WT Planning Bad Axe LaCrosse

Purpose

The Bad Axe - La Crosse River Basin, located in southwest Wisconsin, contains numerous scenic vistas from the many hilltops and beautiful stream valleys. This basin is characterized by steep forested hillsides with agricultural activities located mainly in the relatively level valleys. The last glaciers to flatten Wisconsin did not reach this part of the state. Consequently, this basin is drained by a highly dendritic network of primarily cold, groundwater fed streams. In fact, the Bad Axe - La Crosse River basin contains 400 hundred miles of trout streams. Portions of Crawford, La Crosse, Monroe, and Vernon Counties lie within the Bad Axe - La Crosse River Basin. This basin is rich in cold water streams. Many of these streams are in good shape, but many others are threatened by both urban and agricultural non-point source pollution. Stormwater runoff from urban areas, barnyard runoff and inadequate sod cover on streambanks top the list of problems. An extensive effort to restore in-stream habitat for trout and purchase streambank easements for fishing access has been very successful in the Bad Axe - La Crosse River Basin. Groundwater provides drinking water to all citizens of the basin. This precious resource is at risk simply due to the prevalence of fractured dolomite, which acts as a conduit, rather than a filter of groundwater. Knowing this risk is pervasive throughout the basin, residents, business and municipalities must take great care in disposing of wastes that could potentially contaminate their drinking water supply. The picturesque hills, valleys, and sandstone cliffs bring many visitors to the basin, some of whom decide to make it their home. Consequently, many farmers parcel their land and sell acreage to people who want to build homes in the hills. Even though many hills are too steep for crops or grazing, some new landowners simply carve out a hillside to create a flat building area for their home. These actions threaten surface water quality if erosion results as well as the integrity of the hillsides. The forests of the Bad Axe - La Crosse River Basin contain primarily oak species; however, oak wilt is taking its toll in the basin. The steep topography of this basin is not conducive to many acres of wetlands; however, large expanses still exist near the mouths of the Bad Axe River, Coon Creek, and the La Crosse River.

Objective

Major Bad Axe - La Crosse River Basin Issues -Threats to land, forest and water quality from urbanization. -Changing agricultural practices and the effect on surface and groundwater quality as well as forests. -Land use changes and threats to the basin's many sensitive and unique plant and animal species and their associated habitats. -Improvement in the availability of recreational opportunities. -Need for coordinated management of forest ecosystems. -Enhance public education regarding the basin's unique resources and how to protect them.

Study Design

Watershed specified for planning and assessment purposes. Assessment of water quality condition in this respective county will use protocols described in WisCALM of the year of assessment. Minimum assessment work includes biological data (macroinvertebrates, fish indices), chemistry and habitat data. Additional work includes identification of priorities and goals, creating recommendations for actions, and updating narratives for watersheds and waterbodies. Assessments are to be double checked by at least one additional biologist.

Related Reports

Run Project Summary Report
View Umbrella-Projects
View Sub-Projects
View Related-Projects

Water Quality Planning
Basin Plans
BL_WTPLAN
2002
Complete
 
Reports and Documents
DNR Approval Letter, LO-0002 and Plan Update Document.
CHAPTER 4: WATERSHED NARRATIVES
A report by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in cooperation with the Bad Axe - La Crosse River Basin Land and Water Partners and other stakeholders.
Water Resources
Chapter 2 Land Resources BAL
PRIORITY ISSUES AND PARTNERSHIPS
First chapter of several BAL
Artesian Well Bad Axe LaCrosse Basin
 
