Kewaunee River, Kewaunee River Watershed (TK03)
Kewaunee River, Kewaunee River Watershed (TK03)
Kewaunee River (90700)
2.85 Miles
13.51 - 16.36
Natural Community
Natural communities (stream and lake natural communities) represent model results that use predicted flow and temperature based on landscape features and related assumptions. Ranges of flow and temperature associated with specific aquatic life communities (fish, macroinvertebrates) help biologists identify appropriate resource management goals. Wisconsin's Riverine Natural Communities.
Cool-Warm Mainstem
Year Last Monitored
This date represents the most recent date of water quality monitoring stored in the SWIMS system. Additional field surveys for fish and habitat may be available subsequent to this date.
2007
Good
 
This river is impaired
Contaminated Fish Tissue
PCBs
 
Kewaunee
Trout Water 
Trout Waters are represented by Class I, Class II or Class III waters. These classes have specific ecological characteristics and management actions associated with them. For more information regarding Trout Classifications, see the Fisheries Trout Class Webpages.
Yes
Outstanding or Exceptional 
Wisconsin has designated many of the state's 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. ORW and ERW status identifies waters that the State of Wisconsin has determined warrant additional protection from the effects of pollution. These designations are intended to meet federal Clean Water Act obligations requiring Wisconsin to adopt an 'antidegradation' policy that is designed to prevent any lowering of water quality - especially in those waters having significant ecological or cultural value.
No
Impaired Water 
A water is polluted or 'impaired' if it does not support full use by humans, wildlife, fish and other aquatic life and it is shown that one or more of the pollutant criteria are not met.
Yes

Fish and Aquatic Life

Current Use
The use the water currently supports. This is not a designation or classification; it is based on the current condition of the water. Information in this column is not designed for, and should not be used for, regulatory purposes.
WWSF
Streams capable of supporting a warm waterdependent sport fishery. Representative aquatic life communities associated with these waters generally require cool or warm temperatures and concentrations of dissolved oxygen that do not drop below 5 mg/L.
Attainable Use
The use that the investigator believes the water could achieve through managing "controllable" sources. Beaver dams, hydroelectric dams, low gradient streams, and naturally occurring low flows are generally not considered controllable. The attainable use may be the same as the current use or it may be higher.
WWSF
Streams capable of supporting a warm waterdependent sport fishery. Representative aquatic life communities associated with these waters generally require cool or warm temperatures and concentrations of dissolved oxygen that do not drop below 5 mg/L.
Designated Use
This is the water classification legally recognized by NR102 and NR104, Wis. Adm. Code. The classification determines water quality criteria and effluent limits. Waters obtain designated uses through classification procedures.
FAL Warmwater
Fish and Aquatic Life Warmwater - waters that do not have a specific designated (codified use) but which are have documented scientific support to ascertain indicating that the water is a warm fishable, swimmable water.

Overview

The Kewaunee Marsh, located in Kewaunee County, is the site of contamination due to a Central Wisconsin Railroad car spill in the 1940’s. This spill caused arsenic contamination of surface water and groundwater in a three-acre area of the marsh. The Department, along with Wisconsin Central Railroad, has spent two years investigating and cleaning up the site. As an interim remedy to reduce human and waterfowl exposure, a geo-textile liner and several feet of wood chips were used to cap the contaminated wetland. The perimeter of the contaminated area was also securely fenced to eliminate public access, and to safeguard human health. Biological and chemical monitoring was conducted prior to the remediation, and is currently being conducted to ensure that the movement of the contaminated ground water plume doesn’t further pollute the river. To date, remediation costs have totaled approximately $400,000. Groundwater monitoring investigations are underway to determine the necessity of future remediation.

Date  2004

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Overview

The Kewaunee River is a large, low gradient stream with a 25-year average flow of 86.3 cubic feet per second (cfs) and low flows (Q7,10) of 0.05 cfs (USGS, 1992). The Kewaunee River generally has fair to good water quality throughout. Its major tributaries include Casco, School, Scarboro and Little Scarboro Creeks. The watershed is predominantly agricultural (79 percent). The mainstem of the river and many of its tributaries are receiving sediment and nutrient enrichment from agricultural runoff. Watershed soils are high in fine clays, which are easily suspended in water. Erosion in the watershed delivers these soil particles (and nutrients and herbicides that readily attach to sediments) to the river and to Lake Michigan.

