Starkweather Creek, Yahara River and Lake Monona Watershed (LR08)
Starkweather Creek, Yahara River and Lake Monona Watershed (LR08)
Starkweather Creek (805100)
3.65 Miles
0 - 3.65
Natural Community
Natural communities (stream and lake natural communities) represent model results that use predicted flow and temperature based on landscape features and related assumptions. Ranges of flow and temperature associated with specific aquatic life communities (fish, macroinvertebrates) help biologists identify appropriate resource management goals. Wisconsin's Riverine Natural Communities.
Coldwater, Cool-Cold Headwater, Cool-Cold Mainstem
Year Last Monitored
This is the most recent date of water monitoring stored in the SWIMS system. Additional surveys for fish and habitat may be available subsequent to this date.
2018
Poor
 
This river is impaired
Chronic Aquatic Toxicity, Low DO, Acute Aquatic Toxicity, Degraded Habitat
Unspecified Metals, Chloride, Sediment/Total Suspended Solids, BOD
 
Dane
Trout Water 
Trout Waters are represented by Class I, Class II or Class III waters. These classes have specific ecological characteristics and management actions associated with them. For more information regarding Trout Classifications, see the Fisheries Trout Class Webpages.
No
Outstanding or Exceptional 
Wisconsin has designated many of the state's highest quality waters as Outstanding Resource Waters (ORWs) or Exceptional Resource Waters (ERWs). Waters designated as ORW or ERW are surface waters which provide outstanding recreational opportunities, support valuable fisheries and wildlife habitat, have good water quality, and are not significantly impacted by human activities. ORW and ERW status identifies waters that the State of Wisconsin has determined warrant additional protection from the effects of pollution. These designations are intended to meet federal Clean Water Act obligations requiring Wisconsin to adopt an 'antidegradation' policy that is designed to prevent any lowering of water quality - especially in those waters having significant ecological or cultural value.
No
Impaired Water 
A water is polluted or 'impaired' if it does not support full use by humans, wildlife, fish and other aquatic life and it is shown that one or more of the pollutant criteria are not met.
Yes

Fish and Aquatic Life

Current Use
The use the water currently supports. This is not a designation or classification; it is based on the current condition of the water. Information in this column is not designed for, and should not be used for, regulatory purposes.
LFF
Streams capable of supporting small populations of forage fish or tolerant macro-invertebrates that are tolerant of organic pollution. Typically limited due to naturally poor water quality or habitat deficiencies. Representative aquatic life communities associated with these waters generally require warm temperatures and concentrations of dissolved oxygen that remain above 3 mg/L.
Attainable Use
The use that the investigator believes the water could achieve through managing "controllable" sources. Beaver dams, hydroelectric dams, low gradient streams, and naturally occurring low flows are generally not considered controllable. The attainable use may be the same as the current use or it may be higher.
WWSF
Streams capable of supporting a warm waterdependent sport fishery. Representative aquatic life communities associated with these waters generally require cool or warm temperatures and concentrations of dissolved oxygen that do not drop below 5 mg/L.
Designated Use
This is the water classification legally recognized by NR102 and NR104, Wis. Adm. Code. The classification determines water quality criteria and effluent limits. Waters obtain designated uses through classification procedures.
Default FAL
Fish and Aquatic Life - Default Waters do not have a specific use designation subcategory but are considered fishable, swimmable waters.

Overview

Starkweather Creek is a tributary to Lake Monona at its north end, draining urban land on the east side of Madison. The majority of wetlands in the watershed have been drained or filled for urban development. The creek has been extensively channelized and water quality in the main stem and the east and west branches is very poor. The lower reach of Starkweather, below the confluence of the East and West branches, is very turbid and essentially a stormwater channel for the east side of Madison. The stream bottom and shoreline are choked with sediment and debris.

West Branch of Starkweather Creek: Up to the 1960s and early '70s, the West Branch of Starkweather Creek received intensive point source discharges of many different toxic substances. Some of these discharges remain in the sediment of the creek and continue to pose problems for fish and aquatic life. While the point source dischargers have been managed through various programs, some former industrial sites continue to pose problems for the creek's water quality. WDNR and the city of Madison have, however, dredged a portion of the west branch of the creek to reduce problems.

