Fort McCoy News April 8, 2016

Post dedicates efforts to maintain stream quality

STORY & PHOTO BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

Maintaining high water quality in Fort McCoy streams is important, especially because much of the water flows off post, said Fisheries Biologist John Noble with the Directorate of Public Works (DPW) Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch (NRB).

Fort McCoy is nestled in Wisconsin's Driftless Area, or Paleozoic Plateau. This region of the American Midwest is noted mainly for its deeply carved river valleys. Through agreements with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Noble said Fort McCoy has a part in maintaining the integrity in a portion of the region.

Photo: Zach Woiak (left) and Steve Rood, both watershed-management specialists contracted through Colorado State University to support the Directorate of Public Works Natural Resources Branch, record measurements as part of a water-and-stream survey along Stillwell Creek on Fort McCoy’s South Post.
Zach Woiak (left) and Steve Rood, both watershed-management specialists
contracted through Colorado State University to support the Directorate of
Public Works Natural Resources Branch, record measurements as part of a
water-and-stream survey along Stillwell Creek on Fort McCoy's South Post.

"Fort McCoy is largely in the headwaters of the La Crosse River and Clear Creek watershed," Noble said. "These headwater streams are important for brook-trout production and also are of special interest to our partners in the (WDNR and USFWS). We ensure that the water that leaves the installation is monitored and is of high quality."

Contracted Watershed Management Specialists Zach Woiak and Steve Rood with Colorado State University regularly complete water-quality field work for NRB on several Fort McCoy waterways. In early March, both of them completed in-water surveys, including along Stillwell Creek on South Post.

Four U.S. Geological Survey stream-monitoring stations are located at Fort McCoy, according to Rood, along the La Crosse River and Stillwell and Silver Creeks. Data at monitoring stations is checked and the speed of the water flowing through the stream is measured.

"A couple of the stations are equipped to take water samples and provide us with data on water quality," Rood said. "Over time, it has shown good water quality in those streams where water leaves the installation."

And with good water quality and good trout-fishing opportunities, Noble said Fort McCoy is setting the bar high for fisheries management.

"Our partnerships with the USFWS and WDNR for dam removal and stream habitat-restoration work will continue as planned in 2016-17 along with DPW efforts to fix old crossings with degraded structures like a dam or culvert," Noble said.

"Crossings were designed to have a new culvert installed to satisfy weight loads for military-class vehicles and eliminate barriers to upstream fish movement. These efforts will continue to enhance our stream fisheries and water quality.

"Our success, for example, in brook-trout management has been proven," Noble said. "We've improved the trout fishery in the upper La Crosse River watershed, and we have great naturally reproducing trout throughout the post for anglers to target.

"Also, now that the state has embraced a longer catch-and-release season and a longer harvest season for trout, we have the waters to support that kind of effort," he said.

Stream biological monitoring, otherwise known as "biomonitoring," also has been used to help determine where stream-improvement work has needed to be done in recent years, Noble said.

Biomonitoring is defined as the use of a biological community to provide information on the quality or health of an ecosystem and can be used to assess the water quality in streams, lakes, ponds, reservoirs, estuaries, and oceans. Macro invertebrates, fish, and algae all are widely used in biomonitoring.

"We've been conducting biomonitoring assessments using the fish community as an indicator of water quality since the mid-1990s on many of our streams," Noble said. "Beyond helping us target areas to restore stream habitats, these fish statistics can translate into angler interests for stream-fishing quality. The 2015 monitoring results showed that there's an abundance of quality-sized brook trout swimming in our waters."

As water-quality management and monitoring continues, Noble said it's up to everyone who comes to Fort McCoy to make sure the water quality remains high. "We all have to be good stewards of this resource," he said.

For more information about fisheries management at Fort McCoy, call 608-388-5796.