stream width (Modified from Simonson, et al. 1994) for fish and habitat parameters. Stations were established to ensure that no less than the minimum of 100 meters -- and no more than the maximum of 400 meters ï¿½ were sampled.
Results of the fisheries surveys are summarized in Table 5. The Wisconsin Stream Natural Community Model results (Lyons, 2008) indicate that the streams in the North Branch of Beaver Creek are a mix of Cool-Warm Headwater, Cool-Warm Mainstem, Cool-Cold Headwater, and Coldwater streams. Utilizing the natural community verification draft guidance (Lyons, 2013), based on the fish assemblages observed, seven of eight streams monitored do not fit the respective modeled natural community. All stream sites, with the exception of the North Branch of Beaver Creek at CTH P, exhibited a ?best fit? for thermal and size guild matched with coldwater streams. The stream reach at North Branch Beaver Creek at CTH P fits a Cool-Cold Headwater; however, this station is the furthest downstream segment and the flows observed do not fit a headwater stream. As such, the small stream/intermittent FIBI metric not an appropriate tool and should not be applied to this section the stream. The next most logical assumption is that the North Branch Beaver Creek is best evaluated as a coldwater stream.
Macroinvertebrate samples were collected at all sites and evaluated with the Hilsenhoff Biotic indices (HBI) (Hilsenhoff, 1987), Family level Biotic Indices (FBI) (Hilsenhoff 1988) and the Macroinvertebrate Index of Biotic Integrity (MIBI) (Weigel, 2003). Results were fairly consistent among sites sampled ? all sites rated as good to excellent (Table 6).
During the monthly growing season total phosphorous samples were collected from the furthest downstream pour point on the North Branch of Beaver Creek at CTH P. The results indicated that the state standards for total phosphorous were met and that total phosphorous concentrations were in 2014 below levels that would result in impairments within the stream (Figure 8).
Current Assessment Period
In addition to the results from the 2014 study, the North Branch Beaver Creek was assessed for phosphorus and biological data (fish and macroinvertebrates) during the 2018 listing cycle. New biological (macroinvertebrate Index of Biotic Integrity (MIBI) scores) sample data were clearly below 2018 WisCALM listing thresholds (i.e., the water is in good condition) for the Fish and Aquatic Life use. This water is meeting this designated use and is not considered impaired.
Discussion of Results
The North Branch Beaver Creek Watershed is generally rated as good-to-excellent water quality based on biology, habitat, and water chemistry results. In the mid 1950ï¿½s researchers identified this watershed as a unique, outstanding trout fishing resource that requires protection and improvement through management actions. However, ï¿½legacy impactsï¿½ from logging and agriculture have caused irreversible change to the stream.
ï¿½Legacy impactsï¿½ in this area resulted from clear cut logging ridges, woodlands and swamps in the late 1800ï¿½s and extensive erosion caused significant sedimentation to occur into the valley floors and waterways. Following logging, land use in close proximity to stream corridors primarily consisted of grazing, and as such these water quality condition issues related to grazing and related activities have been identified and in some cases corrected through conservation practices. Even with the ï¿½legacy impactsï¿½ still affecting underlying conditions today, the North Branch of Beaver Creek, Walker Creek, and unnamed tributaries are thriving and in good condition. Based on current land use, recreation, and likely development in the future, the most pressing threats to water quality in the watershed include logging, rural development, aquatic invasive species, and loss of water / baseflow from the installation of high capacity wells in the area.
The forestry industry is substantial in Wisconsin for both state and county managed forests and also private land ownership. To prevent significant impacts to streams within the watershed, all forestry activities should strictly follow Wisconsinï¿½s Forestry Best Management Practices for Water Quality Field Manual. This manual should be used by loggers, landowners and land managers to plan and implement forestry best management practices to prevent degradation of the water resources in the watershed. Of special importance is the protection and preservation of the coniferous forested wetlands throughout the immediate stream corridor. Special silviculture practices for this forest type should be employed to ensure the preservation and regeneration of this forest type.
Wisconsinï¿½s strong outdoor heritage leads to continual pressure from rural development in the form of seasonal cabins or secondary homes. Proper site planning and best management practices during construction for erosion control should be the standard. Highly erodible areas near stream banks, steep slopes, and springs should be avoided to prevent additional sedimentation downstream into the waterways and wetlands.
Aquatic invasive species are a continual threat to Wisconsinï¿½s vast water resources. Of special concern, is the recently discovered New Zealand Mud Snail in a cold-water trout stream near Madison. While the New Zealand Mud Snail has not been discovered in other trout stream throughout the state, it is likely an easy to spread species. The likely vector for movement is fisherman. New Zealand mud Snails are prevalent out west and it is hypothesized that the Mud Snails were transported on waders or other equipment used by fisherman. Since the North Branch of Beaver Creek and Walker Creek are excellent trout fisheries, fisherman and other users should always prevent the spread if aquatic invasive species by cleaning and disinfecting gear between streams.
The local geology of the region and desire to maximize production on agricultural fields has increased demand for the installation and use of center pivot irrigation. Currently there are 4 operating center pivot high capacity wells located within the boundary of the watershed and an additional 10 located just to the north outside of the watershed. It currently does not appear that these wells are having any measurable impact to the flow or thermal regime to the streams in the watershed. Thorough evaluation of future proposed high capacity wells should ensure no impacts to the North Branch Beaver Creek, Walker Creek, their unnamed tributaries, or any springs will occur.
