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Lisa Helmuth
Water Quality Bureau

Basin programs and activities

Protecting waters from degradation

The creation of Chapter NR 207 "Water Quality Antidegradation" and changes to NR 102 "Water Quality Standards for Wisconsin Surface Waters", Wisconsin Administrative Code, allows DNR to protect waterbodies, because of their particular resource values and water quality, that are most important to the citizens of Wisconsin.

When coupled with other administrative codes, NR 207 protects surface waters and reflects their values and priorities by determining what kind of environmental safeguards we will apply to new or increased wastewater discharges. The purpose of the antidegradation policy is to strengthen existing protections for high quality streams and lakes in the state. To achieve this, the antidegradation classification system includes Outstanding Resource Waters (ORW) and Exceptional Resource Waters (ERW) waters.

ORW and ERW waterbodies in the Lower Rock River basin

County Waterbody Segment Designation
Dane Rutland branch All ERW
Dane Sixmile Creek All ERW
Dane Spring Creek All ERW
Jefferson Allen Creek All ERW
Rock Allen Creek Below Evansville ERW
Rock Bass Creek All ERW
Rock Little Turtle Creek All ERW
Rock Spring Brook Creek T2N R14E S27 All ERW
Rock Turtle Creek All ERW
Rock Unnamed Creek All ERW
Rock Spring Lake T5N R18E S9 All ORW
Rock Genesee Creek Above STH 59 ERW

From alphabetical listing by county of the outstanding and exceptional resource waters in Wisconsin (Wisconsin DNR, 1996).

Lakes in the Lower Rock basin

Over 105 lakes and impoundments in Lower Rock River basin offer excellent recreational opportunities for residents and vacationers of Wisconsin. Major lakes in the basin include: Mendota, Monona, Waubesa, Kegonsa, Koshkonong, Delavan and Whitewater. While these lakes enhance the landscape of Southern Wisconsin, they also reflect the area's popularity, mirroring its beauty and unfortunately, highlighting its extensive use and overuse.

The Lower Rock River basin's lake resources include a mix of natural lakes and impoundments - and where they continue to exist - many acres of productive wetlands. Management of these resources is a priority for the Wisconsin DNR, as the increasingly urbanized landscape is taking its toll on their quality and overall ecosystem health. Nonpoint sources of sediment, nutrients and in some cases, heavy metals and organic contaminants, have and continue to adversely affect the water's clarity, value for fish and wildlife use and human recreational use.

The presence of excessive sediment and nutrients (from a variety of sources on the land) in overland flow (or runoff) has caused turbidity and excessive growth of undesirable aquatic plants, which in some cases has choked out native or more desireable vegetation and destroyed habitat and spawning areas for fish and other aquatic life. In some cases, river systems dammed by structures originally built for mill operations have become murky weedbeds that act as a sediment traps. Further, riparian development, pyramiding with the construction of nuerous and massive pier are threatening fish, aquatic plans and riparian communities.

In the case of impoundments, dam removal may be the best way to improve overall water quality and aquatic habitat. Problems with excessive populations of rough fish are also common in many lakes. Nevertheless, the 105 named lakes and impoundments over 10 acres in the basin support a variety of recreational activities. These lakes are a valuable resource to basin residents and others who visit and use them. The lakes face environmental threats and many have water quality and recreational use problems ranging from moderate to severe. The problems range from fish advisories to nonpoint source pollution to over-development to recreational use conflicts.

There are fish consumption advisories on two lakes, Monona and Waubesa, due to excessive levels of mercury in fish samples. The source of these toxic substances is thought to be historic discharges from municipal wastewater directly to the lakes. Additional fish tissue and other monitoring is scheduled or has been conducted at a number of sites in the basin. Prior to the Lake Waubesa fish consumption advisory, a mercury advisory was predicted because of high levels of the metal in sediment (Marshall, 1996).