Most of the Kewaunee River supports a warmwater sport fishery and has seasonal runs of salmon and trout from Lake Michigan. It is unique among Class I steelhead streams because, until recently, it did not have a dam to stop upstream fish migration (WDNR, 1988). WDNR now operates a salmon egg-taking facility (C.D. "Buzz" Besadny Andronomous Fisheries Facility) with a lowhead dam on the river. A small channel allows fish to pass through the facility and avoid the dam. Eggs are harvested from spawning females to support Wisconsin's fish propagation efforts. NR 26, Wis. Adm. Code, classifies the river stretch from County Highway F upstream to 500 feet past the return pipe of the facility as a fish refuge. The lower river has extensive wetlands, which serve as nursery grounds for the 28 species of fish supported by the river. Two and one-half miles of the river between the mouth of Casco Creek downstream to County Trunk C are Class II brown trout waters. Sandy soils in this portion of the watershed are important in maintaining base flows to trout waters and in providing gravel substrate for spawning. There are concerns regarding the impacts of carp on Kewaunee River water quality.

The entire reach of river from the mouth of School Creek downstream to the mouth of the Kewaunee River is only partially supporting its potential use due to point and nonpoint sources of water pollution. The existing fishery in this reach could be improved by minimizing cropland erosion, streambank pasturing and pollution from animal waste.

Historic reductions in the percentage of forested and wetland vegetation have resulted in a watershed that lacks adequate opportunities for infiltration and retention of precipitation and snow melt resulting in flashy runoff which overwhelms existing stream channels and aquatic habitat. This excessive runoff also strips valuable sediments and nutrients from the terrestrial environment and delivers them to our streams and lakes where they result in degraded water quality and poorer habitat which can kill sensitive and intolerant fish and aquatic invertebrates. Flashy runoff also limits the amount of water available to sustain adequate flows during drought. Restoration efforts should focus on increasing the overall percentage of forested and wetland vegetation in this watershed to restore a more natural hydrologic regime and minimize the impacts of flashy runoff and an altered hydrologic regime.

Above the mouth of School Creek, the Kewaunee River supports only forage fish and is likely fully supporting its potential use. Water quality in this segment is fair, with low flows and high water temperatures limiting the fishery.

From: Willman, Guy and Mike Toneys. 2001. The State of the Lakeshore Basin. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, WI.

Date  2001

Author  Michael Toneys

Historical Description

The Kewaunee River watershed is located in central Kewaunee County and eastern Brown County and drains eastward toward Lake Michigan. The watershed is 139 square miles (81,266 acres) with 82 % located in Kewaunee County (WDNR 1984). The Kewaunee River is a large, low gradient stream with an average flow of 2.5 cubic meters per second (WDNR 1995).

The majority of bedrock in the watershed is Niagara dolomite which is covered with up to 100 feet of glacial drift in some locations (WDNR 1984). Most of the soils of the watershed are either Kewaunee-Manawa or Hortonville-Symco and have a high percentage of fine clays associated with them. These fine clays are susceptible to erosion (water or wind) and can cause degraded water quality in rivers and lakes. The remainder of the soil types range from Casco-Boyer which are sandy, well drained and provide groundwater to surface water streams, to Kolberg-Longrie which are shallow soils associated with the dolomite bedrock. Most of the watershed is gently sloping with a gradient less than 6% with steeper slopes located along the lower portion of the Kewaunee River. Land use in the watershed is dominated by agriculture (Table 1). It was estimated in 1984 that 81% of the land was used as cropland, followed by wetlands 7.5% (including forested wetlands, woodlands 6%, grassland 3% and other uses including urban 2% (WDNR 1984).

In 1992, land use within the Kewaunee County portion of the basin was described as 79% agricultural, 7% woodland, 3% grassland, 8% wetland and 3% urban or other land uses (Andy Wallendar Kewaunee County LCD, personal communication 2000). Land use within any of the subwatersheds can be variable (Table 1). An example would be the percentage of agriculture, which varies from a low of 69% in the Lower Kewaunee River Subwatershed to a high of 89% in the School Creek Subwatershed. How the land is used can influence water quality, turbidity, erosion, dissolved oxygen levels, water temperature in streams and ultimately the biological communities that reside in them.