Activities & Recommendations
Control Streambank Erosion
Streambank erosion is a common sight in the Bad Axe - La Crosse River Basin. Some eroding streambanks are raw vertical banks created by the past accumulation of sediment in the valley and the stream naturally cutting into the bank. Other eroding streambanks result from unrestricted access of large animals which trample sloped streambanks and consume the soil retaining plants. The addition of sediment to streams in the basin threatens to eliminate existing in-stream habitat for fish and aquatic insects.
Control Streambank Erosion
Nutrient enrichment of the Mississippi River and impoundments in the basin, causing nuisance algae blooms, originates from the lands draining to them. Due to the topographic constraints of many farms in the basin, many barnyards, feedlots and cropped fields are immediately adjacent to streams. If not properly managed, these areas can contribute large amounts of nutrient laden manure and chemical fertilizer to a stream.
Runoff Grant
Beach closings due to unsafe bacterial levels in rivers and in some impoundments are of concern. Due to the topographic constraints of many farms in the basin, many barnyards and feedlots are immediately adjacent to streams. If not properly managed, these areas can contribute large amounts of bacteria laden manure to a stream.
Stormwater Planning, Implementation
Increased runoff volumes from expanding urban areas in the basin threaten not only the quality but also the future existence of adjacent trout streams. The change in stormwater runoff volume as well as when and how much of it reaches an adjacent stream can degrade the in-stream habitat and water temperatures necessary for trout survival.
Information and Education
The permitting, design and construction of stream crossings is often met with resistance since the crossing must be designed to pass large stream flows. New landowners to La Crosse County are mostly unaware of the building restriction on slopes steeper than 30% in the county. People living in the Bad Axe - La Crosse River Basin should have a good understanding of why these and other restrictions are necessary.
Fish Management, Access
If new markets for cranberries are created, expansion of new cranberry operations into the La Crosse River Basin is expected. The need for impounded water in a cranberry operation will likely affect any coldwater streams in the basin by the release of warm water. A closed water system where no stream is impounded would have the least impact to the basin's trout streams.
Urban Growth Planning
Increased development pressures in rural townships not adequately prepared for the accompanying decisions and long range implications of changing land use patterns has taxed some township staff and elected officials. Local officials must seriously consider what their township should look like in the future and what it will look like based on current land ownership and land use trends.
Urban Growth Planning
Development encroaching into the extensive lower La Crosse River wetland complex threatens not only the flood control function, but also the diversity of plant and animal species residing within. Requests to fill one acre here and a half acre there of the La Crosse River marsh contributes to the cumulative reduction in total area.
Urban Growth Planning
Disturbance of steep slopes in the basin for building single family homes is becoming more common. The destabilization of already fragile hillsides can lead to movement of soils off site to nearby streams or wetlands. Landslides, which can contain extremely large rocks, have occurred on destabilized slopes during heavy rains.
Monitor and/or Protect Groundwater, Sourcewater
A trend in the agricultural community of increased dairy herd size threatens both surface and groundwater quality in the basin if the manure generated at these large dairy operations is not properly managed. It is crucial to build manure storage facilities according to the proper design specifications in order to protect groundwater. Another crucial component of proper manure management is having enough land to spread these large volumes of manure. Since many fields in the coulee region are located adjacent to streams, coordinating the proper day and time to spread liquefied manure is extremely important. Frozen ground conditions, impending rainstorms, and the ability to immediately incorporate manure into the ground must all be seriously considered when determining when, how and where to spread.
Water Quality Planning
Basin Planning
Aquatic Plant Monitoring or Survey
Invasion of the exotic purple loosestrife threatens the plant and animal diversity that currently exists in the extensive wetland complex of the La Crosse River and many other waterbodies and wetlands in the basin. When purple loosestrife becomes established, it out competes native wetland vegetation, which in turn reduces biological diversity of plants, animals and insects.
Best Management Practices, Implement
The practice of grazing livestock in some wooded areas of the basin was resumed recently due to a change in tax codes. This grazing practice was proven not only inadequate for the support of livestock but also destructive to the absorptive capacity of soils in the driftless area.
Best Management Practices, Implement
If new markets for cranberries are created, expansion of new cranberry operations into the La Crosse River Basin is expected. The need for impounded water in a cranberry operation will likely affect any coldwater streams in the basin by the release of warm water. A closed water system where no stream is impounded would have the least impact to the basin's trout streams.
 
Watershed
 
Waters