Chippewa River, Muddy and Elk Creeks,Lowes and Rock Creeks Watershed (LC13, LC24)
Chippewa River, Muddy and Elk Creeks,Lowes and Rock Creeks Watershed (LC13, LC24)
Chippewa R At Eau Claire (2050000)
1.21 Miles
58.84 - 60.05
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.
Large River
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.
2005
Poor
 
This river is impaired
PCBs Contaminated Fish Tissue, Unspecified Metals Contaminated Sediments
PCBs, Unspecified Metals
 
Eau Claire
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.
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.
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

The Chippewa River is one of the largest rivers within Wisconsin. There are 103 miles of the Chippewa River in the basin, from the Holcombe dam downstream to the Mississippi River. This river section includes five flowages and approximately 69 miles of free-flowing river. Dams owned and operated by Northern States Power Company for hydropower generation create the flowages. These flowages, in downstream order, include: Cornell Flowage (836 acres), Old Abe Lake (996 acres), Lake Wissota (approximately 6,212 acres), Chippewa Falls Flowage (282 acres), and Dells Pond (1,183 acres). The free-flowing river segments are present below the Cornell dam (approximately 1 mile), the Chippewa Falls dam (approximately 7 miles), and the Dells dam (61 miles). The sixty-one miles of the Chippewa River below the Dells Dam to its confluence with the Mississippi River represent some of the last remaining unimpounded large riverine habitat in the Upper Midwest. The average annual flow for the river is 4,343 cubic feet per second (cfs) at the Holcombe dam and 5,235 cfs at the Dells dam. Above the Dells dam, major tributaries to the river include the Fisher and Yellow Rivers. Downstream of the Dells dam, major tributaries include the Eau Claire and Red Cedar Rivers. Numerous smaller tributaries also contribute flow to the lower Chippewa River.

Lower Chippewa River Settlement Agreement: Twelve stakeholder groups formally signed this agreement in mid-January 2001. These included the WDNR and Northern States Power of Wisconsin (NSP, doing business as Xcel Energy), who worked for three years to resolve issues surrounding relicensing of three of NSP’s hydroelectric projects on the lower riverway. The long-term agreement (30+ years) will provide continued production of hydropower along with environmental and recreational use benefits for the river.

Water Quality: The Chippewa River has slightly brown-stained, clear water with a shifting sand substrate. The river is greatly impacted by water quality of its numerous impoundments. Generally, algae blooms in the impoundments increase turbidity in the river during summer. The six hydropower dam impoundments greatly affect the hydrology and ecosystem of the Chippewa River within the Basin. Water quality of impoundments is discussed more fully in the following lakes and impoundments section.

The Lower Chippewa River impoundments effectively trap suspended sediment by reducing flow velocities, allowing the solids to settle. The Chippewa River below the last impoundment, Dells Dam in Eau Claire, takes on a very different character from the upstream-impounded areas. Active bank erosion between the Dells Dam and Mississippi River shapes the channel and aquatic habitat. The river meanders its way to Caryville, where the channel starts to become braided. At Durand, the river is less sinuous, but braids again near its mouth.

The erosion of coarse-grained glacial outwash contributes large quantities of sand to the Chippewa River. Deposition of this sand causes braiding of the sinuous reaches. It is estimated that the sediment load at the HWY 35 bridge near Lake Pepin is 940,000 tons of sediment per year (Simons, D. B. and Associates, 1998). The transport of sand and gravel occurs from Dells Dam to Caryville, though the particle size decreases to sand by Durand. This change in particle density occurs due to the braided channel between the two cities, which slows water velocity.

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.

Date  2001

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Overview

CHIPPEWA RIVER (UC19) - The main stem of the Chippewa River begins at the mouth of the Chippewa Flowage in Sawyer County. The river has a diverse fishery that includes walleye, northern pike, smallmouth bass, muskellunge, channel catfish, lake sturgeon, panfish and forage fish. Downstream, near Radisson, the Radisson Flowage is formed by the Arpin Dam. The Couderay River joins the Chippewa River just below the Arpin Dam: upstream of this confluence, the Couderay is impounded to form the Grimh Flowage. South of the Arpin Dam, the Chippewa River flows into Rusk County, where the river is joined by its major tributary, the Flambeau. Below this confluence, the Chippewa feeds Holcombe Flowage in Chippewa County. The Holcombe Flowage dam demarcates the Upper and Lower Chippewa River Basins for WDNR water quality management planning purposes.

The Chippewa River supports an excellent warm water sports fishery that is intricately linked to the Holcombe Flowage. Besides containing fish such as walleye, muskellunge, northern pike, bass, and rough fish species, the Chippewa River provides an important lake sturgeon spawning habitat (Bur. of Fisheries Management). We have little water quality information on this segment of the Chippewa River. Long-time residents observe, however, that the character of sections of the river bottom has changed from cobble to shifting sand over the past 20 years (Pratt, 1993). Despite the serious impact sedimentation can have on the river's biological health, the severity and extent of sand deposition in the Chippewa River is unknown.