Monitoring needs

Monitoring of lakes in the Lower Rock River basin is a primary need for maintaining and improving the water resource. Many of the waterbodies lack consistent, reliable data, which inibits opportunities for lake management protection grants and/or funding under the Nonpoint Source Pollution Abatement Program.

The Self-Help Monitoring Program (see below) should try to obtain volunteers for lakes where information is insufficient to classify the waterbody, first by focusing on lakes where management organizations exist and where little water quality data has been obtained.

The lake management program

Wisconsin DNR's lake management program is responsible for protecting and maintaining Wisconsin's lakes to provide a full complement of uses for all citizens. With 15,000 inland lakes to manage, the Lake Management Program shares responsibility for lake protection action with University of Wisconsin-Extension, local units of government, lake districts and associations and lake-specific conservation and community groups. The program acts as a catalyst to help produce the greatest benefit from the coordinated actions of the 20 or so Wisconsin DNR programs that affect lakes. One major goal is to develop and continually improve a water quality database for all interested citizens and agencies to use.

Eight sub-programs administered by the Wisconsin DNR Lakes Management Program directly affect lakes across the state, as well as the in Lower Rock River basin. They are:

  • Self-help monitoring
  • Long-term trend monitoring
  • Aquatic plant management program - NR 107
  • Lake planning grants - NR 190
  • Lake classification grants
  • Lake protection grants - NR 191
  • Nonpoint source priority lake projects - NR 120
  • USEPA clean lakes grants - federal program
  • Adopt-A-Lake program

The Self-help monitoring program

The Self-Help monitoring program gives citizens an active role in lake management activities and assists Wisconsin DNR with data collection. The Self-Help volunteers are trained by a Wisconsin DNR lake management specialist. More than 800 volunteers statewide participated in the program during 1995. Eight lakes in the basin have Self-Help monitoring volunteers: Wingra, Monona, Gibbs, Delavan, Kegonsa, Ripley, Clear and Upper Nemahbin.

There are different levels of monitoring available through the program:

  • Secchi Depth: Volunteers are trained to collect water clarity data using a Secchi disk.
  • Chemistry: After successfully participating in the Secchi Depth program, volunteers are taught how to collect water samples to determine total phosphorus and chlorophyll-a concentrations measures the nutrient enrichment of a lake. This volunteer work includes training on how to measure dissolved oxygen and temperature profiles.

Wisconsin DNR conducts intensive monitoring on 50 lakes statewide five times per year for the long-term trend monitoring program. Water chemistry and biological and physical conditions have been monitored since 1986 to evaluate trends in lake water quality. Chemical data from 1986 through 1996 have been supplemented by surveys of aquatic plants, fish, bottom-dwelling invertebrates, land use practices in the watershed, weather and physical setting. In addition, historical data, if available, will be used to develop reports on each of the 50 lakes. Three lakes in the basin are in the Long-Term Trend Monitoring Program: Lake Ripley, Nagawicka Lake and Whitewater Lake.

The Aquatic Plant Management Program (APM), Chapter NR 107 Wisconsin Administrative Code, regulates the use of chemical herbicides to control nuisance aquatic plant and algae growth in Wisconsin waters. The APM permitting procedure aims to preserve the ecological benefits of lake plant communities, protect fish and wildlife habitat, prevent erosion and maintain water quality. The program informs the public of approved herbicide treatments and disseminates information on the benefits of aquatic plants and alternative control methods. The program also regulates other chemical lake treatments.

This plan identifies lakes that should be high priorities for designation as sensitive areas under the APM program. Sensitive areas are areas of aquatic vegetation supporting critical or unique fish and wildlife habitat, water quality protection, or erosion control benefits to a lake. Staff from multiple Wisconsin DNR programs cooperatively designate these areas. APM permits are generally not granted for treatment of sensitive areas and this designation may also affect Chapter 30 permit issuance.

