Bluff Creek, St. Louis and Lower Nemadji River Watershed (LS01)
Bluff Creek, St. Louis and Lower Nemadji River Watershed (LS01)
Bluff Creek (2833200)
18.21 Miles
0 - 18.21
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.
Coldwater, Cool-Cold Headwater, Macroinvertebrate
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.
2018
Poor
 
This river is impaired
Impairment Unknown
Total Phosphorus
 
Douglas
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

Bluff Creek is an approximately 18.2 mile red-clay tributary of Lake Superior, which flows into Allouez Bay on the southeast side of the City of Superior. Primarily a warm-water runoff stream, it is flashy in nature during high-water storm events or runoff periods, with seasonal low flow conditions. Koshere (1981) stated that evidence of frequent flood events was common.

Based on an older classification memo (Koshere 1981), a one-mile stretch of Bluff Creek was listed as a limited forage fishery (LFF). However, results from monitoring efforts in 2009 (to evaluate for potential inclusion of Bluff Creek on the 303d list) suggest the most appropriate current and attainable use designation of Bluff Creek from its mouth upstream to County Hwy Z (river mile 5.8), and potentially as far as river mile 8.5 where an unnamed tributary enters on the west side, would be as a warm-water sport fishery (WWSF). This conclusion is based on fish community surveys in 2009 which found northern pike and walleye present in the lower reaches of Bluff Creek. In addition, Pratt (1996) noted that the mouth of Bluff Creek is an important spawning area for northern pike and other warm-water species. From river mile 5.8 (or 8.5) and upstream, fish surveys and habitat suggest the most appropriate designation would be as a warm-water forage fishery (WWFF) community. The upper reaches and unnamed tributaries Bluff Creek have even lower flows (tributaries can be intermittent) and a limited amount of suitable habitat that would be required by gamefish species. Fish IBI results for either warmwater or small/intermittent streams resulted primarily in fair to poor scores depending on sampling locations and fish IBI used.

A large portion of the upper reaches of the Bluff Creek watershed is open fields and agricultural land. While performing survey work for coastal wetlands evaluation, Epstein (1997) documented significant sources of pollutants include barnyards, livestock, cropland, and erodible stream banks, with point source and septic contributions present. Impacts to Bluff Creek noted from surveys conducted in 1997 and also 303d assessment in 2009 include significant turbidity, silt or sedimentation, and low flow conditions. It has also been previously noted that runoff from Burlington Northern rail-yards and engine house reaches the stream (Lake Superior Basin Water Quality Management Plan, WDNR, 1999). Limited nutrient sampling (n=8) in 2009 in the Bluff Creek watershed also documented fairly high phosphorus levels (range = 0.07 to 0.20 mg/l; mean = 0.13 mg/l).

Invertebrate sampling conducted in the spring and fall of 2009 resulted in “fair” to “fairly poor” HBI scores (n = 8; range = 5.6 - 7.0). However, whereas 2009 HBI results were as noted, M-IBI scores for those same samples were mostly "excellent" in rating. Epstein (1997) found moderate richness of macroinvertebrate taxa and one rare macroinvertebrate at his study site. Invertebrates will be further sampled in 2010 by DNR and the Lake Superior Research Institute also. Final interpretation of invertebrate sampling will be analyzed more closely once all results are complete.

Presently, Bluff Creek has been placed under "High Watch-Water" status. Further monitoring in addition to invertebrate sampling is planned to determine the most appropriate classification and official status of Bluff Creek in regards to whether it is impaired or not, and if placement on the 303d list is appropriate.

Date  2010

Author  Cordell Manz

Bluff Creek, St. Louis and Lower Nemadji River Watershed (LS01) Fish and Aquatic LifeBluff Creek, St. Louis and Lower Nemadji River Watershed (LS01) RecreationBluff Creek, St. Louis and Lower Nemadji River Watershed (LS01) Fish Consumption

Impaired Waters

The 2018 assessments of Bluff Creek showed 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, this water was proposed for the impaired waters list.

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

Monitor Targeted Area
Further monitoring to the status of Bluff Creek (and unnamed tributaries: WBICs - 2833400, 2833500, 2833900) to conclusively determine if it is meeting appropriate fish and aquatic life uses, and if it should be included on 303(d) list. Effort should include monitoring for potential habitat, turbidity (sedimentation/TSS), and phosphorus impairments.
Monitor or Propose 303(d) Listing
Further monitoring to conclusively determine the status of Bluff Creek (and unnamed tributaries: WBIC's - 2833400, 2833500, 2833900) in regards to whether it is meeting appropriate fish and aquatic life uses, and if it should be included on 303d list. Effort should include monitoring for potential habitat, turbidity (sedimentation/TSS), and phosphorus impairments.

Standards Details

A one-mile stretch of this stream was listed as a limited forage fishery based upon an older classification memo. We do not know the current condition of this 18-mile long stream, which empties into Allouez Bay of Superior Bay. Since we know little about this stream it should thus be considered capable of supporting fish and aquatic life until formally classified. Runoff from the Burlington Northern railyards and engine house reaches this stream. The mouth of Bluff Creek is an important spawning area for northern pike and many other warm water species (Pratt 1996).

During survey work for the coastal wetlands evaluation, one rare macroinvertebrate was found in this stream, which has moderate richness of macroinvertebrate taxa (Epstein 1997). Impacts noted at the survey site included significant turbidity, silt and low flow conditions. Significant sources of pollutants included barnyards, livestock, cropland and erodible stream banks, with point source and septic contributions present (Epstein 1997).

From: Turville-Heitz, Meg. 1999. Lake Superior Basin Water Quality Management Plan. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, WI.

Date  1999

Author   Aquatic Biologist

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

Bluff Creek is located in the St. Louis and Lower Nemadji River watershed which is 159.67 miĀ². Land use in the watershed is primarily wetland (44.10%), forest (32.50%) and a mix of grassland (11.10%) and other uses (12.40%). This watershed has 432.66 stream miles, 8,490.75 lake acres and 26,945.85 wetland acres.

Nonpoint Source Characteristics

This watershed is ranked Not Ranked for runoff impacts on streams, Not Available for runoff impacts on lakes and Low for runoff impacts on groundwater and therefore has an overall rank of Low. 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

Bluff Creek is considered a Coldwater, Cool-Cold Headwater, Macroinvertebrate 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) 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.