Black River, Black and Little Black Rivers Watershed (BR13)
Black River, Black and Little Black Rivers Watershed (BR13)
Black River (Near Medford Flowage) (1676700)
6.53 Miles
181.41 - 187.94
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.
2015
Unknown
 
Taylor
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.
No

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.
Class III Trout
Streams capable of supporting a seasonal coldwater sport fishery and which may be managed as coldwater streams.
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.
FAL
Fish and Aquatic Life - waters that do not have a specific use designation subcategory assigned but which are considered fishable, swimmable waters.
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.
Default FAL
Fish and Aquatic Life - Default Waters do not have a specific use designation subcategory but are considered fishable, swimmable waters.

Overview

The portion of Black River within the Lower Black River watershed (BR01) contains areas of eroding sandy banks. Approximately half of the river miles in this watershed flow through the Van Loon State Wildlife Area and the Upper Mississippi River Fish and Wildlife Refuge.

The Melrose Wastewater Treatment Plant discharges to the Black River. This plant had problems meeting biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) limits. The village was placed on a sewer extension moratorium in August 1994 for this reason. Adjustments to treatment plant operations have improved plant performance, which led to the lifting of the sewer extension ban in October, 1996 (Pietz).

The Black River Falls wastewater treatment plant treats waste from the communities of Brockway and Black River Falls and discharges treated effluent below the dam. The plant has exceeded the permit limitations for certain metal concentrations. An aggressive water supply system which leaches metals from pipes was determined to be a major source of the problem. Steps to reduce pipe corrosion in the water supply system reduced metal levels at the wastewater treatment plant (Pietz).

A new Neillsville wastewater treatment plant was constructed and discharging in 1997. The old wastewater treatment plant was organically overloaded. The new plant design effectively treats organic wastes while decreasing its design flow. The discharge to the Black River will not change (Pietz).

From: Koperksi, Cindy. 1999. Black River Water Quality Management Plan (draft). Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, WI.

Date  1999

Author  Cynthia Koperski

Overview

The portion of Black River in the Popple River watershed (BR11) is characteristically rocky. Filamentous algae is commonly seen on rocks. The river supports a warm water sport fishery. During low flow, the river is nearly impossible to navigate; however, a few large pools support fish life (Talley).

Owen has a permit to discharge treated wastewater to the Black River. The Owen WWTP receives waste from neighboring city of Withee. Both communities reported by-passing raw sewage to the Black River during rain events due to overloading of water volumes at lift stations. To solve this problem, both Owen and Withee are sealing sanitary sewer manhole covers to prevent stormwater from entering the system and sealing off other direct connections of stormwater. Replacing and rehabilitating sanitary sewer lines is also being done on a continual basis (Pietz).

A fish consumption advisory exists for fish in the Black River south of HWY 29/73. Mercury detected in a variety of fish prompted the DNR to list the river in its advisory (WDNR, 1997). In order to update the advisory database and track mercury concentration trends, game fish should be collected from the portion of Black River in this watershed (Amrhein).

Black and Little Black River watershed (BR13) - The first thirteen miles of the Black River is a class II trout stream. The river becomes class III trout for the five mile segment above Medford. Below Medford, the Black River becomes a warm water sport fishery. Low dissolved oxygen concentrations have been periodically documented in the trout stream segments above Medford. Wetland drainage is believed to be at least partially responsible. The Black River trout population has shown a dramatic decline in recent years. Nonpoint source impacts are suspected to be the cause (Lealos, 1997). Below Medford, a mercury advisory exists for walleye and smallmouth bass (WDNR).

The Chelsea Sanitary District constructed a community wastewater treatment system to replace failing residential septic systems. The system consists of two septic tanks operated in series, a recirculating sand filter, and a chlorination-dechlorination disinfection unit. The residential septic tanks have been abandoned (Franson). The discharge from this facility is to the Black River in Taylor County.

From: Koperksi, Cindy. 1999. Black River Water Quality Management Plan (draft). Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, WI.

Date  1999

Author  Cynthia Koperski

Overview

The portion of the Black River within the Cawley and Rock Creeks watershed (BR10) contains both long pools and long, rugged riffle areas. River substrate is mostly comprised of gravel, cobble and boulders. Filamentous algae on rocks is common (Talley).

A fish consumption advisory exists for the entire length of the Black River contained in this watershed (WDNR, 1997). Mercury levels detected at high levels in a variety of fish species prompted the DNR to include this portion of the Black River. Further discussion of this issue can be found in the Black River main stem discussion of this report.

In order to meet their phosphorous limit, Grassland Dairy built a new wastewater treatment plant that came on line in 1998. The facility continues to discharge to the Black River via the Loyal wastewater treatment plant discharge pipe.