NR 190 - Lake Planning Grants are available to lake districts, lake associations, counties, cities, villages, or towns. These grants can generate information on lake water quality, delineation of watershed boundaries, land use practices within a lake's watershed, definition of a local zoning authority to control pollution sources, or acquisition of sociological data important to long-term lake management. Successful proposals are awarded up to $10,000 with a 25 percent local match.

NR 191 - Lake Protection Grants are available to lake districts, lake associations, tribes, counties, cities, villages, or towns to carry out lake protection and restoration projects. The Lake Protection Grant Program provides 75 percent state cost share assistance up to $200,000. Eligible projects include:

  • Property purchases that substantially contribute to protecting or improving a lake's water quality and natural ecosystem.
  • Wetland restorations or upland restorations that prevent degradation of a lake's water quality and natural ecosystem.

Local regulation or ordinance development that helps prevent degradation of a lake's water quality and natural ecosystem, including limiting uses of a lake and developing educational materials necessary for implementing these regulations.

Lakes within the Lower Rock River basin may apply for funding to participate in a Priority Lakes Project. These projects involve implementing best management practices on lakes with documented water quality problems or threatened water quality from polluted runoff or watershed activities. Successful propects are those lakes that have the potential for improvement through a decrease in nutrient loading or that need to be protected from watershed activities.

The Lakes Management Program acts as liaison with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the federal EPA Clean Lakes Grant Program. Clean Lakes provides cost-sharing grants for planning and implementing lake protection and restoration projects and acquiring land for individual lakes. The awards are competitive and typically pay for 75 percent of the project costs. Phase I grants cover diagnostic and feasibility studies and Phase II grants cover implementation. Wisconsin has the opportunity to apply for grants on behalf of local project sponsors each year. Wisconsin DNR water resources managers are responsible for selecting and developing projects to submit to the EPA. Applications are coordinated and finalized by the Lakes Management Program. Successful applications are administered jointly by central regional staff.

The Adopt-A-Lake program is designed to provide youth and adults with a better understanding of aquatic ecosystems through hands-on activities. Projects range from water quality testing and litter cleanups to lake use surveys and other activities. Youth gain skills and knowledge necessary to become leaders and informed citizens. The program provides direction and resources to teachers and youth leaders. For more information on how a school or youth organization can become involved in the program contact the Adopt-A-Lake Coordinator, UW-Extension, Stevens Point 715-346-3366.

Special studies and organizations for lower Rock River lakes

A number of the lakes in the basin are the subject of special studies or projects. Improving water quality and fish habitat in both Lakes Monona and Waubesa is one of the main goals of the Yahara - Monona nonpoint source pollution priority watershed project, initiated in the summer of 1989 and the Yahara - Mendota project, initiated in 1995. Perhaps one of the most innovative projects in the state is the $7 million Delavan Lake Rehabilitation Project. The goals of this project are to improve water quality and restore fish habitat and a balanced sports fishery in the lake. Lake Comus has undergone a $1.5 million hydraulic dredging project and Lake Koshkonong has been the subject of numerous studies on how to improve water quality and fish habitat. There has been ongoing controversy over the lake's established water level. Lake Ripley has had macrophyte surveys conducted, sensitive areas identified and is the subject of a priority lakes project which began in 1995.

In the basin, 32 lakes have a local lake management organization (Directory of Wisconsin's Lake Management Organizations, 1995-96) and many of these organizations are lake districts. Lakes with an organized support network are Amy Belle, Bark, Blue Spring, Clear, Comus, Dahmen, Delavan, Diedrick, Genesee (middle and lower), Golden, Hunter, Kegonsa, Koshkonong, Lorraine, Mendota, Monona, Lower Nashotah, Lower Nemahbin, Ottawa, Lower Spring, Nagawicka, Pretty, Rice, Ripley, Rome Millpond, School Section, Spauldings, Token Creek, Turtle, Whitewater and Windsor.

Who to contact for more information about lakes: Walworth, Waukesha, or Washington County residents can contact the DNR lakes specialist at the DNR office in Milwaukee (414-263-8500). Residents of Jefferson, Rock and Dane counties should contact the DNR in Madison (608-273-5968).

