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Red Cedar River Water Quality Partnership annual report

Numerous strides made toward improving water quality

Phosphorus levels in the Red Cedar River are declining, lake groups are working hard to address local issues at their lakes, farmer-led groups are implementing best management practices, and counties and agencies are helping others to address runoff/water quality issues on farms and other managed lands. All these efforts can lead to improved water quality in the Red Cedar River and its lakes. According to the 2022 Annual Report from the Red Cedar River Water Quality Partnership, these and other activities are all helping implement a ten-year plan (now in its eighth year) to address water quality issues in the Red Cedar Basin.

The Red Cedar River watershed includes parts of nine counties in Northwest Wisconsin, with Barron and Dunn County comprising most of the watershed (see map). Water quality in the Red Cedar River, its tributaries, and its numerous impounded lakes, has been a problem for decades, especially in the lower end of the watershed, most pronounced in Lakes Tainter and Menomin, with many other water bodies listed as impaired by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The water quality impairments include algae blooms that can cause fish kills, foul odors, decreased use of the lakes and rivers for recreation, threats to human and pet health, and decreased property values near impaired lakes and rivers.

In 2015 the Red Cedar River Water Quality Partnership wrote a ten-year plan to address these water quality issues and help minimize the soil and nutrient runoff that fuels intense algae blooms. The Partnership implements this plan and includes several county Land Conservation departments, several lake districts/associations, the City of Menomonie, DNR, three farmer-led watershed groups, University of Wisconsin-Division of Extension, UW-Stout, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and many other stakeholders.

Some of the highlights in the Partnership’s 2022 Annual Report include:

  • A continuation of decreasing phosphorus levels over the last 13 years in the Red Cedar River below the Lake Menomin dam (phosphorus is the principal nutrient that feeds algae blooms).

  • Phosphorus effluent goals continuing to be met by wastewater treatment plants in the watershed.

  • Over 10,000 lbs. of phosphorus being kept from the river by new farming practices in 2022 installed by individual farmers and farmer-led watershed groups, with other partners providing assistance and cost-share funding.

  • UW-Stout providing valuable research and assistance with stakeholders through their LAKES-REU program and Center for Limnological Research and Rehabilitation (CLRR).

  • Lake Associations and Districts organizing and implementing efforts to address local issues such as invasive species and providing educational materials for lake users and residents.

  • Numerous grants awarded through DNR to address runoff and pollution issues in many parts of the watershed.

Other activities and partners are listed in the Annual Report which can be found at the Red Cedar River Watershed website, under the “Maps and Publications” page.

For more information, contact Daniel Zerr, Regional Natural Resources Educator with University of Wisconsin Madison – Division of Extension.

Regional Natural Resource Educator

HHH Room 356, UW Eau Claire

Eau Claire, WI 54702-4004

Phone: 715-836-5513


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