Bad River Watershed Association

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Welcome to the Bad River Watershed Association

Started in 2002 by a group of local dedicated citizens, the Bad River Watershed Association was formed as a non-profit to promote a healthy relationship between the people and natural communities of the Bad River watershed by involving all citizens in assessing, maintaining and improving watershed integrity for future generations.

The Bad River Watershed (BRW) drains over 1,000 square miles along Wisconsin’s north shore. The headwaters are found in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. The lower one-third of the watershed is land of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Tribes of Chippewa Indians Reservation. Small, rural communities including Mellen, Odanah, Gurney, Mason, Grand View, Delta and Marengo are scattered throughout the watershed. The Kakagon Slough/Bad River Slough, located at the mouth of the watershed on Lake Superior, is the largest and possibly most pristine freshwater estuary remaining on Lake Superior and is the only remaining extensive coastal wild rice wetland in the Great Lakes Basin. The Bad River watershed is home to sturgeon spawning grounds, pristine coldwater trout streams, prime wolf habitat, and many more outstanding plant, fish and wildlife communities.

The Bad River Watershed Association is pleased to announce our new vision for 2016 and beyond - including the expansion of our reach from Red Cliff to Michigan

As we consider the future of the BRWA, we realize the time for growth has arrived. Lake Superior and the Chequamegon Bay region in particular are precious to many. People count on clean water and healthy natural resources for their employment, recreation and daily life. The rivers and streams that empty into the Bay and Lake have an impact on these waters and the resources within, like fish and wild rice.

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Connecting People, Land, and Water

Citizen Scientists Needed!

We are still in need of volunteers to monitor important sites in the watersheds surrounding the Chequamegon Bay. 1-on-1 training is available. Sign up today!


A Restored Stream Crossing Two Years Later: How Is It Doing?

The recent nearly three-inch rainfall and thaw event experienced around the Chequamegon Bay area provided a great opportunity to get out and see how some of BRWA's restored road/stream crossing projects were faring.  We were particularly interested in seeing how the Albert Mattson Rd. restoration site in Ashland Township was handling the huge surge in flows seen in streams and rivers that occurred around March 17-18.  This site had seen frequent washouts and road closures over the years and was identified as one of the highest priority restoration sites in BRWA's Marengo River Watershed Action Plan.  In 2011 the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) awarded BRWA a $79,000 grant from its Sustain Our Great Lakes Program to restore this crossing and for other restoration and monitoring activities in the Marengo River sub-watershed.  The restoration was completed in late spring of 2014, replacing a pair of undersized culverts with four large diameter pipes and extensive roadbed and drainage improvement.

When the job was completed, it was hard to imagine ever needing four pipes of this size on this usually sleepy tributary to the Marengo River.  But the site's history of washouts—and Ashland County Highway Department engineer's calculations—told a very different story.  As Tony and I drove out to the site in driving wet snow and rain on March 18th, every stream we crossed was in flood stage and many farm fields were completely submerged; we  couldn't imagine much better conditions to test a restored stream crossing.  The scene was also a vivid reminder of how much work remains to be done in the watershed to slow the flow of water across the landscape and stem the enormous inputs of sediment that enter the Bad River and Lake Superior every year.  When we arrived at the site, it was very clear just how well-engineered this project was.  Although the culverts were completely submerged, with rapidly spinning whirlpools indicating where water was entering them, the water level was well below the road surface.  The gravel roadbed was firm and undamaged from the heavy rain it had just endured.  The tributary channel was hundreds of feet beyond its normal limits as far as the eye could see.

Another restored crossing on North York Rd, completed last summer with another NFWF grant, was also in fine shape.  This site was restored to correct a fish passage barrier, and does not see the kind of surge flows that occur at the other site.  We were pleased to see that the road wasn't washing out around the new installation, even though parts of the road were nearly impassible from thawing and runoff.

It was great to see these recent investments in protection of our water quality, fish habitat, and infrastructure performing so well, and a great reminder of why we do this work!


