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June 24, 2011

News

Squaw Lake dam project to improve recreation opportunities

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.
PHOTO: Work continues on the Squaw Lake dam. Photo by Rob Schuette
Work continues on the Squaw Lake dam as part of the Squaw Lake dam and spillway project at Pine View Campground.

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 welcome improvement.

“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 the dam.”

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 said.

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 River.

“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.”

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