Aquatic exotic species concerns

Exotic species - non-native organisms introduced into new habitats - are considered among the most severe worldwide agents of habitat alteration and degradation. Exotics are a major cause in the continuing loss of biological diversity throughout the world.

Introducing species either intentionally or accidentally from one habitat into another, where they have never been before, is risky business. Freed from the predators, parasites, pathogens and competitors that have kept their numbers in check, they will often overrun their new home and displace native species. Only about 10 percent of aquatic exotics actually make it in their new environment duie to physical, chemical or ecological constraints. Yet with enough food and favorable environment, their numbers can explode. Once established, however, exotics rarely can be eliminated.

The recent development of fast ocean freighters has greatly increased the risk of new exotics in the Great Lakes and surrounding region. Ships take on ballast water in foreign parts for stability during the ocean crossing. This water is pumped out when the ships pick up their loads in Great Lake ports. Because the ships make the crossing much more quickly with larger amounts of ballast water carried by ships and harbors are often less polluted, more exotic species are likely to survive the journey.

Zebra Mussels

The zebra mussel (Dreissena Polymorpha) is a tiny (1/8 - 2 inches) bottom-dwelling mussel native to Europe. The mussel gets its name from its striped shell. Zebra mussels were introduced into the Great Lakes system in 1985 or 1986 via ship ballast water. They have spread throughout the Great Lakes and are now found in Green Bay. Zebra mussels were first identified in the Wisconsin waters of Lake Michigan on a ship in Sturgeon Bay (Wisconsin DNR observation and Green Bay Press-Gazette, 1989). They appeared at Two Rivers and Kewaunee and in the Sturgeon Bay shipping canal in 1992 (Kraft, 1992).

A zebra mussel generates a tuft of fibers known as byssus, or byssal threads, from a gland in the foot. The byssus protrudes through the two halves of the shell. These threads attach to hard surfaces with an adhesive secretion that anchors the mussels in place. Although the mussels are small, they can cluster together to form colonies of thousands (30,000-70,000) of individuals per square meter (Ohio Sea Grant, 1990). Any hard underwater surface such as rocks, docks, boat hulls, commercial fishing nets, buoys, water intake pipes and even other invertebrates can be covered by layers of mussels in a short time. Established zebra mussel colonies create a uniform gravel or cobble-sized substrate.

Most authorities consider the spread of zebra mussels across Wisconsin to be inevitable. The mussel is a prolific breeder (each mature female can produce 30,000 - 50,000 eggs per season) and spread from the Great Lakes to inland water either as veligers (larvae) transported in boat live wells, bait buckets, or engine cooling water, or as juveniles and adults attached to boat hulls, engines, fish cages or other items. Zebra mussels become mature within the year and may live from four to six years.

The efficient feeding habits of zebra mussels have the potential to alter the entire ecology of inland lakes. One zebra mussel can filter a liter of water per day. However, when they are abundant, competition reduces filter capacity. Nearly all particulate matter, including plankton, is removed from the water. The mussels digest mostly algae. Uneaten plankton and other particulate matter is bound with mucous and deposited on the lake bottom. Thus, a considerable amount of material can be removed from the water column, making it unavailable for larval and juvenile fish and plankton-feeding forage fish. The mussels' feeding method might also affect water clarity in some areas.

Summary: Why are zebra mussels a problem?

Zebra Mussels are raw water users and thus there are increased costs to prevent zebra mussel from plugging up intake pipes. The zebra mussels' impact on biological diversity can be profound and there is a cost to riparian property owners for the cost of maintaining their boats and engines. Dead zebra mussel shells are a safety concern on the beaches, as well.

What is the DNR doing about zebra mussel infestation and spread?

The Wisconsin DNR is monitoring lakes and rivers for veligers and adults. Informative signs have been placed at boat landings near infested lakes to to prevent spread and a number of educational materials have been developed, such as information and education pamphlets and boaters guides.

