The Marengo River Watershed Partnership Project

The Marengo River Watershed Partnership Project Watershed Action Plan

Photo of the Marengo River in winter. Photo Credit: Ellie Williams.
Photo credit: Ellie Williams

The Marengo River is truly a river of change.

Bad river Watershed Association. 2011. The Marengo River Watershed Partnership project watershed action plan.

The Marengo River Watershed Partnership (MRWP) was formed in approximately 2009 as a way for watershed residents, local government leaders, and natural resource professionals to express things they value about the watershed, concerns they have about its health, and to identify actions needed to maintain and improve the health of the watershed for future generations. The resulting EPA Nine Key Element Watershed Action Plan finished in 2011 and certified by the EPA in 2013 provides a tool for local governments, agencies, organizations, and watershed residents to carry out these actions and attract the resources needed to do it.

The Superior Rivers Watershed Association, funded by a grant through the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, is completing a revised Marengo River Watershed Action Plan document slated for completion in summer of 2022.

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The History of the Plan, Partnership, and BRWA

The Marengo River Watershed is a special place. It is a working landscape that people depend on to make a living through means such as agriculture and forestry. It is a recreational landscape that offers fishing, hiking, and a multitude of other recreational opportunities. It is a scenic landscape that contains beautiful rivers and streams, such as the Marengo and Brunsweiler Rivers; several lakes, such as English, Mineral, Marengo, and Spider Lakes; and other natural attractions such as Morgan Falls and St. Peter’s Dome. It is a beautiful place that is special to many that live, work, or play here.

watershed map with pictures of Marengo River Valley, Morgan Falls, St. Peter's Dome, and Mineral Lake

But like many watersheds, the Marengo River Watershed is not without its problems. Bank erosion and sedimentation alter the hydrology of the river and affect fish habitat. Contaminants such as E. coli and excess nutrients have been detected in the lower reaches of the river. Invasive species are getting a foothold, such as the sea lamprey that thrive in the river’s sandy bottom, and purple loosestrife taking hold along the river banks. Fish and wildlife habitat are altered due to poorly placed or maintained culverts, and drained wetlands. Development is increasing as land is being parcelized and more homes are being built on lake shores and river banks. Click here to see the Marengo River Watershed Fact Sheet

What is the Marengo River Watershed Partnership (MRWP) Project?

The MRWP Project is a project to coordinate watershed improvement and land use planning activities among local citizens, governments, and natural resource agencies in the Marengo River Watershed. Through this project a Watershed Action Plan will be developed which will include an assessment of watershed issues and concerns, an inventory of water resources in the watershed, and identification of projects that should occur to improve watershed health, who will do them, and how to pay for them.

Why is BRWA doing this?

There is currently a flurry of planning activities within the area contained in the Marengo River Watershed. Local units of government have completed or are in the process of completing comprehensive plans; Land and Water Conservation Departments are required to establish conservation priorities through a local planning process; land trusts are developing strategic plans to prioritize areas for conservation; and other agencies such as the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bad River Tribe have goals related to improving ecosystem health within the Bad River Watershed. These planning efforts, along with additional interests and concerns of watershed citizens, can be incorporated into a watershed “action plan”, to ensure planning is turned into action that benefits the watershed community. BRWA is in the unique position to do this because we specialize in making connections; we work closely with resource experts as well as local citizens and governments. We are not bound by jurisdictional boundaries and can bring entities together to work for the good of the resource. Additionally, some of the ground work has already been laid for a Watershed Action Plan in the Marengo River Basin. The Lake Superior Basin Partner Team conducted a hydrologic analysis of the basin that identified key areas of stress and likely causes of that stress. BRWA will build on that information with data from our water quality monitoring and culvert inventory programs, and incorporate additional information by partnering with citizens, local governments, and other natural resource organizations. Funding for the MRWP Project was provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Laura Jane Musser Fund, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the USDA Forest Service Chequamegon Resource Advisory Committee (RAC), the Johnson Family Foundation, and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

What is a Watershed Action Plan?

A Watershed Action Plan (WAP) is a comprehensive plan for maintaining and improving the health of a watershed. A Watershed Action Plan includes an inventory of the watershed resources and identifies and evaluates problems within the watershed. The plan then details goals to protect the high quality resources, and actions to address identified problem areas. The actions in the plan will specify:

  • What projects should occur to maintain or improve watershed health
  • Who will do them
  • How to pay for them

By working in a partnership with citizens, local governments, and agencies, and through funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Laura Jane Musser Fund, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and the US Forest Service Resource Advisory Committee, BRWA has developed our first Watershed Action Plan in the Bad River Watershed, which is focused on the sub watershed for the Marengo River. As of March 2013 the US EPA has approved the Marengo River Watershed Action Plan for meeting the 9 element plan requirements as outlined in US EPA’s 2003 “Nonpoint Source Program and Grants Guidelines for States and Territories” (Federal Register: October 23, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 205). Marengo River Watershed Partnership- Watershed Action Plan (PDF)