Wisconsin River Study To Provide Blueprint For Cleanup


Water quality experts got together last week at UW-Stevens Point to address pollution problems in the Wisconsin River basin. They’re hoping a major study of the watershed will lead to a new strategy.

The Wisconsin River Water Quality Symposium took on added significance with the prediction of another fish kill in central Wisconsin’s Big Eau Pleine Reservoir, and last year’s toxic algae blooms on Lake Petenwell. Matt Krueger of the River Alliance of Wisconsin says the meeting attracted a mix of people, all concerned about pollution: “Different conservation organizations, nonprofits, agencies, University folks, municipalities, wastewater treatment operators. The goal overall is to clean up the Wisconsin River.”

The experts are waiting for the results of a Department of Natural Resources study of the river and its flowages. DNR communications specialist Ed Culhane says they’re looking at phosphorous discharges from Tomahawk south to Prairie Du Chien.

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“It’s a very complex study, it involves a lot of monitoring. I think we have over 100 monitoring stations, and then there’s a lot of mathematics to develop a computer model. How much phosphorous can we put into the Wisconsin River and still be high quality water, which means swimming, fishing.”

After the study is wrapped up, its policy recommendations will go before the public. Matt Krueger is hoping that attitudes can be changed.

“There will be resistance inevitably, because people are going to be told: you’re polluting too much, you’ve got to ratchet it down. Once there’s information provided and once they can see the impacts of their behaviors, there’s an opportunity for them to change their behavior. And sometimes the hammer of enforcement is there in the back pocket.”

The DNR study of the Wisconsin River should be wrapped up by 2016.

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