The Kewaunee River and its tributaries support a wide variety of fish species
This list should be viewed cautiously, because of very limited data on fish distribution of non-game species from early surveys that did not collect this type of information. Upper reaches of the watershed have forage fisheries because of low flows and warm water temperatures. Most of the remainder of the watershed supports warmwater sportfisheries, although several tributaries and one section of the Kewaunee River are designated as trout fisheries. All perennial streams within the watershed experience seasonal anadromous migrations of trout and salmon from Lake Michigan. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) built and operates an egg collection facility for Lake Michigan trout and salmon on the lower portion of the Kewaunee River.

Water quality has been and still remains a major concern within the watershed. Based on watershed models, it is estimated that the Kewaunee River delivers 1,900 tons of sediment per year to Lake Michigan (WDNR 1995). Along with sediment, phosphorus, nitrogen and manure can be found in runoff reaching the Kewaunee River. It was estimated that between 1969 and 1978 the average phosphorus load of the river was 42,000 pounds per year with values ranging from 11,000 lbs/yr to 106,000 lbs/yr (WDNR 1984). Because of high levels of point and non-point source pollution, the Kewaunee River was designated as a Priority Watershed in 1982. When the Priority Watershed program ended on the Kewaunee River in 1992, 89 of 300 landowners had agreed to participate in the program. Although low in percentage, participation was average for Priority Watersheds begun in this time period. The effectiveness of phosphorus/sediment reduction practices in this project was never measured.

Date  2001

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Kewaunee River, Kewaunee River Watershed (TK03) Fish and Aquatic LifeKewaunee River, Kewaunee River Watershed (TK03) RecreationKewaunee River, Kewaunee River Watershed (TK03) Fish Consumption

General Condition

The Kewaunee River delivers a sediment load of about 1900 tons/year to the Kewaunee Harbor and Lake Michigan. In 1988, the Army Corps of Engineers dredged 41,089 cubic meters of sediment from the harbor. The Corps removed an additional 5,220 cubic meters in 1989. Sediment sampling in 1988 revealed levels of oil and grease, total phosphorus, lead and chemical oxygen considered characteristic of moderately polluted sediments. Total Kjeldahl nitrogen and ammonia levels were indicative of heavily polluted sediments (IJC, 1991). Dredged material was delivered to a confined disposal facility.

In 1978 and 1979, fish flesh screening for toxic chemical contamination found that PCB concentrations exceeded FDA health standards in carp at the river's mouth. There is currently no fish consumption advisory for the Kewaunee River. Complete consumption advisories are stated in the Health Guide for People who eat Sport Fish from Wisconsin Waters. Anglers should examine the guide regularly for possible changes in advisory status.

The city of Kewaunee and the village of Luxemburg have wastewater treatment plants that discharge to the Kewauneee River. The Kewaunee treatment plant is operating properly and is not known to be degrading water quality. However, there is potential for the plant to discharge toxic contaminants due to several metal working companies operating in the city. Kewaunee Bottling Co. also discharges to the plant. WDNR Wastewater Management personnel recommend toxic assessment of the plant's effluent. The Luxemburg wastewater treatment plant has had problems with BOD and suspended solids levels exceeding WPDES permit limits. The village has worked with Packerland Whey Products to monitor and reduce pretreatment influent loadings. The village also removed sludge from its wastewater treatnent lagoons. As a result of these activities, the village's discharge is now in compliance.

WDNR staff have recommended that a Great Lakes or cold water community classification for water quality standards be applied to the Kewaunee River (Kincaid et al., 1992). Industrial discharges to the river include Kewaunee Equipment and General Housewares, both located in Kewaunee. These industries discharge non-contact cooling water and do not pose water quality threats.

From: Willman, Guy and Mike Toneys. 2001. The State of the Lakeshore Basin. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, WI.

Date  2001

Author  Michael Toneys

Impaired Waters

The 2018 assessments of the Kewaunee River (miles 0.37-2.63) showed continued impairment by phosphorus; new total phosphorus sample data exceed 2018 WisCALM listing criteria for the Fish and Aquatic Life use, however, no biological data (i.e. no macroinvertebrate or fish Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) scores) were available to assess biological impairment. Based on the most updated information, no change in existing impaired waters listing is needed.

Date  2017

Author  Ashley Beranek

Impaired Waters

Kewaunee River (90700) from the mouth through Kewaunee Marsh was assessed during the 2016 listing cycle; total phosphorus sample data exceed 2016 WisCALM listing criteria for the Fish and Aquatic Life use, however, no biological data (i.e. no macroinvertebrate or fish Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) scores) were available to assess biological impairment).

