Martha Lake, Upper Buffalo River Watershed (BT08)
Martha Lake, Upper Buffalo River Watershed (BT08)
Martha Lake (1827300)
15.91 Acres
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 Natural Communities.
Impounded Flowing Water
Year Last Monitored
This is the most recent date of monitoring data stored in SWIMS. Additional surveys for fish and habitat may be available subsequent to this date.
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.
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.
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.

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.
Impounded Flowing Water
This classification includes waterbodies created by dams (mill ponds, reservoirs, flowages, and other impoundments) with a residence time of 14 days or more (under summer (June – Sept) mean low flow conditions with a 1 in 10 year recurrence interval (US EPA 2000)). Many natural lakes also have dams or water level control structures. However, to be included in the Impounded Flowing Waters category, the dam or water level control structure, must account for more than half of a waterbody’s maximum depth. Impoundments with a residence time of less than 14 days should be covered under the rivers and stream assessment methodology process.
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.
Aquatic Life
Waters that support fish and aquatic life communities (healthy biological communities).
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.


Martha Lake, in Osseo, is a 16 acre impoundment on the South Fork of the Buffalo River. See the Upper Buffalo River Watershed (BT08) map in this plan for its location. The watershed above Martha Lake is approximately 36 square miles, or 23,000 acres.

The South Fork Buffalo River upstream from Martha Lake is protected by a state fishery area and ungrazed woodlands which provide a well-buffered stream corridor for the mainstem and several tributaries. The dam discharges water to the Class II trout portion of the Buffalo River between Osseo and Strum; this portion is also an Exceptional Resource Water.

Restoration Efforts

The Lake Martha Management Alternatives Report (1978) estimated the average erosion rate for the watershed to be 1.2 tons/acre/year, with a sediment delivery rate of 3,600 cubic yards per year to Martha Lake. A WDNR lake survey in 1967 estimated the volume to be 45 acre ft. Before dredging in 1979, the lake's storage capacity had declined to roughly 36 acre ft. with a mean depth of 2.2 feet.

In 1979, the lake was dredged to a uniform depth of 7.5 to 8.5 feet and its volume increased to 95 acre ft. Lake volume has reduced 18 percent between 1980 and 1989 to approximately 78 acre ft., with a mean depth of 4.8 feet.

The sedimentation rate in Martha Lake is substantially less than the rate in either Bugle Lake or Lake Henry. It is indicative of limited upland soil erosion and greater stream bank stability in the watershed (OILR, 1978). An average of 3,803 cubic yards per year of sediment was deposited from December 1981 to January 1989 (See Figure 6, Figure 8 and Table 36.)

Sedimentation in the upper lake area appears to be about 2.5 times the rate in the lower area. The observed sedimentation rate is greater than the predicted sediment delivery rate (OILR, 1978). It is likely that channel bedload scouring above the lake is responsible for much of the sedimentation immediately following dredging.

WDNR projected the life expectancy of Martha Lake using estimates of the average inflow (OILR, 1978) and the sediment delivery rate. The reported inflow was adjusted up 15 percent to compensate for a 15 percent lower than normal precipitation during the study year. The sediment delivery rate was estimated by dividing the sedimentation rate by an average estimated sediment trapping efficiency (Brune). The sediment delivery rate was then assumed to be constant over the life of the reservoir.

It will take 37 years for Lake Martha to return to the 1979 pre dredging volume. However, if the sediment delivery rate declines as channel scouring or head cutting is lessened, the millpond's life expectancy could be longer.


Martha Lake experiences less sedimentation than Bugle Lake and Lake Henry. As a result, its dredging project has greater longevity. Martha Lake also has less turbidity and nuisance plant growth. This may be due in part to the coarse and relatively less fertile soils of this lake's watershed as compared to those of Bugle and Henry. The amount of stream buffer zone and relative lack of cattle in the watershed above the lake may also be a factor.

Continued efforts toward watershed protection and improvement are important. A sediment trap above the wetland area, in the lake's upper end, might further prolong its life and protect the wetlands from sedimentation.

Dam Inspection

WDNR staff inspected the Osseo Dam in July 1994. WDNR recommended repairs to the spillway and spillway apron, as well as the installation of dam warning signs. These repairs are slated for completion by July 1, 1997 (Sturtevant, 1994). WDNR requested and has received an operation and maintenance plan for the dam. The dam is a top draw structure discharging water from the surface of the impoundment to the river downstream. This water may be warmer than the river because of the solar radiation of the impoundment. The potential impact of this is unknown since no temperature data has been collected.

Date  1996

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Historical Description

Martha Lake is a very soft water, drainage impoundment located on the south fork of the Buffalo River at the City of Osseo. The water is clear, acid, and has a low transparency. The dam is owned by the city and it has a height of 9 feet. Following a chemical eradication of fish in 1962, the impoundment has been managed for largemouth bass, bluegill, and trout (brook and rainbow). There is public access. Muskrat are significant. Waterfowl use includes nesting mallard and teal and migrant puddle ducks.

Source: 1970, Surface Water Resources of Trempealeau County Martha Lake, T24N, R7W, S10 Surface Acres = 13.4, S.D.F. = 2.74, Maximum Depth = 8 feet.

Date  1970

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Martha Lake, Upper Buffalo River Watershed (BT08) Fish and Aquatic LifeMartha Lake, Upper Buffalo River Watershed (BT08) RecreationMartha Lake, Upper Buffalo River Watershed (BT08) Fish Consumption


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 2018. See also the 'monitoring and projects' tab.



Protect Riparian or Shorelands
The City of Osseo proposes to restore shoreline on six properties along Lake Martha in Trempealeau County. Major project elements to include: 1) Revegetation of shoreline with native plants, 2) removal of sea walls and restabilization of the shoreline.

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 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

Martha Lake is located in the Upper Buffalo River watershed which is 194.36 mi². Land use in the watershed is primarily forest (41.70%), agricultural (33.70%) and a mix of grassland (17.50%) and other uses (7.10%). This watershed has 438.86 stream miles, 85.35 lake acres and 6,107.52 wetland acres.

Nonpoint Source Characteristics

This watershed is ranked High 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

Martha Lake is considered a Impounded Flowing Water 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.

This classification includes waterbodies created by dams (mill ponds, reservoirs, flowages, and other impoundments) with a residence time of 14 days or more (under summer (June – Sept) mean low flow conditions with a 1 in 10 year recurrence interval (US EPA 2000)). Many natural lakes also have dams or water level control structures. However, to be included in the Impounded Flowing Waters category, the dam or water level control structure, must account for more than half of a waterbody’s maximum depth. Impoundments with a residence time of less than 14 days should be covered under the rivers and stream assessment methodology process.