For additional information on zebra mussels, contact Ron Martin, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707. (608) 266-9270.

Eurasian Water Milfoil

Eurasian water milfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum) is an exotic plant species from Europe that has invaded many Wisconsin lakes. The plant is normally found only after it has established itself in a lake and become a nuisance. In the Midwest, Eurasian water milfoil has affected surface water recreation and has, in some lakes, severely altered the chemical and physical habitat of the lake. The plant can grow to depths of 15 feet or more. Once this growth peaks in July and August, dense floating mats of vegetation can form and interfere with boating, fishing and swimming. From an aquatic community perspective, Eurasian water milfoil out-competes native plants, thereby reducing diversity. It is not colonized or utilized by aquatic insects as readily as native species and it grows in stands so dense that it impairs the ability of sight-feeding fish to find prey.

If left unchecked, further spread of Eurasian water milfoil is likely. This plant can regenerate from broken fragments. Boats and trailers are the usual transport, although plant fragments can travel through the watershed in other ways (e.g. by waterfowl). Although proper cleaning of watercraft will not eliminate the spread of milfoil, it will limit new infestations.

Purple Loosestrife

Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) is a wetland plant from Europe and Asia. It was introduced into the east coast of North America in the 1800s via ship ballast water. First spreading along roads, canals and drainage ditches, then later distributed as an ornamental, this exotic plant is in 40 states and all Canadian border provinces (MDNR, 1992).

Purple loosestrife invades marshes and lakeshores, replacing cattails and other native wetland plants. The plant can form dense, impenetrable stands unsuitable as cover, food or nesting sites for a wide range of native wetland animals including ducks, geese, rails, bitterns, muskrats, frogs, toads and turtles. Many rare and endangered wetland plants and animals are also at risk.

Loosestrife's numbers and rate of spread have increased rapidly in the Midwest during the past 10 to 15 years. As a result, not only is our diverse wetland vegetation (including rare and endangered plants) threatened, but also most wildlife that depend upon native vegetation for food and shelter. Once a wetland is dominated by loosestrife, traditional residents such as muskrat and waterfowl decline in numbers significantly. Others, such as marsh wrens and least bitterns, are displaced completely from the wetland (Wisconsin DNR, 1990). Once, loosestrife begins to invade, canopy closure is likely.

Purple loosestrife thrives on disturbed, moist soils, often invading after some type of construction activity. Eradicating an established stand is difficult because of the enormous number of seeds in the soil. One adult plant can disperse 2 million seeds annually (MDNR, 1992). The plant is able to resprout from roots and broken stems that fall to the ground or into the water.

A major reason for purple loosestrife's expansion is its lack of effective predators in North America. This plant escaped specialized insects and diseases that keep it in check in its native land. Free from natural controls, loosestrife gained a competitive edge over our native wetland plants. Several European insects that only attack purple loosestrife are being tested as possible long-term biological controls in North America. Chemical control is costly and requires long-term application. The use of nonspecific herbicides has detrimental effects on nontarget wetland plants.

Aquatic plant management

Excessive and unsightly plants, exotic or native, growing where they are not wanted concerns many Wisconsin citizens. In some lakes, these "weeds" impair fishing and other recreational uses. However, the extreme opposite of excessive plant growth, a plant-barren lake bottom, is much worse. Aquatic plants play an essential and beneficial role in the life support systems of most lakes. They produce oxygen and organic material, which help keep the lake and its organisms alive. The leaves and stems of aquatic plants are home to insects and small attached plants. Plants provide spawning areas, food and protective cover for aquatic organisms. Their roots stabilize lake bottoms and prevent shoreline erosion. Ducks, beaver and muskrat use plant roots, tubers and stems as food and building materials.

