Fish and Aquatic Life
The Chippewa is one of the largest rivers in Wisconsin, with 103 miles from Holcombe dam downstream to the Mississippi. This section includes five flowages and 69 miles of free-flowing river. Dams owned/operated by Northern States Power create the flowages.
These flowages, in downstream order, include: Cornell Flowage (836 acres), Old Abe Lake (996 acres), Lake Wissota (approximately 6,212 acres), Chippewa Falls Flowage (282 acres), and Dells Pond (1,183 acres). The free-flowing river segments are present below the Cornell dam (approximately 1 mile), the Chippewa Falls dam (approximately 7 miles), and the Dells dam (61 miles).
At Holcombe, pH shows a trend similar to Chippewa Falls from the late 1970's to the late 1990's. Suspended solids appear to be increasing slightly as well. None of the other parameters mentioned above show a significant trend over time at the Holcombe site (Beaster 2000).
Author Aquatic Biologist
Holcombe Flowage, created in 1950, is the most recently constructed reservoir on the
Chippewa River. The flowage is fed by the Chippewa, Flambeau, and Jump rivers and
numerous smaller streams. Due to the many streams and rivers entering it, and a wealth
of backwater habitat. Holcombe Flowage has some of the best habitat and probably the
greatest fishery potential of the lower Chippewa River flowages.
Holcombe Flowage is annually drawn down in late winter by as much as 10 feet to
provide capacity for spring runoff. This drawdown can result in lower levels of dissolved
oxygen, fish winterkill and fish entrapment in several backwater areas. Reduced oxygen
levels in pooled water environments may also occur naturally. WDNR believes that past
winter drawdowns at Holcombe Flowage exacerbated seasonal problems with low
dissolved oxygen levels and winter fishkills. Since the early 1980s. Northern States
Power (NSP) has fluctuated the reservoir level by two feet weekly starting in mid-winter.
This practice improved dissolved oxygen levels in backwater areas throughout the
winter. NSP has also delayed the late-winter drawdown to help prevent winterkill and
fish entrapment. NSP is currently examining the effects of this management regime on
Larson, Nancy and Lisa Kosmond (Helmuth). 1996. Upper Chippewa River Basin Water Quality Management Plan.
PUBL-WR-345-96-REV. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, WI.
Author Aquatic Biologist
Lake Management Plan Development
The Lake Holcombe Improvement Association, Inc. will conduct investigations to examine water quality conditions, nutrient/seston fluxes, aquatic macrophyte populations and water quality impacts of hydropower operations in Lake Holcombe. The relative importance o various internal and external nutrient loadings will be evaluated in relation to water quality conditions and phytoplankton biomass in the main basin of the lake and in backwater areas.
Monitor Fish Tissue
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 or implementation of a Total Maximum Daily Load analysis, a Nine Key Element Plan, or other restoration work, education and outreach and more. If specific recommendations exist for this water, they will be displayed below online.
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
|WBIC||Official Waterbody Name||Station ID||Station Name||Earliest Fieldwork Date||Latest Fieldwork Date||View Station||View Data|
|2184900||Holcombe Flowage||10018390||Holcombe Flowage -- Access at 267th and 270th St||5/22/2009||8/29/2022||Map||Data|
|2184900||Holcombe Flowage||10018595||Holcombe Flowage -- Access at County Park Nr 256th St||6/7/2007||8/29/2022||Map||Data|
|2184900||Holcombe Flowage||10015479||Holcombe Flowage - Pine Lake||10/16/2006||10/16/2006||Map||Data|
|2184900||Holcombe Flowage||093020||Chippewa River - Holcombe Stp||3/9/1984||5/10/1984||Map||Data|
|2184900||Holcombe Flowage||10018411||Holcombe Flowage -- Access at Near 260th Ave||5/24/2013||5/24/2013||Map||Data|
|2184900||Holcombe Flowage||10020098||Holcombe Flowage -- Access Nr 273 Rd And 269th Ave||9/25/2007||8/19/2011||Map||Data|
|2184900||Holcombe Flowage||093102||Holcombe Flowage - 300 Yards Upstream Of Hwy M Bridge||5/10/1989||9/7/2022||Map||Data|
|2184900||Holcombe Flowage||093103||Holcombe Flowage - Site 2 - Mouth Chippewa River||6/7/1989||7/28/1997||Map||Data|
|2184900||Holcombe Flowage||10015488||Holcombe Flowage - East Shore (Main Lake)||Map||Data|
|2184900||Holcombe Flowage||10001087||Holcombe Flowage||10/3/1994||9/12/2017||Map||Data|
|2184900||Holcombe Flowage||10020092||Holcombe Flowage -- Access at End Of 263rd St Off Cth M||7/4/2009||8/3/2010||Map||Data|
|2184900||Holcombe Flowage||093121||Holcombe Lake - Deep Hole||9/11/1973||7/20/1993||Map||Data|
|2184900||Holcombe Flowage||10018594||Holcombe Flowage -- Access at End 282nd Ave Town Of Birch Cr||8/4/2010||6/12/2011||Map||Data|
|4000010||Unnamed||10043187||Unnamed open water||8/17/2013||9/12/2017||Map||Data|
|2184900||Holcombe Flowage||10039137||Holcombe Flowage - Near Island in the Middle of the Main Lake||8/13/2012||9/7/2022||Map||Data|
A study of monthly water samples from the Chippewa at Chippewa Falls from 1961-1976 and 1988-1999, and Holcombe from 1977-1987 and 1996-1999 provides information on trends in water quality. In Chippewa Falls, pH, ammonia, chloride, and phosphorus levels have shown a significant change over time. The levels of pH appear to be showing greater fluctuation between extremes (5.5-9.0) in 1988-1999, than the lesser extremes (6.0-7.5) of 1961-1976. Greater pH fluctuations can generally be attributed to increasing levels of eutrophication. Ammonia and TP appear to be in decline since the early 1960's, likely due to stricter controls put in place by the Clean Water Act and regulations placing a 1 mg/L phosphorus limit on effluent from most WWTPs. Chlorides appear to be increasing due to increased use of road salt and WWTP discharges. Suspended solids, total kjeldahl nitrogen, nitrate-nitrogen, and dissolved phosphorus have not shown a significant change.
Author Aquatic Biologist
Holcombe Flowage is located in the Holcombe Flowage watershed which is 170.38 mi². Land use in the watershed is primarily forest (53.90%), wetland (23.30%) and a mix of open (9.10%) and other uses (13.70%). This watershed has 216.07 stream miles, 6,687.77 lake acres and 19,889.41 wetland acres.
Nonpoint Source Characteristics
This watershed is ranked Not Ranked for runoff impacts on streams, Medium for runoff impacts on lakes and Low for runoff impacts on groundwater and therefore has an overall rank of Low. 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.