Fish and Aquatic Life
The Red Cedar River originates in southwestern Sawyer County and flows south into the Chippewa River in southern Dunn County. It drains portions of seven counties: Barron, Chippewa, Dunn, Polk, Rusk, Sawyer, St. Croix and Washburn. The Red Cedar River and its tributaries drain eight of the 24 watersheds in the Basin. The Red Cedar drainage area makes up a third of the Lower Chippewa River Basin, nearly 1,900 square miles. Land use ranges from mostly forested in the north to predominantly agricultural in the south. The Red Cedar River drainage area is located in the North Central Hardwood Forest Ecoregion (Omernik and Gallant, 1988). This EPA ecoregion is characterized by nearly level to rolling glacial till plains and significant agricultural land use. Within this area there are approximately 255 streams with a total length of 1,302 mi. Of these 141 are unnamed creeks and ditches. The average gradient for the Red Cedar River is 4.6 ft/mi. The average discharge at Menomonie (94% of drainage area) is 1,235 cubic feet/sec. The Red Cedar River bottom is composed primarily of sand, gravel, and rubble with limited areas of boulder, bedrock, muck and silt. Land use in this sub-basin ranges from mostly agriculture (64%) in the south to predominately forest (27%) in the north. Red Cedar Lake, Rice Lake, Tainter Lake and Lake Menomin are large man-made impoundments on the Red Cedar River. The river also receives water via tributaries from other impoundments including Beaver Dam Lake, Long Lake, Bear Lake and Lake Chetek.
Water Quality: Documented water quality problems related to phosphorus include impoundment eutrophication and dissolved oxygen problems in heavily vegetated stream reaches. Tainter Lake and the Red Cedar River above Tainter Lake suffer from high levels of mercury in sport fish and are subject to consumption advisories.
Water quality problems related to phosphorus have been documented in the Red Cedar River system; impoundment eutrophication (Schreiber 1992; Dunn Co. LWCD, 1992) and dissolved oxygen depletion take place in heavily vegetated stream reaches (Borman and Schreiber 1992). While these problems were evaluated in detail only in Tainter Lake and the Red Cedar River below Rice Lake, they likely exist in other, similar environments elsewhere in the sub-basin.
The U.S Environmental Protection Agency provided funding for further evaluation of the frequency, extent and duration of these problems as well as an evaluation of the significance of point and nonpoint sources of phosphorus in the seven upper watersheds (LC05-LC11). The goal of the project was to develop an implementation plan for phosphorus control in the basin, based on site-specific impacts to waterbodies. Project stakeholders include local governments, municipalities, industries and water user groups.
Voss, Karen and Sarah Beaster. 2001. The State of the Lower Chippewa River Basin. PUBL-WT-554 2001. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, WI.
Author Mark Hazuga
Red Cedar River (WBIC 2063500) from CTH W to Red Cedar Lake outlet was assessed during the 2018 listing cycle; new total phosphorus and biological (macroinvertebrate Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) scores) sample data were clearly below the 2018 WisCALM listing thresholds for the Fish and Aquatic Life use. This water segment was meeting this designated use and was not considered impaired.
Author Ashley Beranek
Two large impoundments in ths watershed, Tainter Lake and Lake Menomin, greatly influence the water quality of the Red Cedar River. Detrimental effects include high chlorophyll levels, which contribute to daily dissolved oxygen fluctuations in the river.
In July 1988, dissolved oxygen data recorded at the village of Inrington, below Lake Menomin, showed fluctuations between 5.5 and 13.5 milligrams per liter (LaLiberte, 1993). Elevated water temperatures from the impoundments could also influence the lower Red Cedar River.
Increased nutrient levels in the lower stretch of the Red Cedar River have their origins well upstream of the lakes. In the summer of 1994, a sewer line ruptured in the Red Cedar River channel, resulting in the discharge of raw sewage to the river. Due to quick action by the city of Menomonie and the hgh flow of the river, the amount of spilled sewage did not affect water quality. There is always a possibility of sewer line breakage at river crossings. It is imperative that an emergency response plan be outlined for such situations. Beatrice Co. Swiss Miss Plant was recently recognized eff om. By switchng to different cleaning solutions, the by the WDNR for its pollution prevention plant reduced phosphorous concentrations in its effluent by 85 percent. This plant discharges its process wastes to the Menomonie wastewater treatment plant (Thon) . The amount of ammonia contributed by the Menomonie wastewater treatment plant has the potential to affect the fishery during low flows. Standards and policies for ammonia are under revision (LaLiberte 19%).
The extreme lower end of the Red Cedar River is part of the Dunville State Wildlife Area. Ths area extends along the northern shore of the Chippewa River upstream and downstream of the Red Cedar River into the Muddy and Elk Creeks Watershed (LC13) and the Eau Galle River Watershed (LCO3).
Author Christopher Willger
Numerous reports were received by area fisheries managers regarding the apparent disappearance of red-tailed shmers and other minnows in the Red Cedar River below Rice Lake in 1990 and 1992. A toxicity test conducted by the city of Rice Lake wastewater treatment plant during this period showed toxicity to fathead minnows from background river water, but not from treatment plant effluent. Fishery surveys conducted in 1993 indicated normal minnow populations (WDNR).
A 1992 WDNR report found that phosphorus loading from the Rice Lake wastewater treatment plant doubled the phosphorus concentration of the Red Cedar River during low flow conditions in the river.