The West Branch drains the area around the Dane County Regional Airport, a portion of the east side of Madison, and urbanizing areas north of U.S. Highway 151. Contaminants in the runoff include oil, grease, lead, cadmium, ethylene glycol and polyaromatic hydrocarbons from streets, parking lots, Truax Field and Dane County Regional Airport, roofs, and other impervious surfaces. Other known contaminants present in the river include lead, zinc, PCBs, and DDT metabolites. In 1990 major spills in runoff from the airport elevated levels of biochemical oxygen demand in the river. The source was found to be the de-icer ethylene glycol, which commonly ponded below storm sewer pipes draining the runways. Subsequently, the airport has constructed a $1 million ethylene glycol collection system for ultimate discharge to Starkweather Creek (Marshall, 1993).
Rock River Water Quality Management Plan, Lower Rock River Appendix. WT-668-2002. South Central Region, WDNR.

Date  2002

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Historical Description

Starkweather Creek is a slow-moving creek which drains 21.5 square miles of highly developed land on the east side of the City of Madlson and discharges to the northeast sIde of Lake Monona at Olbrlch Park. Most of its wetlands have been drained, filled, and developed for industrial, commercial, and residential purposes. The creek has been extensively altered through channellzatlon, and the water quality in both branches is poor (Dane Cty. Reg. PIann. Comm. 1979a).

The West Branch, sometimes called Airport Creek, originates in Cherokee Marsh near the Dane County Airport and is a tributary to the East Branch. In the past, the East Branch has received industrial effluent high in ammonia. Although this discharge has been eliminated, ill effects of this pollution remain (Dane Cty. Reg. Plann. Comm. 1979a). Both branches have very low gradients and consequently have elevated summer temperatures with resultlng low oxygen levels.

Starkweather Creek's substrate consists of 90% silt and 10% gravel and sand. Recreational value is quite limited owing to the polluted conditions. The fish population is limited to a few forage species, except near the mouth where fish enter from Lake Monona. PublIc access is avaIlable from severa1 city street crossings, a boat ramp at Olbrlch Park, and from Lake Monona. Fish species: golden shiner, fathead minnow, and brook stickleback.

From: Day, Elizabeth A.; Grzebieniak, Gayle P.; Osterby, Kurt M.; and Brynildson, Clifford L., 1985. Lake and Stream Classification Project. Surface Water Resources of Dane County, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, WI.

Starkweather Creek -T7N, RI0E East Branch: Sec.8, Surface acres = 6.5, Length = 3 miles, Stream order = II, Gradient = 5 ft/mile, Base discharge = 1.7 cfs. West Branch (Airport Creek): Sec. 5, Surface acres = 4.2, Length = 2 miles, Stream order = I, Gradient = 3.7 ft/mile, Base discharge = 8.8 cfs.

Date  1985

Author   Surface Water Inventory Of Wisconsin

Land Use

The East Branch of Starkweather Creek drains the east side of Madison south of U.S. 151 (East Washington Ave.) and rural land east of Interstate 90-94. This stream is best described as an urban stormwater ditch choked with sediment and aquatic vegetation. Severe diel (24-hour) dissolved oxygen fluctuations are common during low flow summer periods.

Fish populations vary during the year, reflecting seasonal migrations and low summer dissolved oxygen levels. In the past this branch received industrial effluent high in ammonia and other toxic substances. One of the stream's remaining natural attributes, an area of springs just west of the Interstate, is threatened by commercial development.

A streambank stabilization and wetland restoration proposal (Mead & Hunt) indicates that past channelization and ditching of this segment has simplified adjacent wetland functional values but that certain features could be restored by hydraulic modifications and vegetational landscaping work.

Date  2017

Author  Mike Kakuska

Starkweather Creek, Yahara River and Lake Monona Watershed (LR08) Fish and Aquatic LifeStarkweather Creek, Yahara River and Lake Monona Watershed (LR08) RecreationStarkweather Creek, Yahara River and Lake Monona Watershed (LR08) Fish Consumption

General Condition

The East Branch of Starkweather Creek drains urban land on the east side of Madison and discharges to the north end of Lake Monona and the Yahara River downstream. It is classified as a Limited Forage Fishery with the potential of becoming a Warm Water Sport Fishery. The majority of wetlands in the watershed have been drained or filled for urban development. The creek has been extensively channelized and water quality in the main stem and the east and west branches is very poor. The lower reach of Starkweather, below the confluence of the East and West branches, is very turbid and essentially a stormwater channel for the east side of Madison. The stream bottom and shoreline are choked with sediment and debris. The entire stream segment is listed by DNR as a 303(d) Impaired Water. Impairments include acute and chronic aquatic toxicity due to chloride and unspecified metals, degraded habitat due to sediment/total suspended solids, and low dissolved oxygen due to high biological oxygen demand. A Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for phosphorus and total suspended solids has been established for the Yahara River (including its tributaries) as part of the larger Rock River Recovery TMDL.

