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December 20, 2011

MADISON - Two of the three products Wisconsin is required to submit to the federal government assessing the condition of its lakes and rivers are available for public comment through Feb. 20, 2012.

The products -- Wisconsin's proposed list of waters that do not meet water quality standards and a group of plans for maintaining or improving water quality in 24 of 330 watersheds across the state -- also are the subject of a Jan.5 webcast set to begin at 1:30 p.m. More information on the webcast and submitting public comments is found below.

The 1972 Clean Water Act requires states every two years to assess whether their waters meet the national goals of supporting healthy aquatic communities, habitat for wildlife and opportunities for fishing and swimming. States are to publish a statewide water quality report, develop an "Impaired Waters List" of lakes and rivers that do not meet state water quality standards, and submit plans for maintaining and improving water quality in a certain number of watersheds every cycle.

25 waters removed, 32 added to Impaired Waters List

DNR is proposing to remove 25 lakes, beaches and rivers from the 2012 draft impaired waters list, often referred to as the 303 (d) list, because their water quality has improved and now meets federal standards. The proposed removals, or "de-listings" reflect recent improved stream habitat and recent bacteria concentrations at those beaches, according to Aaron Larson, the DNR water resources management specialist who coordinates the impaired waters list. A list of the waters being removed and added (pdf; 38kb) is available on the DNR website.

At the same time, 32 waters are proposed to be added to the impaired waters list for the first time because of documentation that they exceeded numeric standards for phosphorus, mercury, bacterial contamination and recoverable zinc and copper, he says. Waters where phosphorus was the problem pollutant also had to be showing signs of biological impairment such as excessive algal growth or lack of insects sensitive to pollution to be listed as impaired.

And additional pollutants are added for 19 waters already on the impaired waters list; in 18 of those cases, those waters are found to exceed standards for total phosphorus. The impaired waters list includes more than 700 lakes, rivers, impoundments or streams.

Tim Asplund, acting chief of DNR's water evaluation section, says the new listings don't mean that water quality has suddenly decreased in these waters since the 2010 impaired waters list was submitted, but likely reflect a combination of factors: new data submitted for consideration, new phosphorus standards that for the first time set numeric criteria for how much of this nutrient can be in lakes and rivers, and new methodologies for weighing whether to add or remove a water from the list, he says.

"The process of listing waters as impaired is a constantly evolving, changing process because the science and assessment methods are constantly evolving," Asplund says. "Some of these waters may have been impaired for a long time but we now have more clear parameters to make listing decisions, and in many cases, more information."

For the 2012 process, data was evaluated from monitoring conducted by DNR, the U.S.Geological Survey and county health departments, as well as from groups that submitted data including the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, the Alliance for the Great Lakes, Centerville Cares, the Silver Lake Management District and the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council.

For water bodies identified as impaired, DNR develops analytical models called Total Maximum Daily Loads, or TMDLs, that set pollution reduction goals, identify sources of pollutants, and recommend best management practices. When monitoring shows that the waterbody is again meeting water quality standards, the water body is removed from the Impaired Waters List, Asplund says.

Water condition information also available for 23 watersheds

The assessment process results in updated, detailed water condition information for 23 of Wisconsin's 330 watersheds each year. This year, the Mukwonago River, Kinnickinnic River, Big Roche A Cri River, Waupaca River and Coon Valley Creek watersheds are among the draft plans available, according to Lisa Helmuth, who coordinates watershed plans and related assessments.

A watershed represents all of the land that drains to a particular lake or stream.

While detailed plans for only these watersheds are being submitted at this time, DNR has also compiled and put online a wide array of information about thousands of other waters. People can use DNR's new Search your Water! tool, which provides easy online access to available monitoring data and descriptions of projects that have occurred on or near the water.

Where to submit comments on the Impaired Waters List, 24 watershed plans

The online web presentation about the impaired waters list and the watershed plans is set for Jan. 5. People are asked to register online to participate.

Comments on the Clean Water Act Condition Summary and Watershed Plan Updates may be submitted via e-mail through Feb. 20, 2012, to or to Wisconsin DNR, Watershed Planning/Helmuth (WT/3), PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921.

Comments on the proposed Impaired Waters List may be submitted via e-mail through Feb. 20, 2012, to or to Wisconsin DNR, Water Evaluation Section

(WT/3), PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE IMPAIRED WATERS LIST CONTACT: Aaron Larson (608) 264-6129; Tim Asplund (608) 267-7662

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE OVERALL ASSESSMENT CONTACT: Susan Sylvester (608) 266-1099; Lisa Helmuth,, 266-7768;

Last Revised: Tuesday, December 20, 2011

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