From: Koperksi, Cindy. 1999. Black River Water Quality Management Plan (draft). Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, WI.

Date  1999

Author  Cynthia Koperski

Historical Description

The major stream system in Clark County. It enters from the north and flows southward into Arbutus Lake. It is a soft water stream having a medium brown color. The river is characterized by long sluggish pools followed by swift riffle areas. Boulder is one of the dominant bottom types in the lower one-half of its length in Clark County. Some of the stream passes through steep-sided, gorge-like areas that enhance its beauty. About 75 percent of the watershed has been cleared for agricultural uses. Muskellunge, northern pike, walleye, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, catfish, and panfish constitute the sport fishery. It is one of the better smallmouth bass streams in west central Wisconsin. Carp are present. Furbearers and waterfowl are present and the latter provide some jump shooting in autumn. Light boat traffic is possible on the entire river in Clark County, but even during normal water level periods it is necessary to portage around some of the riffle areas. Inadequately treated wastewater from gravel washing operations has been discharged into the river resulting in turbid water in the areas of discharge near Withee and Greenwood. There is one picnic site and one park area. Thelatter has an unimproved boat landing. About 2.1 miles of shoreline are in public ownership. Several roads cross the stream and access is also possible by boat from Arbutus Lake.

Black River T23N, R3W, S24, Surface Acres 1,561, Miles = 54.1, Gradient = 8.6 feet per mile.

From: Klick, Thomas A. and C.W. Threinen, 1965. Surface Water Resources of Clark County: Lake and Stream Classification Project. Wisconsin Conservation Department, Madison, WI.

Date  1965

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Black River, Black and Little Black Rivers Watershed (BR13) Fish and Aquatic LifeBlack River, Black and Little Black Rivers Watershed (BR13) RecreationBlack River, Black and Little Black Rivers Watershed (BR13) Fish Consumption

General Condition

The Black River (miles 175.35-190.87) was assessed during the 2018 listing cycle; new total phosphorus and biological (fish Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) scores) sample data were clearly below 2018 WisCALM listing thresholds for the Fish and Aquatic Life use. This water is meeting this designated use and is not considered impaired.

Date  2017

Author  Ashley Beranek

General Condition

This water was assessed during the 2016 listing cycle; total phosphorus sample data clearly met 2016 WisCALM listing thresholds for the Fish and Aquatic Life use. No biological data (i.e. no macroinvertebrate or fish Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) scores) were available to assess biological condition.

Date  2015

Author   Wdnr Water Quality

General Condition

The Black River, in this watershed, currently receives two discharges, the Greenwood WWTP and a combined discharge from Grassland Dairy and the Loyal WWTP. During a high flow period in April, 1990, macroinvertebrate samples were collected from the Black River below the Loyal/Grassland Dairy discharge. The analysis of the macroinvertebrate samples resulted in an index of good to fair water quality with some organic pollution present (WDNR, 1990).

For approximately a seven mile stretch downstream of Rock Creek, the Black River is listed as a total maximum daily load (TMDL) site. Water chemistry data documents that some water quality standards have not been met. The sources of pollution that contribute to this situation include both point source and non-point source discharges. The problem has only been recorded during low flow conditions. Because the two outfalls to the Black River are relatively close, it is uncertain whether an overlap of effluent mixing zones occurs. Ammonia is one regulated compound that can have immediate deleterious effects to the biological community of the Black River. A 1993 study to determine ammonia mixing characteristics of Greenwood WWTP with the Loyal/Grassland Dairy discharge was inconclusive due to a combination of high streamflow and low effluent ammonia levels at Greenwood (La Liberte, 1996).

The Greenwood WWTP underwent a facility upgrade which increased the design flow to 0.524 million gallons/day. The facility discharged higher than allowed suspended solids before the plant upgrade. The City now operates an industrial pretreatment plant, which has decreased suspended solids reaching the Greenwood treatment plant.

Date  1999

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Impaired Waters

Multiple segments of the Black River were assessed in the 2018 assessment cycle: La Crosse-Trempealeau-Jackson County line to Black River Falls Dam (miles 37.01-73.36), Grand Ave, Neillsville, to HWY H (miles 103.21-110.83), HWY H to Rock Creek (miles 110.83-119.8), Rock Creek to HWY 29 (miles 119.8-136.96), HWY 29 bridge to the Clark/Taylor County line (miles 136.96-145.24).

The 2018 assessments showed 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, this water is proposed for the impaired waters list.

Date  2017

Author  Ashley Beranek

Impaired Waters

The 2018 assessments of the Black River (Black River Falls dam to Lake Arbutus dam) showed impairment by phosphorus; new total phosphorus sample data exceeded 2018 WisCALM listing criteria for the Fish and Aquatic Life use, however, available biological data did not indicate impairment (i.e. no macroinvertebrate Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) scored in the "poor" condition category). Based on the most updated information, no change in existing impaired waters listing is needed.

