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NEWS ARCHIVE:     Age: 699 days

DNR to host public hearing on draft Wisconsin River Basin water quality improvement study

Contact(s): Kevin Kirsch, DNR water resources engineer, 608-266-7019,; Raechelle Belli, DNR public affairs manager, 608-264-8942,
August 7, 2018

MADISON -- Work to improve the water quality of the Wisconsin River Basin will soon take another step forward when the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources begins accepting public comments on a draft study.

The draft Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Study will provide a strategic framework and prioritize resources for water quality improvement in the Wisconsin River Basin.

Castle Rock Flowage is one of the waters in the Wisconsin River basin that could benefit from the TMDL. - Photo credit: DNR
Castle Rock Flowage is one of the waters in the Wisconsin River basin. The beach at Buckhorn State Park.Photo credit: DNR

A public hearing on the study is scheduled for Aug. 22, 2018 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Portage County Courthouse Annex Building located at 1462 Strongs Ave., Stevens Point.

"We incorporated comments received during the March listening sessions and comment period and we will outline those changes at the hearing," said Kevin Kirsch, DNR water resources engineer and manager of the project. "In addition to those changes, we also added additional material to aid in implementation efforts."

One important addition is a summary of phosphorus goals for agricultural sources expressed in pounds per acre at the edge of the field based on Wisconsin's nutrient management planning software, SnapPlus. This effort required integrating the TMDL analysis with over 36,000 separate SnapPlus model runs.

"To my knowledge, no other TMDL in the country has gone to this level of detail. It will really aid in implementation by allowing agricultural producers to evaluate the management options needed to protect water quality at the field scale," said Marcia Willhite, chief of the DNR Water Evaluation Section.

In addition to the TMDL Study, efforts are moving forward on the adoption of site-specific water quality criteria for Lake Wisconsin, Castle Rock, and Petenwell.

"We have received DNR Board approval and are moving forward with the rule making process. If the process continues as planned we will be looking at Fall of 2019 for final adoption of the revised site-specific criteria," said Sharon Gayan, DNR Water Quality bureau director.

Analysis conducted during the TMDL Study revealed that numeric phosphorus criteria, different than those currently in rule, would better suit the water quality standards necessary for the three reservoirs.

"One misconception has been that the recommended site-specific criteria will allow increased phosphorus loads over current loadings and that is not true; reductions are required," said Pat Oldenburg, implementation coordinator for the TMDL Study. "I look forward to continuing to work with the diverse stakeholders across the basin in improving water quality and realizing the benefits associated with clean lakes, reservoirs, and rivers."

A copy of the public hearing version of the TMDL Study will be posted on the website on August 20. The TMDL Study and supporting documentation can be found by searching the DNR website,, for Wisconsin River TMDL.

The public hearing version of the TMDL Study incorporates input and comments received during the March listening sessions and comment period. The August 22 hearing will include a presentation outlining the modifications made. For those who are unable to attend the public hearing, comments on the TMDL Study can be submitted to Kevin Kirsch at or by mail to: Kevin Kirsch, Wisconsin DNR, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921

Oral comments, received during the public hearing, and written comments received prior to the close of the comment period will be considered prior to making a final approval and submittal of the TMDL Study to EPA. Written and oral comments carry the same weight. A summary with response to comments will also be included in the final TMDL Study report.

The study area covers the Wisconsin River Basin north of Lake Wisconsin encompassing or touching portions of 22 counties. The Wisconsin River Basin has 109 stream and river segments and 38 lakes or reservoirs that are currently listed as impaired due to elevated levels of phosphorus. The EPA, under the Clean Water Act, requires that waters not meeting water quality standards be listed as impaired and have TMDL or equivalent restoration plans developed. TMDL plans quantify the different sources of pollution, provide allocations, and prescribe reductions, if needed.

Last Revised: Tuesday, August 07, 2018

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