High phosphorus concentrations in the river support heavy rooted aquatic plant growth, which was found to cause night time dissolved oxygen concentrations to fall below water quality standards at downstream sites. The city of Rice Lake operates an activated sludge wastewater treatment plant which discharges to the Red Cedar downstream of the dam that forms Rice Lake. The present permit requires that the city provide 180 days of sludge storage. The neM permit issuance will require phosphorus removal, as the plant discharges more than 150 ~ounds of phosphorus per month, which is the threshold level for providing removal under NR 217 Wis. Adm. Code.
Author Christopher Willger
A comprehensive survey of the Red Cedar River in this watershed, conducted from 1989 to 1990, revealed that the Chetek River, which drains into the Red Cedar River at the watershed boundary, carries a high nutrient and algae load. The impacts are visible in the Red Cedar River for some distance below the confluence. Extreme fluctuations of dissolved oxygen have been documented due to plant photosynthesis and respiration. Fluctuations of dissolved oxygen are potentially dangerous to fish and aquatic life. The river is fairly well buffered from immediate agricultural land use, although bank erosion is evident. A healthy forage, walleye and smallmouth bass fishery exists in ths portion of the Red Cedar River. It is likely that Tainter Lake walleye use the Red Cedar River for spawning because of quality riffle areas (Holzer) .
A study conducted to update estimates of the phosphorus entering Tainter Lake (LCO4) and determine the relative contribution of phosphorus from pollutant sources from the Red Cedar and Hay Rivers concluded that reducing the phosphorus input from significant point source discharges in the watershed would, alone, have minimal impact on water quality in Tainter Lake. If, however, a significant reduction in point source loading is combined with implementation of extensive controls of polluted runoff water quality in Tainter Lake would improve (Schreiber).
Recommendations from the phosphorus reduction study include developing a comprehensive watershed management plan to determine the feasibility and means of reducing the phosphorus load to Tainter Lake, establishing a phosphorus monitoring station, and verifying and rerunning the model used for Tainter Lake if more data becomes available.
Author Christopher Willger
The 2018 assessments of the Red Cedar River (Tainter Lake inlet to Yellow River) showed continued impairment by phosphorus; new total phosphorus sample data exceeded the 2018 WisCALM listing criteria for the Fish and Aquatic Life use, however, available biological data did not indicate impairment (i.e. no macroinvertebrate or fish Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) scored in the "poor" condition category). Based on the most updated information, no change in the existing impaired waters listing was needed.
Author Ashley Beranek
The 2018 assessments of the Red Cedar River (First trib above Irving Creek to Menomin Dam) showed continued impairment by phosphorus; new total phosphorus sample data exceeded the 2018 WisCALM listing criteria for the Fish and Aquatic Life use. However, no biological data (i.e. no macroinvertebrate or fish Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) scores) were available to assess biological impairment. Based on the most updated information, no change in the existing impaired waters listing was needed.
Author Ashley Beranek
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.
Dunn County proposes to amend or create a shoreland zoning ordinance that complies with the requirements of NR 115, Wisconsin Administrative Code (as revised effective February 1, 2010) and retain existing regulations that exceed the water resource protections of NR 115 or are specific or unique to local needs.
Monitor to Evaluate Projects
DO should be assessed on segment 4 of the Red Cedar River to see if this segment has improved and should be removed from 303(d) list.
Red Cedar River TMDL implementation project.
TMDL (USEPA) Approved
USEPA approval for the Red Cedar River TMDL
Red Cedar River TMDL
Nine Key Element Plan
The TMDL recommends a 65 percent reduction in phosphorus inputs to the lakes.
ATTAINS Alternative Restoration Approach
A Plan for Water Quality Improvement in the Red Cedar River Nine Key Element Plan
Monitor Fish Tissue
2063500 name Red Cedar River TMDL ID 604 Start Mile 73.6 End Mile 78.51
Monitor Fish Tissue
2063500 name Red Cedar River TMDL ID 381 Start Mile 28.72 End Mile 73.6
Monitor Fish Tissue
2063500 name Red Cedar River TMDL ID 281 Start Mile 16.48 End Mile 18.8
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
|WBIC||Official Waterbody Name||Station ID||Station Name||Earliest Fieldwork Date||Latest Fieldwork Date||View Station||View Data|
|2063500||Red Cedar River||10016928||Red Cedar River - Upstream Of 25th Ave Approx 100meters -> 1st Riffle/Bend||11/13/2002||10/25/2018||Map||Data|
|2063500||Red Cedar River||10033962||Red Cedar Lake - Kelly's Landing||Map||Data|
|2063500||Red Cedar River||10010959||Red Cedar River - Red Cedar River 2003||Map||Data|
|2063500||Red Cedar River||10052483||Red Cedar Lake - CT-12||5/29/2019||6/1/2019||Map||Data|
|2063500||Red Cedar River||10019742||Red Cedar River -- Mikana Dam Access||Map||Data|
|2063500||Red Cedar River||033224||Red Cedar River - Below Red Cedar Lake Dam In Mikana||7/28/2005||7/28/2005||Map||Data|
|2063500||Red Cedar River||10022737||Red Cedar River at 25th Ave.||1/1/2015||10/13/2019||Map||Data|
|2063500||Red Cedar River||10010997||Red Cedar River - at Dam (Rcribi#1-2003)||Map||Data|
Red Cedar River is located in the Brill and Red Cedar Rivers watershed which is 297.68 mi². Land use in the watershed is primarily forest (49.40%), agricultural (20.30%) and a mix of grassland (10.70%) and other uses (19.60%). This watershed has 264.90 stream miles, 6,282.34 lake acres and 15,832.05 wetland acres.
Nonpoint Source Characteristics
This watershed is ranked Medium for runoff impacts on streams, Medium 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.