Date  2017

Author  Ashley Beranek

Impaired Waters

The 2018 assessments of the Black River (miles 0-37.1; 145.24-180.98) showed continued impairment by phosphorus; new total phosphorus sample data exceeded 2018 WisCALM listing criteria for the Fish and Aquatic Life use, however, available biological data did not indicate impairment (i.e. no macroinvertebrate or fish Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) scored in the "poor" condition category). Based on the most updated information, no change in existing impaired waters listing is needed.

Date  2017

Author  Ashley Beranek

Impaired Waters

Black River (1676700), from Taylor/Chippewa county line to Medford Pond, was assessed during the 2016 listing cycle; total phosphorus sample data exceed 2016 WisCALM listing criteria for the Fish and Aquatic Life use, however, available biological data do not indicate impairment (i.e. no macroinvertebrate or fish Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) scored in the "poor" condition category).

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

Citizen-Based Stream Monitoring
Collect chemical, physical, and/or biological water quality data to assess the current overall stream health. The data can inform management decisions and may be used to identify impaired waters for biennial lists.
Monitor Water Quality or Sediment
Category 3. 2018 TP Results: May Exceed. Station: 613086. AU: 201404.
Water Quality Planning
The BR03 watershed contains six HUC 12 watersheds. The six HUC 12 watersheds to be assessed in this project include Rathbone-Soper, Spencer-Big, Roaring-Black, Douglas, Davis-Black and Sand. Of these six watersheds, two were identified for Targeted Watershed Assessment (TWA). The Sand Creek HUC 12 watershed was identified as healthy but threatened designated for protection. The Rathbone and Soper Creeks HUC 12 watershed was identified for evaluation due to stressed biological surveys. The Rathbone - Soper HUC 12 watershed was selected as one of the TWA’s for the Western District to monitor in the 2014 field season
Lakes Planning Grant
The following lakes should be considered high priorities for a lakes planning grant for developing lake management alternatives:  Black River Flowage  Wazee Lake  Oakwood Lake  Trow Lake  Lake Arbutus  Snyder Lake  Sportsman Lake  Diamond Lake  Hulls Lake  Richter Lake  Clear Lake  Esadore Lake  Sackett Lake  Bugle Lake  Crystal Lake  Lake Henry  Martha Lake  Mirror Lake
Runoff Evaluation
DNR Water Division staff should assess nonpoint sources and other potential sources which appear to have caused a decline in the trout population in the Black River above Medford.
Monitoring Ecosystem
A comprehensive mussel survey should be conducted on the Black River and its major tributaries.  Before any decision is made to riprap eroding sand banks of the Black River, a mussel survey should be conducted.
Monitor Fish Tissue
1676700 name Black River, Hwy H To Rock Creek TMDL ID 50 Start Mile 98.14 End Mile 107.12
Monitor Fish Tissue
1676700 name Black R. (Below Medford) TMDL ID 582 Start Mile 132.67 End Mile 168.4
Monitor Fish Tissue
1676700 name Black River TMDL ID 51 Start Mile 77.18 End Mile 90.64
Monitor Fish Tissue
1676700 name Black River TMDL ID 2012-56, 51, 707 Start Mile 0 End Mile 24.44
Wastewater Monitoring, Management
The Town of Onalaska, the Onalaska Lake District, and major industries in the Brice Prairie area should re-examine sewering all or portions of the Brice Prairie.
Monitor to Evaluate Projects
Water Division staff should conduct fishery surveys on streams in the Lower Black River watershed to document fish community changes since implementation of best management practices. (Type B)
Wastewater Monitoring, Management
Water Division staff should work with the Black River Correctional Center to determine if an upgrade or a new wastewater treatment facility is needed. (Type B)

Standards Details

This water, from Medford to CTH M, is a Class III Trout Stream, and from CTH M to the headwaters it is a Class II Troutwater.

Date  1980

Author   Aquatic Biologist

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

Watershed Characteristics

Black River is located in the Black and Little Black Rivers watershed which is 160.81 mi². Land use in the watershed is primarily agricultural (38%), forest (36%) and a mix of wetland (16%) and other uses (10%). This watershed has 211.97 stream miles, 505.95 lake acres and 23,424.34 wetland acres.

Nonpoint Source Characteristics

This watershed is ranked Low for runoff impacts on streams, Not Available for runoff impacts on lakes and Medium for runoff impacts on groundwater and therefore has an overall rank of Medium. This value can be used in ranking the watershed or individual waterbodies for grant funding under state and county programs.This water is ranked High Stream for individual Rivers based on runoff problems and the likelihood of success from project implementation.

Natural Community

Black River (Near Medford Flowage) 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.