The Chippewa River segment in this watershed is very significant for endangered resources. Rare dragonflies, two listed fish species, and several other Wisconsin Special Concern Species have been found here. Many populations of rare species have been declining in the Chippewa River (Bur. of Endangered Resources). It is thus important to identify water quality or habitat threats, and reduce any degradation of water quality in the Chippewa River.

Larson, Nancy and Lisa Kosmond (Helmuth). 1996. Upper Chippewa River Basin Water Quality Management Plan.
PUBL-WR-345-96-REV. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, WI.

Date  1996

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Historical Description

Trend Analysis: A study of monthly water sample results from the Chippewa River at Chippewa Falls from 1961-1976 and 1988-1999, and Holcombe from 1977-1987 and 1996-1999 provides information on trends in water quality of the river. In Chippewa Falls, pH, ammonia, chloride, and phosphorus levels have shown a significant change over time. The levels of pH appear to be showing greater fluctuation between extremes (5.5-9.0) in 1988-1999, than the lesser extremes (6.0-7.5) of 1961-1976 Beaster (2000). Greater pH fluctuations can generally be attributed to increasing levels of eutrophication.

Ammonia and total phosphorus levels appear to be in decline since the early 1960's, presumably due to stricter controls put in place by the Clean Water Act, revised in 1972, and the recent regulations placing a 1 mg/L phosphorus limit on effluent from most wastewater treatment plants. Chloride levels appear to be increasing over time, possibly due to the increased use of road salt and increasing wastewater treatment plant discharge volumes. Suspended solids, total kjeldahl nitrogen, nitrate-nitrogen, and dissolved phosphorus have not shown a significant change over time. At Holcombe, pH also shows a trend similar to samples taken at Chippewa Falls from the late 1970's to the late 1990's. Suspended solids appear to be increasing slightly as well. None of the other parameters mentioned above show a significant trend over time at the Holcombe site (Beaster 2000) (Appendix 5 - Water Quality Trends Analysis for the Lower Chippewa River).

Fishery: The Lower Chippewa River downstream from the Dells Dam harbors 70% of the states fish species and is one of the most diverse fisheries in the Upper Midwest (LCRSNA, 1999). Recent and historic fisheries assessments on this section of river have documented the presence of many rare and unique fish species. Three species, crystal darter, goldeye, and black redhorse are on the state endangered species list. Four species, paddlefish, blue sucker, river redhorse and greater redhorse are on the state’s threatened species list and the, western sand darter, american eel, mud darter and lake sturgeon are on the states special concern list. Common gamefish in this section of river include smallmouth bass, walleye, sauger, northern pike, muskellunge, lake sturgeon, channel and flathead catfish (Benike, 2000). Other common non-game fish species include shorthead, silver and golden redhorse, smallmouth and bigmouth buffalo, carpsuckers, mooneye and gizzard shad (Benike, 2000). Currently, no commercial fishing is allowed in the Lower Chippewa River. Past commercial fishing in the river, primarily for buffalo, resulted in the incidental catch of paddlefish and sturgeon. No fish stocking occurs in the free-flowing sections of the river.

Survey work conducted on the Chippewa River upstream of the Dells dam have identified 52 species of fish including the greater redhorse, which is a state-listed threatened species. The major sport fish species in the river include walleye, muskellunge, northern pike, smallmouth bass, channel catfish, flathead catfish, lake sturgeon, bluegill and black crappie. The Chippewa River has a six-week fall hook and line season for lake sturgeon. Because of its limited range in Wisconsin, the lake sturgeon is considered a species of special concern.

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.

Date  2001

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Chippewa River, Muddy and Elk Creeks,Lowes and Rock Creeks Watershed (LC13, LC24) Fish and Aquatic LifeChippewa River, Muddy and Elk Creeks,Lowes and Rock Creeks Watershed (LC13, LC24) RecreationChippewa River, Muddy and Elk Creeks,Lowes and Rock Creeks Watershed (LC13, LC24) Fish Consumption

General Condition

The Chippewa River was assessed during the 2018 listing cycle; new total phosphorus and chloride sample data were clearly below the 2018 WisCALM listing thresholds for the Fish and Aquatic Life use. This water was meeting this designated use and was not considered impaired.

