Watershed - Elk Creek (BT03)
Elk Creek Watershed

Details

The Elk Creek Watershed lies within two counties, Buffalo and Trempealeau, and three combined basins, the Black, Buffalo, and Trempealeau River (BBT), located in West Central Wisconsin. Of the 3,852 mi2 these basins cover, the Elk Creek Watershed encompasses only 113 mi2. There are 285 miles of streams, many of which are only partially meeting their potential use because they are limited by agricultural nonpoint sources of pollution.

Date  2010

Population, Land Use

Watershed land use data from the 2001 National Land Cover Inventory dataset, which illustrates the domination of agriculture and forests in the watershed. Wetlands make up a considerably large component of the water resources in this watershed (3,311 acres), or 4% of the total land area, compared to lakes which cover 47 acres of the landscape. The primary land use in this watershed is agriculture (54% of the land) followed by forest, encompassing roughly 34% of the total acreage of the watershed. The communities of Elk Creek Watershed include the towns of Chimny Rock, Hale, Burnside, Lincoln and Sumner and at the outlet of the watershed is the City of Independence.

Date  2010

Nonpoint and Point Sources

The Elk Creek Watershed was one of the five initial priority watershed projects selected under the Wisconsin Nonpoint Source Water Pollution Abatement Program in 1979. Implementation of best management practices was administered by the DNR and the Trempealeau County Land Conservation Department from 1980 -1988. The water quality objectives of the priority watershed project were:1) Decrease sediment loading to Bugle Lake; 2) Improve Hilsenhoff Biotic Index values to excellent category for aquatic insects; 3) Reduce fecal bacterial levels; 4) Upgrade the aesthetics of streams (improve smell and appearance). The Elk Creek Priority Watershed Project was partially successful in meeting the established water resource objectives based on evaluation monitoring results. The most significant measured change was a considerable reduction in fecal coliform and fecal streptococcus bacterial levels in several of the watershed streams. Based on discussions with individuals who are familiar with the history of the Elk Creek watershed, the streams smell less offensive and look cleaner than before the project began. Although these changes may not be readily quantified, it appears the objective of cleaner and better smelling streams has been achieved to a degree.

Date  2010

Ecological Landscapes for Elk Creek Watershed

Ecological Landscapes

This watershed is located in the Western Coulee and Ridges Ecological Landscape in southwestern and west central Wisconsin and is characterized by its highly eroded, driftless topography and relatively extensive forested landscape. Soils are silt loams (loess) and sandy loams over sandstone residuum over dolomite. Several large rivers including the Wisconsin, Mississippi, Chippewa, Kickapoo and Black flow through or border the Ecological Landscape. Historical vegetation consisted of southern hardwood forests, oak savanna, scattered prairies, and floodplain forests and marshes along the major rivers. With Euro-American settlement, most of the land on ridgetops and valley bottoms was cleared of oak savanna, prairie, and level forest for agriculture. The steep slopes between valley bottom and ridgetop, unsuitable for raising crops, grew into oak-dominated forests after the ubiquitous presettlement wildfires were suppressed. Current vegetation is a mix of forest , agriculture, and grassland with some wetlands in the river valleys. The primary forest cover is oak-hickory (51%) dominated by oak species and shagbark hickory. Maple-basswood forests (28%), dominated by sugar maple, basswood and red maple, are common in areas that were not subjected to repeated presettlement wildfires. Bottomland hardwoods (10%) are common in the valley bottoms of major rivers and are dominated by silver maple, ashes, elms, cottonwood, and red maple. Relict conifer forests including white pine, hemlock and yellow birch are a rarer natural community in the cooler, steep, north slope microclimates.