Natural communities near stream stations in this subwatershed should be changed from the modeled natural communities to coldwater community. The stream segments/station sites to change to coldwater natural communities include:
North Branch Beaver Creek US CTH P
North Branch Beaver Creek DS 21st Road
Walker Creek DS 37th Road
North Branch Beaver Creek Public Access Land 37th Road
Walker Creek Downstream 33rd Road
North Branch Beaver Creek US Walker Creek Confluence
UNT to North Branch Beaver Creek US Confluence North Branch Beaver Creek
North Branch Beaver Creek Downstream 25th Road
1. Practice and follow all Forestry best management practices in the watershed.
2. Proper site planning for new homes to avoid erodible slopes, steep slopes, and springs
3. Continue education for AIS spread prevention at popular fishing access locations
4. Ensure proper evaluation of high capacity wells ensures siting does not impact springs or small tributaries that contribute base flow to Walker and N.B Beaver Creek
5. Fishing opportunities can be enhanced through maintenance of sand traps in the lower portion of the watershed, limited alder brush clearing, and trout habitat projects to maintain high quality fishing opportunities and access.
1. DNR should work with the county and local partners to identify protection measures for sensitive waters in the watershed ï¿½ North Branch, Walker Creek, and unnamed tributaries.
2. DNR should update the Master Plan for the North Branch Beaver Creek State Fishery Area, which was last updated in 1980.
3. Marinette County Conservation Department and/or other county staff should apply for runoff and river grants to identify and fund specific resource actions that would further protect and restore the high quality waters of the North Beaver Creek Subwatershed area.
1. Educate interested watershed partners on aquatic invasive species prevention, espeically at popular fishing access locations.
2. Maintain sand traps in the lower portion of the watershed and limit alder brush clearer to enhance fishing opportunities.
Water Quality Monitoring and Planning
This Water Quality Management Plan was created under the stateï¿½s 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
Upper Green Bay Areawide Water Quality Management Plan and Wisconsinï¿½s Statewide Areawide
Water Quality Management Plan. This plan will be forwarded to USEPA for certification as a formal plan
Andy Hudak, 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
Marinette County Land Conservation Department
Trout Unlimited Green Bay Chapter
Hilsenhoff, William L. 1987. An Improved Biotic Index of Organic Stream Pollution. The Great Lakes Entomologist. 20: 31-39.
Lyons, John. 1992. Using the Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) to Measure Environmental Quality in Warmwater Streams of Wisconsin. United States Department of Agriculture. General Technical Report NC-149.
Lyons, John. 2006. A Fish-based Index of Biotic Integrity to Assess Intermittent Headwater Streams in Wisconsin, USA. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 122: 239-258.
Lyons, John. 2008. Using the Wisconsin Stream Model to Estimate the Potential Natural Community of Wisconsin Streams (DRAFT). Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Fish and Aquatic Life Research. Madison, Wisconsin, 53703. November, 2008.
Lyons, John. T. Zorn, J. Stewart, P Seelbach, K Wehrly, and L. Wang. 2009. Defining and Characterizing Coolwater Streams and Their Fish Assemblages in Michigan and Wisconsin, USA. North American Journal of Fisheries Management. 29:1130-1151.
Lyons, John. 2012. Development and Validation of Two Fish-based Indices of Biotic Integrity for Assessing Perennial Coolwater Streams In Wisconsin, USA. Ecological Indicators 23 (2012) 402-412.
Lyons, John. 2013. Methodology for Using Field Data to Identify and Correct Wisconsin Stream ï¿½Natural Communityï¿½ Misclassifications. Version 4. May 16, 2013. IN DRAFT. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Madison, Wisconsin, 53703.
Simonson, Timothy D., J. Lyons, and P.D. Kanehl. 1994. Guidelines for Evaluating Fish Habitat in Wisconsin Streams. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Forest Service. General Technical Report, NC-164.
WDNR, 1980. North Branch Beaver Creek, Marinette County, Master Plan Concept Elements. 1980. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Madison, Wisconsin, 53707-7921. http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/lands/MasterPlanning/documents/MP-FA-NBrBeaverCreek_1980.pdf
WDNR. 2017. Wisconsin 2018 Consolidated Assessment and Listing Methodology (WisCALM). Clean Water Act Section 305(b), 314, and 303(d) Integrated Reporting. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Madison, Wisconsin, 53703. January, 2017.
Weigel, Brian. 2003. Development of Stream Macroinvertebrate Models That Predict Watershed and Local Stressors in Wisconsin. Journal of the North American Benthological Society. 22(1): 123-142.
Wisconsin DNR, 2011. "Wisconsinï¿½s Forestry Best Management Practices for Water Quality Field Manual." Wisconsinï¿½s Forestry Best Management Practices for Water Quality Field Manual. Wisconsin DNR, 2011. Web. 2017.
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.
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.
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 stateï¿½s 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 Wisconsinï¿½s macroinvertebrate community (see also Fish IBI). Natural Community. A system of categorizing waterbodies based on their inherent physical, hydrologic, and biological assemblages. Both Streams and Lakes are categorized using an array of ï¿½natural communityï¿½ types.
Monitoring Seq. No. Monitoring Sequence Number refers to a unique identification code generated by the Surface Water Integrated Monitoring System (SWIMS), which holds much of the stateï¿½s water quality monitoring data.
SWIMS ID. Surface Water Integrated Monitoring System (SWIMS) Identification Code is the unique monitoring station identification number for the location where monitoring data was gathered.
TWA: Targeted Watershed Assessment. A statewide study design a rotating watershed approach to gathering of baseline monitoring data with specialized targeted assessments for unique and site specific concerns, such as effectiveness monitoring of management actions.
WATERS ID: The Waterbody Assessment, Tracking and Electronic Reporting System Identification Code (WATERS ID) is a unique numerical sequence number assigned by the WATERS system, also known as ï¿½Assessment Unit ID codeï¿½.
WBIC: Water Body Identification Code. WDNRï¿½s 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.