Date  2015

Author  Aaron Larson

Condition

Wisconsin has over 84,000 miles of streams, 15,000 lakes and milllions of acres of wetlands. Assessing the condition of this vast amount of water is challenging. The state's water monitoring program uses a media-based, cross-program approach to analyze water condition. An updated monitoring strategy (2015-2020) is now available.

Compliance with Clean Water Act fishable, swimmable standards are located in the Executive Summary of Water Condition in 2016 . See also 'monitoring' and 'projects'.

Reports

Recommendations

Water Quality Planning

Management Goals

Wisconsin's Water Quality Standards provide qualitative and quantitative goals for waters that are protective of Fishable, Swimmable conditions [Learn more]. Waters that do not meet water quality standards are considered impaired and restoration actions are planned and carried out until the water is once again fishable and swimmable

Management goals can include creation and implementation of a Total Maximum Daily Load Analysis, habitat restoration work, partnership education and outreach and more. If specific recommendations exist for this water, they will be displayed below.

Monitoring

Monitoring the condition of a river, stream, or lake includes gathering physical, chemical, biological, and habitat data. Comprehensive studies often gather all these parameters in great detail, while lighter assessment events will involve sampling physical, chemical and biological data such as macroinvertebrates. Aquatic macroinvertebrates and fish communities integrate watershed or catchment condition, providing great insight into overall ecosystem health. Chemical and habitat parameters tell researchers more about human induced problems including contaminated runoff, point source dischargers, or habitat issues that foster or limit the potential of aquatic communities to thrive in a given area. Wisconsin's Water Monitoring Strategy was recenty updated.

Grants and Management Projects

Monitoring Projects

Projects

The Kewaunee Marsh, located in Kewaunee County, is the site of contamination due to a Central Wisconsin Railroad car spill in the 1940�s. This spill caused arsenic contamination of surface water and groundwater in a three-acre area of the marsh. The Department, along with Wisconsin Central Railroad, has spent two years investigating and cleaning up the site. As an interim remedy to reduce human and waterfowl exposure, a geo-textile liner and several feet of wood chips were used to cap the contaminated wetland. The perimeter of the contaminated area was also securely fenced to eliminate public access, and to safeguard human health.

Date  2004

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Watershed Characteristics

Kewaunee River is located in the Kewaunee River watershed which is 142.12 mi². Land use in the watershed is primarily agricultural (77%), forest (8%) and a mix of wetland (7%) and other uses (8%). This watershed has 292.03 stream miles, 540.90 lake acres and 7,312.87 wetland acres.

Nonpoint Source Characteristics

This watershed is ranked High for runoff impacts on streams, Not Ranked for runoff impacts on lakes and High for runoff impacts on groundwater and therefore has an overall rank of High. This value can be used in ranking the watershed or individual waterbodies for grant funding under state and county programs.However, all waters are affected by diffuse pollutant sources regardless of initial water quality. Applications for specific runoff projects under state or county grant programs may be pursued. For more information, go to surface water program grants.

Natural Community

Kewaunee River is considered a Cool-Warm Mainstem under the state's Natural Community Determinations.

Natural communities (stream and lake natural communities) represent model results that use predicted flow and temperature based on landscape features and related assumptions. Ranges of flow and temperature associated with specific aquatic life communities (fish, macroinvertebrates) help biologists identify appropriate resource management goals. Wisconsin's Riverine Natural Communities.

Fisheries & Habitat

Most of the Kewaunee River supports a warmwater sport fishery and has seasonal runs of salmon and trout from Lake Michigan. It is unique among Class I steelhead streams because, until recently, it did not have a dam to stop upstream fish migration (WDNR, 1988). WDNR now operates a salmon egg-taking facility (C.D. "Buzz" Besadny Andronomous Fisheries Facility) with a lowhead dam on the river. A small channel allows fish to pass through the facility and avoid the dam. Eggs are harvested from spawning females to support Wisconsin's fish propagation efforts. NR 26, Wis. Adm. Code, classifies the river stretch from County Highway F upstream to 500 feet past the return pipe of the facility as a fish refuge. The lower river has extensive wetlands, which serve as nursery grounds for the 28 species of fish supported by the river. Two and one-half miles of the river between the mouth of Casco Creek downstream to County Trunk C are Class II brown trout waters. Sandy soils in this portion of the watershed are important in maintaining base flows to trout waters and in providing gravel substrate for spawning.

Date  2004

Author   Aquatic Biologist