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Great Lakes Article:

Volunteers gather 2 years of water data
The Daily Press, Ashland, WI
Published February 3rd, 2005


Two years of water quality monitoring was completed with a recent quality control session. At 13 locations in Ashland, Bayfield and Iron counties, volunteers for the Bad River Watershed Association (BRWA) collect simple chemistry data the first weekend of every month; a process which takes about two hours.

The resulting database, which gives information on the health of local rivers, is validated with the group's annual quality control (QC) test. This year the QC session was a piece of cake.

Although many residents of NW Wisconsin would attest to their clean rivers and streams there is little documentation of this. The Bad River Watershed spans around Ashland City; west toward Iron River; east to Saxon/Gurney; wouth to the Town of Morse.

Every puddle, creek and rain swollen river within these boundaries eventually find their way to Lake Superior via the Bad River. The citizen monitoring group which shares the name of this watershed also shares its observations with the Wisconsin DNR, the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, and the Town of Ashland Roads Dept.

No matter the level of experience a volunteer brings to the BRWA, they learn to make observations for one of three important projects; river chemistry, biology, and fish-friendly road crossings. Mentioned earlier, chemistry samples are taken monthly. This type of testing provides a "snapshot" of current water health.

Twice a year macro-invertebrates (small water insects) are collected from rivers for a "big picture" view of stream health. Because many bugs living in water are very sensitive to pollution their presence (or absence) can point out areas to focus limited resources.

Finally, local fishers may know how to spot healthy rivers because they can always catch dinner. Despite clean water, improperly installed culverts prevent healthy fish from reaching spawning grounds.
To address this, a group of BRWA volunteers are taking inventory of road-waterway crossings in an effort to prioritize culverts most in need of replacement.

During the fall of 2004, a culvert was replaced on Billy Creek, in the Town of Ashland, through a U.S. Fish and Wildlife grant. A workshop on culvert installation, held at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center, was facilitated by a Northland College program coordinator; while the Town of Ashland provided machinery and labor to make this a successful joint effort.

To find out more about the Bad River Watershed Association and volunteer opportunities contact volunteer coordinator Plinio Beres (715) 274-2422 or 682-8188.

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