Date  2010

Hydrologic Features

Many of the watershed’s streams are small to medium sized and fl ow toward the Mississippi River from Battle Hollow Creek, on the northern border, south to Prairie du Chien. Most streams located in the Rush Creek watershed are coldwater streams and formally classifi ed as troutwaters. These groundwater-fed Class I, II and III Trout Streams cover over 102 perennial miles (out of 551 total miles) in this watershed, with 69 miles of Class I streams, 23 miles of Class II streams, and 9 miles of Class III Trout Streams. Extreme flows contribute largely to sediment deposition and floods generally result in erosion and pollution from materials in the floodplain. The major result of both extreme flows and sediment deposition is an increase in nutrient loading. Nutrient loading in a lake or stream will alter its chemical structure, which in turn creates other physical and biological problems. The sources, carried downstream with sediment, are mainly barnyard and cropland runoff, industrial discharges, and streambank pasturing. The most harmful nutrients to stream health are nitrogen and phosphorus. emperature fluctuations are increased due to extreme flows and sedimentation. These fluctuations are detrimental to fish species that cannot tolerate extremes in temperature. If sediment levels continue to increase in a lake or stream and the habitat is altered significantly, temperatures have the potential to change. As temperatures rise and organic materials in the water increase, dissolved oxygen (DO) levels tend to decrease. Aquatic species are stressed when DO levels get too low and may not survive. The whole aquatic habitat can be drastically affected. The accumulation of these impacts can cause loss of habitat. Typically, by this time, streambank vegetation is limited, sediment build up has covered spawning beds and temperature and dissolved oxygen fluctuations have made the environment unlivable for cold water and some warm water fish. For the public’s health and safety, recreation, and wildlife needs, it is vital to protect water quality in the waterbodies of the Black-Buffalo-Trempealeau River Basin and across the state.

Date  2010

Elk Creek Watershed At-a-Glance

Impaired Water in Elk Creek Watershed
River and Stream QualityAll Waters in Watershed

The dominant geographical region present in the Elk Creek Watershed is the Coulee Section, also known as the Driftless Area. The steep hills and valleys of this landscape intensify water quality issues. In addition to poor land use practices, there are high amounts of rain and snowmelt runoff. This can cause agricultural runoff to cause water quality problems. There are approximately 285 miles of streams, many of which are not meeting their potential use because they are limited by agricultural nonpoint sources of pollution. The Elk Creek Watershed has 68 streams that comprise 137 stream miles. Many of the streams are not meeting their potential use because they are limited by agricultural nonpoint sources of pollution. There are no outstanding or exceptional resource waters in this watershed and no class I or class II trout streams. There are 57 miles of class III trout waters, which are streams stocked with trout seasonally.

Date  2010

Watershed Trout Streams
Watershed Outstanding & Exceptional Resources

Lakes and Impoundments

Bugle Lake is located in this watershed. Bugle Lake is a 35 acre impoundment of Elk Creek in the City of Independence. Bugle Lake has a maximum depth of eight feet and a mean depth of 5.8 feet, based on measurements in its lower 21 acres. The contributing watershed area is approximately 112 square miles (71,849 acres). Both upland and stream bank erosion are significant problems in the Elk Creek watershed. Because of extensive erosion within the watershed, Bugle Lake has a long history of sedimentation problems, dating back to its creation in 1877. The Bugle Lake Protection and Rehabilitation Project Final Report (1982) estimated the sediment delivery rate to the lake could be reduced 50 to 60 percent, to about 19,800 cubic yards per year, by implementing watershed improvements. The report projected that the lake's life expectancy would be 25 30 years following dredging. Unfortunately, watershed improvements did not meet earlier expectations. Stream bank erosion continues to be a serious problem. Despite efforts of the priority watershed project, approximately 60 percent of identified eroding stream banks in the watershed were not controlled. (Schreiber).