If excessive plant growth does become a concern in a lake, there are a variety of management techniques available, both mechanical and non-mechanical. Hand harvesting, raking, aquatic plant screens and mechanical harvesting have been successfully applied on Wisconsin lakes. These types of techniques are preferable to chemical herbicide application. Aquatic herbicides are not always selective. They can destroy valuable native vegetation along with less desirable plants and encourages exotics. Lake biologists are concerned about the long and short-term effects chemicals may have on lakes. Wisconsin DNR can provide fact sheets on a number of chemical herbicides and their alternatives.

When choosing a technique to manage aquatic plants, lake property owners and lake management organizations should select the technique that offers the best control with the least potential for disrupting the balance for the lake's ecosystem. Wisconsin DNR's aquatic plant management specialists can help concerned organizations find the best solution for managing an individual lake. However, weed removal, chemical treatment and screens may provide only a temporary solution. The best way to thwart excessive plant growth is to cut off surplus nutrients and sediments flowing into a lake. Most lakes have so many nutrients in them that slowing nutrient loads may not result in improvement for years; however, problems may stabilize.

Shoreline development

Increasing development of lake shorelines threatens the natural integrity of waterbodies and is a priority issue in the basin. Much of the lake shoreline has been sold for residential development. Shoreline alterations harm the productivity, diversity and natural scenic beauty of lakes. Fish Managers site shoreline development as the cause of fish declines in Lake Ripley and Rock Lake (Upper Rock basin). Also, wetlands are typically lost by development as the system's most sensitive areas, lakes' littoral zones and streambanks, are usually more or less directly affected.

Wisconsin DNR staff are interested in managing riparian zones to protect water quality and aquatic life resources, whatever the land use may be. The Wisconsin DNR and local agencies protect riparian zones through state statues and local ordinances. Section 59, Wisconsin State Statues, requires counties to adopt and administer regulations to control development along shorelands of lakes and streams and within floodplains. Shoreland control is confined to lands within 1,000 feet of a navigable lake, pond, or flowage, or within 300 feet of a river or navigable stream or to the landward side of the flood plain. Wisconsin DNR staff should encourage shoreline management that protects water quality and supports education on all waterbodies in the basin.

Biodiversity/grant programs

The need for water fostered the development of towns, villages and cities near rivers and streams. The Yahara River and larger Rock River are no exception. These watersheds are extensively developed, with population clusters located near larger waterbodies. The number and growing size of communities located along the Yahara chain-of-lakes illustrates this point. While inland waterbodies are used primarily for scenic and recreational purposes, rather than transportation or commercial uses, overuse of these resources has become a problem in some areas. For example, Lake Mendota receives an enormous influx of motorized boat and ski-board traffic during the summer season. Continued and repeated unnatural fluctuations in water levels and loud motor noise disturbs wildlife and fosters shoreline erosion and severely reduces aesthetic enjoyment of the lake.

While state and local governments are responding to this shift in use values with a number of programs and initiatives to protect the scenic and functional values of riverway corridors, lakeside vegetation and upland areas, greater attention to overuse and abuse of water resources, especially in urban areas where seasonal use is intense, is needed. Local preservation needs can only be partially met through grant programs, conservation easements and enactment of local conservancy ordinances. The Wisconsin DNR report, Wisconsin's Biodiversity as a Management Issue, produced in May, 1995, discusses practical methods of preserving and managing for biodiversity at the state and local level.

Urban rivers grants program

The Urban Rivers Grants Program consists of state grants to counties, cities, villages, towns and Tribal units of government for the acquisition of land adjacent to rivers and streams in urban areas. The objectives of this program are to:

  1. Improve recreation opportunities by increasing access to urban rivers for a variety of uses.
  2. Revitalize local economies by improving environmental quality in urban river corridors.
  3. Preserve and revitalize historical, cultural, or natural areas.

Land to be acquired must be on or adjacent to a river in an urban area and the acquisition must be part of an outdoor recreation plan adopted by the local unit of government. Applications are due May 1 of each year. Wisconsin DNR's Bureau of Community Assistance administers this grant program. Contact the appropriate Wisconsin DNR regional office for more information and applications.

