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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Wisconsin (Section 319I - 1994)

Under its Signs of Success (SOS) program, Wisconsin aims to show that nonpoint source management can effectively improve water resources. While selected sites under the SOS program have severe nonpoint source pollution problems, the projects are intended to produce positive results in several years. Four SOS sites have been started and two have been completed.

Small Changes Clean Up Water

Eagle Creek may be classified as a trout stream, but in recent years cattle traffic has broken down its banks and destroyed streambank habitat. Silt from the eroding banks and churned-up bottom has clouded the water, filled the deep pools, and covered the gravel bottom that trout need for spawning. In fact, trout have become scarce and - forage fish, such as white suckers and creek chubs, have multiplied. Eagle Creek, located in Buffalo County, is part of the Waumandee Creek Watershed Project. Through the SOS program, landowners participating in this priority watershed project have been restricting cattle from Eagle Creek. In one case, a dairy farm operator on Eagle Creek used cost-share funds to install a stream cattle crossing and restrict cattle access to within 250 yards of the creek with a single-wire electric fence.

After only a few months, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) biologists saw dramatic improvement--bank erosion was reduced, streambank vegetation was growing, and the gravel bottom had returned. In addition, the total fish population had doubled, with a return of types normally found in healthy trout streams. This success has encouraged other landowners to follow suit. As a result of agreements with landowners, DNR expects that more than 80 percent of the Eagle Creek will be protected from cattle damage.

Since 1990, 185 landowners in the Waumandee Creek watershed have signed cost-share agreements to implement nonpoint source BMPs. Most of the BMPs scheduled for implementation are runoff control systems intended to keep clean water out of barnyards and reduce phosphorus. These systems include diversions, settling basins, filter strips, and fencing to protect streambanks--such as that used in Eagle Creek. Another type of BMP structure is grade stabilization--shaping the grade for waterways, dams, and diversions to reduce sedimentation and erosion from gullies and crop lands. BMPs are also used for shoreline and streambank stabilization include fencing, shaping and seeding, and rock riprap. Other BMPs are designed to control nonpoint source runoff from livestock and agriculture areas.

Some $2.6 million of state and local cost share funds including section 319 grants, representing 70 percent of the actual cost, is expected to be spent in the Waumandee Creek watershed to implement BMPs through 1998. From 1990 to 1994, approximately $1 million has been paid out to landowners. The state is also using section 319 funds to provide BMP evaluation monitoring. *Story based on article adapted form Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Fields & Street, Wisconsin Nonpoint Source Program, April 1993.

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