Date  2010

Wetland Health

Wetland Status The Elk Creek Watershed lies within three combined basins, the Black, Buffalo, and Trempealeau River (BBT), located in West Central Wisconsin. Roughly 4% of the current land uses in the watershed are wetlands. Only 4%, or half, of original wetlands in the watershed are estimated to exist. Of these wetlands, the majority are emergent wetlands (75%), which include marshes and wet meadows, and shrub wetlands (16%). Wetland Condition Little is known about the condition of the remaining wetlands but estimates of reed canary grass infestations, an opportunistic aquatic invasive wetland plant, into different wetland types has been estimated based on satellite imagery. This information shows that reed canary grass dominates 86% of the existing emergent wetlands and 8% of the remaining shrub wetlands. Reed Canary Grass domination inhibits successful establishment of native wetland species. Wetland Restorability Of the 2682 acres of estimated lost wetlands in the watershed, approximately 99% are considered potentially restorable based on modeled data, including soil types, land use and land cover (Chris Smith, DNR, 2009).

Date  2010

Potentially Restorable Wetland Analysis

Impaired Waters

There are no impaired waters in this watershed.

Date  2010

List of Impaired Waters

Aquatic Invasive Species

There are no documented aquatic invasive species infestations in the streams and lakes of this watershed.

Date  2010

Watershed Grants
Grant Details
ARRA Pass Through Project
Date
7/1/2009
Waters Involved
Elk Creek
Status
Complete

Arra 12 Carpc Black Earth Creek Study Grant 2p-00e73201: Black Earth Creek monitoring and analysis to determine the impact of agricultural runoff; contract with Capital Area Regional Planning Commission.


Grant Details
Lake Protection Grant
Date
9/1/2010
Waters Involved
Elk Creek
Status
Complete

Trempealeau County: Lco-Shoreland Ordinance Rev.: Treampealeau County proposes to amend or create a shoreland zoning ordinance that complies with the requirements of NR 115, Wisconsin Administrative Code (as revised effective February 1, 2010) and retain existing regulations that exceed the water resource protections of NR 115 or are specific or unique to local needs.

Project deliverables include: 1. Copies of any fact sheets or handouts created for public hearings. 2. A summary of the comments received at public hearings. 3. A certified copy of the County Board-approved updated shoreland ordinance or ordinance language (if integrated into other codes). 4. Any GIS maps of the shoreland zone or shoreland condition surveys related to the project.

Specific conditions for this Project: 1. The WDNR will be provided electronic and hard copies of all data and or reports or surveys generated as a result of this project.


Grant Details
Large Scale Lake Planning
Date
4/1/1999
Waters Involved
Bugle Lake
Status
Complete

Independence: Bugle Lake Ecosystem Assessment/Aquatic Ed. Program: The City of Independence, in partnership with Independence Public Schools and the Elk Rod and Gun Club, proposes to study the history and ecosystem associated with Bugle Lake and its watershed, in part as an educational exercise, and also, to provide documentation of the study for future use by the community. Major project elements would include: 1) water quality monitoring, 2) collection and cataloging of aquatic species, 3) historical research and evaluation, and 4) lake and watershed mapping. The Department of Natural Resources will be provided with both paper and electronic copies of the final report. Project results will be shared with the public through the local paper, the school district newsletter, through presentations to the community and through a wide array of pamphlet and presentation materials.


Grant Details
Large Scale Lake Planning
Date
4/1/2005
Waters Involved
Bugle Lake
Status
Complete

City Of Independence: Bugle Lake Sediment Evaluation: The City of Independence, in cooperation with River Country RC&D and other partner organizations, proposes to contract for sediment sampling and analysis on Bugle Lake in Trempealeau County.

Major project elements to include: 1) sediment sampling, 2) sediment analysis.

Project results to be shared with project partners and the general public through news articles, distribution of final report and a one page flyer. (std report approval, submission language)


Grant Details
Large Scale Lake Planning
Date
4/1/2008
Waters Involved
Bugle Lake
Status
Complete

City Of Independence: Bugle Dredge Plan: The City of Independance proposes to hire an engineering firm to develop a plan for the dredging of Bugle Lake in Trempealeau County.


Grant Details
Large Scale Lake Planning
Date
4/1/2009
Waters Involved
Bugle Lake
Status
Complete

City Of Independence: Bugle Dredge Design: The City of Independence proposes to contract for continued planning of dredge project on Bugle Lake in Tremplealeau County, moving toward completion of a final dredge project design. Major project elements to include: a) dredge and spoils disposal planning, b) dredge and spoils disposal design, c) meetings and outreach.


