Upper Fox - Wolf TMDL
TMDL Development
Approved TMDL
Implement TMDL
Evaluate for Delisting

Project description

The Upper Fox River (UFR) Basin and the Wolf River (WR) Basin are two separate basins that converge within a series of pool lakes in Winnebago County before finally flowing collectively into Lake Winnebago. All of the surface water drainage to Lake Winnebago is contained within these two basins. Lake Winnebago outlets into the Lower Fox River Basin where it eventually flows into Green Bay. A TMDL has been developed for the Lower Fox River and Lower Green Bay Area of Concern (AOC) for phosphorus and total suspended solids.

The Upper Fox River and Wolf River Basins are important environmental and economic resources for the state and the local community. People have long used the Fox River and Wolf Rivers for transportation, commerce, energy, food, and recreation. However, the waters located within the Upper Fox and Wolf River Basins are impaired due to excess phosphorus and total suspended solids (TSS). The Federal Clean Water Act requires states and authorized Tribes to identify and restore impaired waterbodies. To restore waters within the Fox and Wolf Basins, TMDLs will be developed for total phosphorus and TSS. The TMDL will identify the sources of the pollutants and the reductions necessary to address water quality impairments. In addition, addressing water quality in the Upper Fox and Wolf basins may be necessary in restoring water quality in the Lower Fox basin.


Call or E-Mail: Keith Marquardt (TMDL Project Manager)


Recent events

Welcome to the Upper Fox and Wolf Basin TMDL
The TMDL Team will publish updates from time to time. To join the list, subscribe by clicking on the link:

Meetings, presentations

Upper Fox and Wolf TMDL Stakeholder Meeting (08/23/2017) Materials


Upper Fox and Wolf TMDL Stakeholder Meeting (06/15/2016) Materials

Technical presentations

A number of detailed technical products have been developed in the process of creating the Upper Fox/ Wolf Basin TMDL. The following products are the most recent:

Model details

Several modeling techniques are used in this TMDL, including:

  • Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) Modeling which is a process-based too that Simulates hydrologic and water quality processes: surface runoff, evapotranspiration, erosion, groundwater discharge, etc.

  • Winnebago & Pool Lake Modeling � BATHTUB & Jensen (Dale Robertson, USGS).

  • WiLMS Lake Modeling by Andy Somor, The Cadmus Group
  • Technical memos

Resource conditions

De Pere Wisconsin Upper Fox Basin
The Upper Fox River Basin [read: Upper Fox Basin Plan 2001] is located in east central Wisconsin. It includes all of Marquette County. Portions of Adams, Calumet, Columbia, Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Winnebago, and Waushara Counties make up the remainder of the basin. The total area of the basin is 2,090 mi2. All streams draining to Lake Winnebago, with the exception of those in the Wolf River Basin, are located in the Upper Fox River Basin boundary. The basin is very diverse in its land use, geomorphology, and biology. All of these aspects are affected by socioeconomic impacts of the fast growing communities found in the basin. Land use is diverse and very dynamic. Agriculture, urban, recreational land, and forests are major land uses that affect the basins ecology. Approximately 12 percent or 160,512 acres of the Upper Fox River Basin is surface water (UWGB, 1997).

The basin has significant mileage of high quality streams, particularly in the Marquette, Waushara, and Adams County portions of the basin. These streams include Chaffee, Tagatz, and Neenah Creeks and the Mecan River. There are 1,257 miles of rivers and streams in the basin. This includes 202 miles of rivers, 602 miles of named creeks, 293 unnamed creeks, and 170 miles of intermittent streams. There are 164 miles of cold water trout streams, 310 miles warm water sport fish streams, and 20 miles of warm water forage fish streams (UWGB, 1997). Most of the cold water streams are located in the western portion of the basin near the Sandy Ridges Ecoregion. The soil associations are those related to sandy soils in the pitted outwash and sand moraines, which permits high quantities of cold, high quality groundwater to discharge to the streams. This portion of the basin contains the headwaters of many small streams that are tributaries to the Fox River. Groundwater discharge to streams provides excellent spawning habitat for brook, brown, and rainbow trout. The stream corridors have many areas of wetlands associated with the streams such as: alder thickets, shrub carrs, and open water marshes. Many of the streams, namely Chaffe, Wedde, and Mecan Creek and the White River, contain good spawning areas for trout.

Progressing eastward, streams change in morphology due to a change in aquifer material and landscape. This change coincides with the transition from the Central Sand Ridges Ecoregion to the Southeast Glacial Plains Ecoregion. The streams in this ecoregion tend to be slower moving streams through agricultural lands that do not have the same groundwater baseflow component as the western streams. Many of these streams are subject to flashy flows from runoff and carry more silt and clay during runoff events. Warm water fish species are common here with very little
opportunity for cold water species. Nonetheless, these streams play a crucial role in the character of the Upper Fox River Basin. They provide habitat for fish and wildlife and often have open water marshes and sedge meadows associated with them. Agriculture is the predominant land use in this area that has affected surface water quality and wetland loss. There are other streams in the eastern portion of the basin that flow directly to Lake Winnebago. These are often small streams that are recharged by runoff and some groundwater. Groundwater contributes flow from the Niagara Escarpment, but the baseflow component is typically not sufficient to support cold water fish species. The groundwater recharge area is comprised of fractured bedrock and is very close to the discharge areas by the streams. Groundwater has low residence times before discharging to the streams and the discharge volume is low due to the small watershed size. The streams in this area receive a great deal of runoff from agriculture. In fact, there were several fish kills in some of these streams from manure and fertilizer runoff during the 1980?s. Most streams in the Upper Fox River Basin are either fully or partially meeting their biological use. Most of the streams and lakes in the basin are affected by nonpoint sources of pollution. Nonpoint sources are primarily from rural or agricultural sources, although urban sources are an increasing factor in certain areas. Other problems affecting water quality are due to stream alterations, particularly channelization of smaller streams and excessive populations of rough fish. These problems are a reflection of the intense agricultural land use in the basin.