Proposed Legislation Exempts Fish Farms From Many Water Quality Regulations

Senate Bill 493 and Assembly Bill 640 threaten Wisconsin's valuable headwater springs, streams and native fish by drastically reducing regulation of the location and allowable pollutant output of fish farms.  This bill would expand the legal use of state waters for concentrated fish farming operations to include use of headwater springs and other natural water sources, allow dredging of navigable waters, and allow alteration of stream banks along state-designated outstanding resources waters.  Current laws only allow use of state waters for fish farming if the water body in use is a freeze-out pond or a preexisting fish rearing facility.

Fish farming—also called aquaculture or aquafarming—differs from fish hatchery operations in that fish are raised in concentrated, controlled conditions and directly harvested for market.  Because of the close confines of commercial rearing ponds, antibiotics are often required to control the spread of disease.  In contrast, fish hatcheries raise native fish for release to support natural fish stocks in state waters for recreational and commercial fishing.

Many of northern Wisconsin's abundant cold water trout streams may face an uncertain future due to the impact of climate change.  The proposed legislation threatens streams with additional warming by allowing cold headwater spring waters to be diverted and held in rearing ponds, and also by removal of stream-shading vegetation for construction of streamside facilities.

This bill would place aquaculture in the category of “agricultural practices”, which would exempt fish farms from more stringent water quality regulation that applies to “point source" pollution such as wastewater treatment plant or industrial discharges.  This designation also makes fish farms eligible for taxpayer supported funding for improvements should they become pollution sources.  The bill exempts existing fish farms from new permit requirements, potentially eliminating an opportunity for DNR oversight.

The Bad River Watershed Association (BRWA) recognizes the importance of clean, cold, healthy streams to the ecology and quality of life in our region.  Smart stewardship is essential to passing these gifts on to future generations.  In recent years, there has been significant growth in collaborative interest between numerous area agencies and organizations in the protection of natural resources in the Lake Superior basin.  BRWA alone has secured over $400,000 in funding for restoration of local native brook trout and other fish species' habitat.  Clearly, people who live here care about their home watersheds.

Wisconsin's waters are a source of enjoyment available to all citizens, and a source of recreational income for hundreds of communities.  The quality of those waters and the health of native fisheries should not be jeopardized by short-sighted lawmaking.


Gearing Up for 2016 Monitoring


Thanks to the generosity of Ashland Foundation and Patagonia Foundation, we have been able to order some of our water quality monitoring supplies for 2016. These grants will help us maintain our current monitoring sites, as well as engage new volunteers with monitoring opportunities in our expanded working area.

Are you interested in getting out in our local streams to collect important water quality data? Get in touch with BRWA today at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 715-682-2003.



Ways to Give to BRWA this Holiday Season

As the year draws to an end, and with the approaching season of merriment and holiday festivities, please consider an extra gift to BRWA.  Your support will ensure that we have the necessary resources to continue citizen engagement, stream restoration and water quality outreach.

Here are two ways to give to BRWA online this holiday season:

1. Find our Wish List at to help BRWA fulfill field equipment and office supply needs.

2. If completing your holiday shopping on, use their AmazonSmile program.  By purchasing through AmazonSmile, a portion of your purchase (0.5%) will be donated to BRWA. You can find us here:

Your continued interest and generosity mean the world to us! Here’s to making 2016 a Happy New Year!


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BRWAs Priorities Poll

Please rank the questions below based on how you believe BRWA should prioritize emerging water quality issues in the region. (5 being the highest, 1 being the lowest - use the "+" selector to vote. 5 votes for highest rank, 4 votes for second highest, etc.)

Establish baseline water quality conditions
Outreach and education
Restore problem erosional areas
Work with local authorities to address water quality issues
Protective waterway designations
» Go to poll »
15 Votes left
Threats To Water Poll

Please rank the questions below based on what you believe is the greater threat to water quality in the region. (5 being the highest, 1 being the lowest - use the "+" selector to vote. 5 votes for highest rank, 4 votes for second highest, etc.)

Large-scale agriculture
Failing septic/waste treatment systems
Stream sedimentation, washouts and erosion
Forest management practices
» Go to poll »
15 Votes left

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