Grant Details
Large Scale Lake Planning
Date
4/1/2013
Waters Involved
Bugle Lake
Status
Complete

City Of Independence: Bugle Dredge 3: The City of Independence proposes to contract for finalization of a plan for the dredging and restoration of functional values to Bugle Lake in Trempealeau County. Major project elements to include:1) Lake depth survey, 2) Community involvement, 3) Plan development, and 4) Final report.


Grant Details
Large Scale Lake Planning
Date
4/1/2008
Waters Involved
Elk Creek
Status
Complete

City Of Independence: Bugle Dredge Plan: The City of Independance proposes to hire an engineering firm to develop a plan for the dredging of Bugle Lake in Trempealeau County.


Grant Details
Large Scale Lake Planning
Date
4/1/2009
Waters Involved
Elk Creek
Status
Complete

City Of Independence: Bugle Dredge Design: The City of Independence proposes to contract for continued planning of dredge project on Bugle Lake in Tremplealeau County, moving toward completion of a final dredge project design. Major project elements to include: a) dredge and spoils disposal planning, b) dredge and spoils disposal design, c) meetings and outreach.


Grant Details
Large Scale Lake Planning
Date
4/1/2013
Waters Involved
Elk Creek
Status
Complete

City Of Independence: Bugle Dredge 3: The City of Independence proposes to contract for finalization of a plan for the dredging and restoration of functional values to Bugle Lake in Trempealeau County. Major project elements to include:1) Lake depth survey, 2) Community involvement, 3) Plan development, and 4) Final report.


Grant Details
Targeted Runoff - Rural Construction
Date
1/1/2008
Waters Involved
Chimney Rock Creek
Status
Complete

Trempealeau County: Ketchum Farm: To cost-share landowner installation of best management practices designed to enable farm operations to comply with the agricultural performance standards and prohibitions established by the County's Feedlot Performance Ordinance and in Subchapter II of NR 151 by installing runoff management systems which will enable the Ketchum Farm to meet nutrient application restrictions and eliminate unconfined manure piles in water quality management areas, prevent direct runoff from a feedlot or stored manure into waters of the state, and restrict unlimited livestock access to waters of the state.


Grant Details
River Planning Grant
Date
7/1/2009
Waters Involved
Elk Creek
Status
Complete

City Of Independence: Elk Creek Watershed: The City of Independence, in cooperation with River Country RC&D, proposes to create a stakeholder group within the Elk Creek Watershed for the purpose of establishing a performance based incentive program to reduce sediment and nutrient inflow to Elk Creek and Bugle Lake in Trempealeau County. Major project elements to include: 1) Stakeholder recruitment, 2) Meetings and information gathering, 3) Television program, 4) Development of Recommendations, 5) Water access inventories, 6) Final Report.


Monitoring & Projects

Projects including grants, restoration work and studies shown below have occurred in this watershed. Click the links below to read through the text. While these are not an exhaustive list of activities, they provide insight into the management activities happening in this watershed.

Monitoring Studies

Trout habitat and populations have not significantly improved in the watershed since 1979, according to fish survey findings. However, recent drought conditions may have had considerable impact on trout survival in the watershed streams. Since the original priority watershed project was initiated, macroinvertebrate sample results indicate a significant improvement in water quality at four sites, poorer water quality at five sites and no detectable change at eight sites. The original priority project objective of improving stream Hilsenhoff Biotic Index (HBI) values to the excellent category was only achieved at one site in the watershed.

Date  2010

Volunteer Monitoring

There are no citizen monitors in the BT06-Waumandee Creek Watershed. For information on how to become a Volunteer Stream Monitor, visit- http://watermonitoring.uwex.edu/index.html

Date  2012

Elk Creek Watershed

Goals

6/27/2010
Conducting comprehensive stream surveys on impaired or potentially impaired streams;
6/27/2010
Installation of in-stream habitat where habitat is a limiting factor for biological condition.
6/27/2010
Continued work to conducting continuous water temperature monitoring on key streams where temperature may be a limiting factor for biological response.

