|Story & photo by Rob Schuette, Public Affairs Staff
Fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities at Fort McCoy’s Squaw Lake
will improve with the installation of a new dam and spillway.
Work continues on the Squaw Lake
dam as part of the Squaw Lake dam and spillway project at Pine
The project includes a new dam constructed of concrete, and a
modern-designed spillway. Ruzic Construction of Neillsville, Wis., is
the contractor for the project, which should be complete by late August.
Liane Haun, chief, Master Planning Division, Directorate of Public
Works, said the work won’t cause any disruptions in the use of Squaw
Lake. The lake is scheduled to remain open for recreational use during
its regular hours throughout the project, Fort McCoy officials believe
the old dam — an earthen embankment with a culvert outlet — was
constructed by troops in the 1960s. These types of dams often are
located in predominantly rural or agricultural areas but may be located
in areas with population and significant infrastructure.
John Noble, Fort McCoy fisheries biologist, said the new dam is a
“During the summer these waters usually are too warm and lack the amount
of oxygen that is favorable to coldwater fish, such as brook trout,”
Noble said. Warm water discharges from the existing earthen dam had
impacted the coldwater fishery in Squaw Creek to result in the stream
being on the Environmental Protection Agency “Impaired Waters List.”
“The new dam should improve the quality of water released into Squaw
Creek,” he said. “The water conditions should be more conducive to
supporting coldwater fish species. We expect that colder water should
offer more oxygen during the summer months so that coldwater species
like trout, scuplin, and lamprey are more abundant in the stream below
In the end, Fort McCoy Natural Resources Branch personnel hope these
improved water quality conditions have benefited the coldwater fishery
enough to remove Squaw Creek from the Impaired Waters List.
The new labyrinth spillway is designed to release water near the middle
of the lake, he said. The dam will be controlled by a gate valve, which
can release water from about eight feet below the surface. The valve
also can be closed to allow the release of water by overflowing the
spillway. This will provide a safety feature to help guard against
flooding during significant rain or flooding events, Noble said.
Pam Budda, Fort McCoy Outdoor Recreation manager, said the old dam
structure and supporting facilities were likely to fail at some point in
time in the near future, so the new structure ensures that those using
the Pine View Campground and Squaw Lake facilities will continue to have
access to outdoor water recreation activities in the summer months for
years to come.
“In addition to fishing, that will allow our customers to continue to
enjoy swimming, canoeing, kayaking and paddle-boat activities,” Budda
Noble said because Squaw Creek is connected to the La Crosse River, the
work also will help improve overall fishing conditions in the La Crosse
“The La Crosse River headwaters originate near the installation eastern
boundary and continue west into the Mississippi River,” he said “We hope
to see an extended benefit to these waters outside of the installation.”