Streambank acquisition or easements

Municipalities are also eligible for funds to acquire land or easements along streambanks for water quality and habitat protection. Eligible projects are those intended primarily for conservancy areas and passive greenways. Only low-impact recreation is permitted on property acquired by this grant since the main goal is water quality protection. Wisconsin DNR's Bureau of Community Assistance administers these grants. Contact the appropriate Wisconsin DNR regional office for more information and applications.


All communities within the basin that are located on a river should critically review current and future protection and recreational needs of their local waterbody via a planning process (type c).

Communities located on a river, which have identified land acquisition needs along waterways should apply to the Urban Rivers Grant Program, the Streambank Acquisition Grant Program, the Lakes Planning or Protection Grant Program, or other grant funding sources to implement portions of their plan (type c).

Floodplain and shoreland zoning

Effective administration of floodplain and shoreland zoning ordinances is necessary to protect life, health, property and the natural values of shorelands. Under Chapters NR 115 and NR 117 Wis. Admin. Code, the State of Wisconsin is responsible for oversight and development of, when necessary, shoreland and shoreland-wetland districts by counties, villages and cities and, under NR 116, the development of floodplain zones by these same entities.

Chapter NR 116 provides minimum standards for the zoning of floodplains. Wisconsin DNR has developed model ordinances, provides assistance to municipalities and reviews and approves proposed ordinances and amendments. If the local government fails to adopt a conforming ordinance, Wisconsin DNR may enact an ordinance that the local government must administer. The need for reevaluation of existing floodplain maps may arise over time due to the natural evolution of a river and/or when land uses in the watershed alter the hydrologic features of the landscape. An example of this is in the City of Whitewater (LR14), which acknowledges the need to reevaluate its existing floodplain maps. The city's recent request for an expansion of its sewer service area boundary (1996) and the inevitable increase in impervious surfaces in upland areas of the watershed will likely result in further alteration of the existing floodplain zone within the municipal area and county. This change is anticipated due to increased stormwater flows, enhanced peak flows and the river's natural tendency to adjust itself back toward stability or equilibrium. This example illustrates that the demand for administrative services related to floodplain and shoreland zoning ordinances will increase as rural development continues. Counties and municipalities must anticipate these needs and allocate staff accordingly.

In 1996, Wisconsin DNR's Bureau of Community Assistance completed a 14-year review of all communities with adopted floodplain ordinances. The review involved contacting more than 500 communities, either through a detailed audit or a simpler phone contact, to ensure adequate administration of the floodplain ordinance, both for the National Flood Insurance Program and for state law.

Wisconsin DNR is also responsible for oversight of the state's Shoreland Management Program for counties (NR 115) and cities and villages (NR 117). In 1997, Wisconsin DNR developed a draft report evaluating the existing Shoreland Management Program. As the draft report indicates, the Shoreland Management Program is a partnership effort between state and local governments. Its purpose is found in NR 115, which requires that county ordinances must have standards that meet or exceed the minimum state standards contained in NR 115 for shorelands, including: setbacks for structures from waterways and property lines; minimum lot sizes and land division review; controls on cutting shoreline vegetation; standards for earth moving activities; protection for wetlands; regulation of septic systems and wells in the shoreland zone; and restrictions on improvements to older structures that don=t meet shoreland standards. Cities and villages are not required to protect shorelands under NR 117, other than wetlands.

The wetland protection provisions are an important feature of this program and are the main provision for cities and villages under NR 117. Under the current standards, rezoning requests for shoreland-wetlands can not be approved if the proposal would result in a significant impact on protected functional values listed in NR 115. All wetlands or portions of wetlands five acres or larger that are within 1,000 feet of a lake, pond or flowage, or within 300 feet of the landward edge of the floodplain of a navigable stream or river, whichever is greater, are subject to this protective zoning. Zoning ordinances under these chapters generally prohibit any drainage, dredging, filling or flooding of wetlands larger than five acres. Activities allowed in shoreland-wetland zones include maintenance of existing drainage systems, some agricultural activities and limited road and utility construction. Protection of wetlands down to two acres in size or smaller can add tremendously to the area=s functional values. Thus, even though protection of this size wetland is not required under the program, counties, villages and cities should zone small floodplain wetlands to ensure their protection.