Wolf River Basin
The Wolf River Basin [read Wolf River Basin Plan 2001] covers an area of 3671 square miles, originating with a discharge from Pine Lake located in Forest County. The river flows south for about 203 miles until it reaches Lake Poygan. At that point it becomes part of the Winnebago Lake system. Waters from the Winnebago system then flow into the Lower Fox River where they eventually reach the Bay of Green Bay. The Wolf Basin's general topography includes rolling hills, plain meadows, lush and forested wetlands, numerous lakes and small tributaries. Vegetation consists primarily of hardwood forests mixed with large amounts of hemlock, northern white-cedar swamp, and hardwood-conifer swamp. Many of the small creeks and rivers are sustained by draining numerous wetlands between rocky hills. From north to south the terrain changes from hilly wooded, forest regions to flatter areas with increasing farming activity. From east to west clay soils become more sandy and see the effect of the glacier by more pot hole lakes. Development within the basin is predominately along the Wolf River or its major tributaries. Communities like Shawano, Clintonville, New London, Waupaca, Weyauwega and more were developed primarily because of being located on waterways that were used by the logging industry by our forefathers.

The impacts from changing land use is one of the most important issues that face the residents and natural resources. With the reconstruction of Highways 29 and 10 to four lanes, east/west travel has been greatly improved, facilitating development along the corridor and providing easy access to recreational opportunities and natural resources. One other important aspect of this mobility is it is driving the price of lands to increase significantly. Further, this is creating a situation where it is becoming an economical impossibility to keep large tracts of land whole. In the past generations, we saw families or organizations keep their farms or land holdings within the family/group or they chose to sell it as one parcel. There is considerable economic pressure to sub-divide large tracts of land into smaller more affordable areas. As such, we are seeing an increase in rural housing development, which in turn leads to new environmental and natural resource stresses.

Examples include more wells drawing more groundwater; more septic tanks or other systems discharging into the basin's aquifers; more roofs and driveways that reduce surface areas for absorption which in turn reduces groundwater recharge and increases runoff to waterways; land fragmentation and its effects on plant and animals as well as creating other sociological and governmental situations. This increased mobility of people is creating new pressures on the basin's environment and natural resources.

The Wolf River is the basin's largest watercourse. This large river serves as the basin's main artery by discharging its waters into the Winnebago Lake system. Within the Wolf system all other rivers, streams and their tributaries eventually flow into the Wolf River. Some of the larger rivers within the basin include the Waupaca/Tomorrow, Red, Little Wolf, and Embarrass. Many of these feeder streams are classified as Class 1 trout streams.

Interactive viewers

  • Restoration Viewer This interactive webmapping application displays mapping products specifically for TMDL implementation.
  • Surface Water Data Viewer The Surface Water Data Viewer is a generalized interactive mapping application that displays a wide variety of water related datasets.
  • Water Condition Viewer The Water Condition Viewer provides monitoring, assessments, and management datasets for water quality.

ArcGIS Online

Waters in project

Project teams

The Upper Fox Wolf Basin Project teams are current working on the following timeline.

Project timeline

    Project Steps

    Data Collection and Monitoring
    1st Stakeholder Meeting (Sept. 2014)
    Public Comment on Data

    SWAT Model development
    WiLMS and Lake Model development

    2nd Stakeholder Meeting (June 2016)
    Public Comment on SWAT and Lake Model Reports

    3rd Stakeholder Meeting (August 2017)

    Next Steps
    Develop Draft Allocations and Draft TMDL Report
    Review of Draft Allocations & Draft TMDL Report
    Public Hearing on Draft TMDL
    EPA Review/Final TMDL

About TMDLs

South Fork Eau Claire River, Lisa HelmuthWisconsin's TMDL Program is working on a variety of flyers and handouts to support a common understanding of the state's TMDL process and requirements. Overview of TMDLs [TMDL Page]

What is a TMDL [PDF]
A Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) is the maximum amount of a pollutant that a body of water can receive while still meeting water quality standards. A waterway that exceeds standards is often no longer suitable for its designated uses, such as wildlife habitat, fishing, or other recreational activities.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)[PDF]
"Why do we need to create TMDLs?", "What is an "impaired water"?", and "How is a TMDL implemented?"


DNR Water Webinars [Go to Webinar Page]

Trading and Adaptive Management
UW Extension Webinars on Adaptive Mangement [exit DNR]

Water Quality Trading & Adaptive Management
The Basics || PDF Format
Finding, Quantifying Credits || PDF Format
Developing a Plan || PDF Format
Implementing and Verifying Offsets || PDF Format

Understanding Phosphorus Rules & Management Options
Adaptive Management Basics [3/3/12]
Phosphorus Discharge Limits [3/3/12]
Complying with Phosphorus Discharge Limits [3/28/12]
Water Quality Trading Framework Update [2/10/11]

Clean Water Act: Water Quality Report to Congress
Impaired Waters List Updates, 2018
Impaired Waters List Updates, 2016
Impaired Waters List Updates, 2014
Water Quality Report to Congress Webinar 2012
Water Quality Report to Congress: Impaired Waters & Water Quality Planning [12/05/11]
Water Quality Management Planning July 2010-11 [07/13/10]
Water Quailty Report to Congress & Website Overview [12/09]