Date  2017

Author  Ashley Beranek

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

Reports

Recommendations

APM Chemical Permit Request
Monitor Water Quality or Sediment
Removed TP listing recommendation. Further sampling will be taken to make an assessment decision. AU: 18765; Station ID: 473008
ATTAINS Water Identified for Protection
The City of Eau Claire proposes to develop a vision, partnership and implementation plan for restoration and redevelopment of water frontage on the Chippewa and Eau Claire Rivers. major project elements to include: 1) Creation of Project Advisory Committee, 2) Community listening sessions, 3) Meetings with commissions, land owners and agency staff, 4) Design and review of alternatives, 5) Plan development and distribution.
ATTAINS Alternative Restoration Approach
The Durand Sportsman Club, based in Pepin County, proposes to continue its bank stabalization efforts along the Chippewa River, working its way from the Durand area upriver towards Meridean. Key elements of this project include establishment of agreements with riverfront property owners to allow bank stabilization and riprapping according to DNR standards.
Control Streambank Erosion
install 1500 acres of conservation buffer strips within the Lower Chippewa River Basin in the next two years 2. Plant 50 acres of buffer to prairie grasses. 3. Contact 800 landowners with information about conservation buffers. 4. Buffer strips become an accepted on-farm practice within the Basin.
Protect Riparian or Shorelands
install 1500 acres of conservation buffer strips within the Lower Chippewa River Basin in the next two years 2. Plant 50 acres of buffer to prairie grasses. 3. Contact 800 landowners with information about conservation buffers. 4. Buffer strips become an accepted on-farm practice within the Basin.
ATTAINS Implementation Initiated
In 2000, the Lower Chippewa River Basin Partnership Team determined that buffer strips are the most efficient methodd to reduce sediment and filter field run-off within the Basin. Research has shown that buffers remove up to 50% of the nutrients and pesticides, 60% of certain pathogens, and 75% of sediment; and provide various wildlife benefits. The goals and deliverables of this project are: 1. To install 1500 acres of conservation buffer strips within the Lower Chippewa River Basin in the next two years 2. Plant 50 acres of buffer to prairie grasses. 3. Contact 800 landowners with information about conservation buffers. 4. Buffer strips become an accepted on-farm practice within the Basin.
ATTAINS Implementation Initiated
The River Country RC&D Council will coordinate a conservation buffer project in the Lower Chippewa Basin over a two year period. Activities involved with this project include: hiring a conservation buffer specialist to coordinate volunteers, educate and provide technical assistance to farmers/landowners, and assist field office in the completion of CRP and CREP contracts. A broad goal for this project is to install 1500 acres (124 miles) of conservation buffer strips within the basin over a two year period. Areas of concentration will include Cranberry, Coon, Rock and Elk Creeks. Specific deliverables for this grant project will include: annual progress report regarding contact completions and buffer installations final report that summarizes the grant project activities and accomplishments.
Sewer Service Area Planning
This plan has been financed through a Section 205 (j) Federal Areawide Water Quality planning grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, passed through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. A grant agreement was entered into by the West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for the purpose of developing the Chippewa Fall/Eau Claire Area municipal point source element of the State's Areawide Water Quality Management Plan.
Water Quality Planning
The Bear Creek Watershed covers 76.5 square miles in Buffalo and Pepin counties. Bear, Little Bear, and Spring creeks are the three primary sub-watersheds within the Bear Creek Watershed. The watershed drains rolling agricultural and wooded areas with many of the tributaries originating in steep coulees. The watershed also drains one urban area, the City of Durand. All streams within the Bear Creek Watershed drain the eastern slope of the Chippewa River Valley. The Bear Creek Watershed contains typical steep topography characteristic of the driftless or un-glaciated area of the state. Because the most productive and level land is on the valley floor, most farming takes place immediately adjacent to streams. Former prairie and a portion of the forested lands have been converted to agricultural uses. The quality of trout streams in this watershed have improved or degraded as agricultural uses have diminished or increased. Earlier editions of the Lower Chippewa River Water Quality Management Plan indicated the Nelson wastewater treatment plant and Nelson Cheese actory discharged to the Lower Chippewa Basin. Due to a basin oundary change, both are in the Buffalo- Trempealeau River Basin. The majority of the wetlands in the watershed are adjacent to the Chippewa and Mississippi Rivers.
Monitor Fish Tissue
2050000 name Chippewa River TMDL ID 80 Start Mile 20.73 End Mile 37.58
Monitor Fish Tissue
2050000 name Chippewa River TMDL ID 80 Start Mile 80.18 End Mile 105.75

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

Chippewa River is located in the Muddy and Elk Creeks watershed which is 237.94 miĀ². Land use in the watershed is primarily agricultural (48.60%), forest (21.80%) and a mix of grassland (16.80%) and other uses (12.80%). This watershed has 313.30 stream miles, 590.92 lake acres and 11,999.60 wetland acres.

Nonpoint Source Characteristics

This watershed is ranked Medium for runoff impacts on streams, High 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

Chippewa R At Eau Claire is considered a Large River 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.

Fish Stocking
Fisheries & Habitat

The Chippewa River supports an excellent warm water sports fishery that is intricately linked to the Holcombe Flowage. Besides containing fish such as walleye, muskellunge, northern pike, bass, and rough fish species, the Chippewa River provides an important lake sturgeon spawning habitat (Bur. of Fisheries Management). We have little water quality information on this segment of the Chippewa River. Long-time residents observe, however, that the character of sections of the river bottom has changed from cobble to shifting sand over the past 20 years (Pratt, 1993). Despite the serious impact sedimentation can have on the river's biological health, the severity and extent of sand deposition in the Chippewa River is unknown.

The Chippewa River segment in this watershed is very significant for endangered resources. Rare dragonflies, two listed fish species, and several other Wisconsin Special Concern Species have been found here. Many populations of rare species have been declining in the Chippewa River (Bur. of Endangered Resources). It is thus important to identify water quality or habitat threats, and reduce any degradation of water quality in the Chippewa River.

Date  1996

Author   Aquatic Biologist