Stormwater control ordinances that address both water quality and quantity should be adopted and enforced by civil divisions that, while not involved in a priority watershed program, still need comprehensive stormwater management, including: Janesville, Beloit, Clinton, Whitewater, Fort Atkinson, cities in Waukesha County and the unincorporated areas near Madison. These municipalities supplement those currently required to develop stormwater management programs under NR216 (type c).

While traditionally only stormwater volume is documented and/or controlled, water quality considerations for receiving waters must be addressed in the design controls and ordinance developed by Janesville, Evansville, Beloit, Clinton, Whitewater, Fort Atkinson, cities in Waukesha County and the unincorporated areas near Madison. (type c).

Wisconsin DNR should proceed with implementing the municipal stormwater discharge permit program under NR216 and Phase II federal stormwater regulations (when finalized) for other municipalities within the Lower Rock River basin other than the city of Madison, which already has a municipal stormwater discharge permit. Some of the municipalities in recommendations 3 and 4 above may fall in this category (type b).

Rock and Jefferson counties should adopt and enforce countywide construction site erosion control ordinances encompassing construction of single-home building sites, subdivisions and commercial sites (type c).

Basin cities and villages (see Table 2) should adopt a construction site erosion control ordinance for land-disturbing activities not covered under the Uniform Dwelling Code, such as commercial/industrial, multi-family, residential development and locally funded road and bridge construction (type c).

All municipalities in the Lower Rock River basin should develop comprehensive stormwater management plans that account for water quantity and quality, that encourage maximum infiltration of stormwater and that are integrated into the area's long-term land use management and open space plans (type c).

Urbanizing towns in Rock and Jefferson counties, where a countywide ordinance is not in place, should adopt construction site erosion control and stormwater ordinances (type c).

Cities and villages should regulate their shoreland through conformance with county or model ordinances for shoreland protection - whichever are more protective - even though they are not required to regulate shorelands other than wetlands under NR 117 (type c).

Counties, cities and villages should regulate wetlands down to two acres in size under their local Shoreland Management Program as per NR 115 and NR 117 (type c).

Local villages, municipalities, townships and counties in which sewer service area boundary expansions are requested should review and revise existing floodplain zone maps to accommodate potential hydrologic modifications (type c).

Wisconsin DNR should continue to train local officials in land use law, particularly those laws that are oriented to natural resource protection (type b).

Conservation reserve program

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, pays farmers to remove highly erodible lands from production. These lands are usually left to revert to natural grasses and shrubs, which hold runoff and enhance infiltration. Benefits to streams include increased base flow and reduced runoff that may carry soil, pesticides and nutrients. A study conducted on two streams and their watersheds in northwest Wisconsin - with 15.6 percent and 26.5 percent cropland in CRP - found the CRP lands were responsible for reducing erosion rates by as much as 37 percent (Davie). Suspended sediment loads did not, however, decrease similarly. Investigators theorize that the streams mobilized sediment stored in the streambed since the runoff carried a reduced amount of eroded soil from uplands; this result was beneficial. The movement of stored channel sediment eventually produces deeper channels, which may expose habitat suitable for aquatic insects. Changes to streambed channels occur over several years and even decades.

A number of landowners in the Rock River basin participate in the CRP. In 1996 federal government cutbacks threatened the program's continuation. Baseline data on watersheds with a large percentage of CRP acres will allow a more thorough analysis of the effectiveness of the Cropland Reserve Program. CRP lands within large stream watersheds may not, however, provide quantifiable water quality benefits.

Last revised: Thursday December 10 2015