Priorities

3/26/2010
Priority issues for this watershed include the quantity and quality of stormwater reaching surface waters, and the impacts on surface water temperature from stormwater water runoff. A related but distinct priority is identifying and reducing urban and agricultural nonpoint source pollution in addition to stormwater runoff.
3/26/2010
Agricultural runoff and other forms of nonpoint source pollution.
Watershed Recommendations
Citizen-Based Stream Monitoring
 
Date
Status
Expansion of a citizen based stream monitoring program within the Elk Creek watershed is recommended.
7/21/2010
Proposed
 
Control Streambank Erosion
 
Date
Status
Similar to the work in Borst Valley and Bruce Valley Creeks, in-stream habitat restoration projects are recommended for cold water streams throughout the watershed, with potential funding sources from the DNR (river grants, fisheries management funding, TRM grants, etc), NRCS or the county.
7/13/2010
Proposed
 
Grant Amended
 
Date
Status
The use of DNR and federal grants should be used to assess the conditions of the wetland within the watershed following the implementation of the 2011 Federal EPA EMAP study.
7/27/2010
Proposed
 
Habitat Restoration - Instream
 
Date
Status
Opportunities to reconnect streams with their floodplain-wetland riparian areas during in-stream habitat work should be pursued.
7/23/2010
Proposed
 
Lakes Planning Grant
 
Date
Status
DNR should continue to support the City of Independence’s efforts to address the water quality and sediment deposition problems at Bugle Lake through the use of TRM grants, lake/river planning and lake/river management
7/14/2010
Proposed
 
Lakes Protection Grant
 
Date
Status
A citizen volunteer lake monitoring program, discontinued in 1989, should be reinitiated at Bugle Lake.
7/21/2010
Proposed
 
Monitor and/or Protect Groundwater, Sourcewater
 
Date
Status
WDNR staff should continue to encourage communities to develop wellhead protection plans in the Watershed and the whole basin.
7/1/2010
Proposed
Projects
 
Monitor with Baseline Survey
 
Date
Status
Future monitoring efforts should target long-term data records for temperature of cold and cool water stream in anticipation of climate change responses, in addition to diagnostic monitoring. This work would help establish baseline stream nutrient concentrations and potential relationships to climate change and future nutrient standards.
7/14/2010
Proposed
 
Elk Creek WatershedWater Plans and PartnershipsRead the Watershed Plan

A watershed plan has been updated for this watershed in 2010 and is now available for review.

Date  2010

Watershed History Note

Independence is in the Town of Burnside, which corresponds with one of the townships created under the Land Ordinance of 1785. Shortly after the naming of Burnside in 1863, settlers from Europe and the eastern U.S. began arriving in significant numbers. Many of these immigrants were of Polish descent and they brought with them their cultural heritage which included their devotion to the Roman Catholic Church. It was primarily economic reasons which brought the first settlers to Independence, Wisconsin, and led to the formation of Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Parish. The State of Wisconsin along with other Midwestern states, was interested in populating its vast territories. Wisconsin offered the availability of farmlands which attracted the early peasant immigrants. The large city of Milwaukee had jobs in industry and presented an opportunity for the unskilled workers. Small agricultural communities attracted the early Polish settlers. They immediately organized themselves into a parish. Although 1875 is the generally accepted date of origin of Saints Peter and Paul Parish, some historians would argue for the earlier date when the people began to gather at irregular intervals for services in private homes. The smallness of their numbers and the economic hardships involved required that meetings be held in private homes until a church could be built. When they had increased to about sixty families, a ten acre site for a church was acquired from the Markham family for the sale price of fifteen dollars. The first white frame church was completed and dedicated by Bishop Michael Heiss, Diocese of La Crosse, on October 7, 1875. From these early days as a mission parish of some sixty families, Saints Peter and Paul has grown to be one of the largest congregations in the diocese.

Date  2010