Date  2017

Author  Mike Kakuska

Impaired Waters

On 303d list for TSS, BOD, and Unspecified Metals since 1998.
This water was assessed during the 2016 listing cycle and chloride sample data exceeded 2016 WisCALM chronic and acute listing criteria for the Fish and Aquatic Life use.

Date  2015

Author  Aaron Larson

Condition

Wisconsin has over 84,000 miles of streams, 15,000 lakes and milllions of acres of wetlands. Assessing the condition of this vast amount of water is challenging. The state's water monitoring program uses a media-based, cross-program approach to analyze water condition. An updated monitoring strategy (2015-2020) is now available.

Compliance with Clean Water Act fishable, swimmable standards are located in the Executive Summary of Water Condition in 2016 . See also 'monitoring' and 'projects'.

Reports

Management Goals

Wisconsin's Water Quality Standards provide qualitative and quantitative goals for waters that are protective of Fishable, Swimmable conditions [Learn more]. Waters that do not meet water quality standards are considered impaired and restoration actions are planned and carried out until the water is once again fishable and swimmable

Management goals can include creation or implementation of a Total Maximum Daily Load analysis, a Nine Key Element Plan, or other restoration work, education and outreach and more. If specific recommendations exist for this water, they will be displayed below online.

Monitoring

Monitoring the condition of a river, stream, or lake includes gathering physical, chemical, biological, and habitat data. Comprehensive studies often gather all these parameters in great detail, while lighter assessment events will involve sampling physical, chemical and biological data such as macroinvertebrates. Aquatic macroinvertebrates and fish communities integrate watershed or catchment condition, providing great insight into overall ecosystem health. Chemical and habitat parameters tell researchers more about human induced problems including contaminated runoff, point source dischargers, or habitat issues that foster or limit the potential of aquatic communities to thrive in a given area. Wisconsin's Water Monitoring Strategy was recenty updated.

Grants and Management Projects

Monitoring Projects

Watershed Characteristics

Starkweather Creek is located in the Yahara River and Lake Monona watershed which is 93.73 miĀ². Land use in the watershed is primarily suburban (24.80%), urban (23.90%) and a mix of agricultural (14.50%) and other uses (36.90%). This watershed has 101.97 stream miles, 6,275.33 lake acres and 5,158.72 wetland acres.

Nonpoint Source Characteristics

This watershed is ranked Not Available for runoff impacts on streams, Not Available for runoff impacts on lakes and High for runoff impacts on groundwater and therefore has an overall rank of High. This value can be used in ranking the watershed or individual waterbodies for grant funding under state and county programs.However, all waters are affected by diffuse pollutant sources regardless of initial water quality. Applications for specific runoff projects under state or county grant programs may be pursued. For more information, go to surface water program grants.

Natural Community

Starkweather Creek is considered a Coldwater, Cool-Cold Headwater, Cool-Cold Mainstem under the state's Natural Community Determinations.

Natural communities (stream and lake natural communities) represent model resultsand DNR staff valiation processes that confirm or update predicted conditions based on flow and temperature modeling from historic and current landscape features and related variables. Predicated flow and temperatures for waters are associated predicated fish assemblages (communities). Biologists evaluate the model results against current survey data to determine if the modeled results are corect and whether biological indicators show water quaity degradation. This analysis is a core component of the state's resource management framework. Wisconsin's Riverine Natural Communities.

Cool (Cold-Transition) Mainstem streams are moderate-to-large but still wadeable perennial streams with cold to cool summer temperatures. Coldwater fishes are common to uncommon, transitional fishes are abundant to common, and warm water fishes are uncommon to absent. Headwater species are common to absent, mainstem species are abundant to common, and river species are common to absent.

Cool (Cold-Transition) Headwaters are small, usually perennial streams with cold to cool summer temperatures. Coldwater fishes are common to uncommon (<10 per 100 m), transitional fishes are abundant to common, and warm water fishes are uncommon to absent. Headwater species are abundant to common, mainstem species are common to absent, and river species are absent.

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