Sauk Creek TWA WQM Plan (2017)

Project Title

Sauk and Sucker Creeks (SH01) TWA WQM PLAN 2017
Craig Helker, Primary Author and Investigator, Eastern District, Wisconsin DNR

Study Purpose & Setting

Study Summary
In 2014, the aquatic biological communities of Sauk Creek and associated tributaries were surveyed utilizing established survey methods, and compared with results from historical surveys.
Sauk Creek is impaired for Total Phosphorus, being listed in 2012. This study suggests the surveyed Unnamed Tributaries are also impaired for Phosphorus, and are contributing to Sauk Creek�s impairment. These Tributaries should be assessed further, and listed if meeting criteria. Furthermore, land practices associated with reducing phosphorus loading to streams should continue to be advocated for and placed adjacent to Sauk Creek, Sucker Creek, and their tributaries.

Study Purpose & Setting

Purpose of Project
In 2014, the aquatic biological communities of the Sauk Creek sub-watershed (HUC 12) within the larger Sauk-Sucker Creek Watershed were surveyed and assessed required under Section 305(b) of the Clean Water Act. And, if problems were to be found, determine the listing eligibility of the waterbody for placement onto the 303(d) list under the Clean Water Act. And finally, as a result of the overall assessment of Sauk Creek and tributaries, make recommendations to be used as a planning guide.

Management Priorities

Watershed Goals
The overall goal of this plan is to improve and protect water quality in the basin. This Targeted Watershed Assessment monitoring project provided substantial data to analyze current conditions and to make recommendations for future management actions in the area. This plan is designed to present monitoring study results, identify issues or concerns in the area found during the project and to make recommendations to improve or protect water quality consistent with Clean Water Act guidelines and state water quality standards.

Management Recommendations
1. Identify the sources of phosphorus in the watershed and pursue local runoff management and river/stream grants to reduce phosphorous inputs into local resources.
2. Identify potential partners and stakeholders to participate in an overall awareness and behavioral change program in the watersheds that results in reduced erosion and phosphorus inputs


Population, Land Use, Site Characteristics
The entire City of Port Washington and portions of the Villages of Cedar Grove, Belgium and Fredonia are located within this watershed. Based on the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission?s (SEWRPC?s) 2000 land use data, over three quarters (78%) of the total area in the Sauk and Sucker Creeks watershed is devoted to agriculture and other open lands. Transportation, communication, and utilities make up six percent of the watershed?s area. Residential areas and wetlands each comprise about five percent of the total area, and another three percent is woodlands. Recreational, governmental / institutional, industrial, and commercial uses and surface water each cover less than one percent of the Sauk and Sucker Creeks watershed.

The hydrologic cycle describes the various ways water is exchanged from one form or location to another. In Wisconsin, precipitation, in the form of rain, snow, and everything in-between, falls onto the earth?s surface. It either soaks into the ground or flows across the land. The water that soaks into the ground recharges the groundwater table, or flows laterally through the ground into a lake or stream. Water generally moves more quickly in coarse sand, sometimes as much as several feet per day. When precipitation infiltrates the more sandy soils in this watershed, the water quickly moves vertically through the soils into the shallow Sand and Gravel Aquifer.

This watershed includes the subwatersheds of Sauk Creek and Sucker Creek, plus areas discharging directly to Lake Michigan (see Map 1). All streams ultimately reach Lake Michigan. There are three lakes within the watershed: Ludowissi Lake, Grasser Lake, and an unnamed lake (an abandoned quarry) located in Harrington Beach State Park. The only active dam is a small dam on this quarry lake. There is also the remnant of an old dam on Spring Creek (a tributary to Sauk Creek) in Port Washington, although dam removal is moving forward ? initiated by Ozaukee County. Stream channelization has caused some degradation of water quality and habitat in the watershed. Also, impervious surfaces (such as roads, roofs, and parking lots) are increasing as urbanization proceeds. Impervious surfaces increase stormwater runoff, contributing to problems with erosion, water pollution, and flooding. The loss of about 60% of the original wetlands in the watershed has also had negative consequences.

Trout Waters
While there are no officially listed trout waters within the Sauk Creek Watershed, the lower portions of Sauk Creek do have populations of stocked Rainbow and Brown Trout. And recent studies by WDNR have confirmed limited numbers of naturally reproducing Rainbow Trout.

Impaired Waters
Every two years, Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act requires states to publish a list of all waters that do not meet water quality standards. Impaired waters in this watershed are impaired for historical discharges, mine tailings, and runoff issues. Numerous locations along Lake Michigan have been listed as impaired due to high E. coli counts. Beaches in the watershed under recreational restrictions due to elevated E. coli counts include: Cedar Beach, County Road D Boat Launch Beach, Upper Lake Park Beach, Amsterdam Beach, Lions Den Gorge National Preserve (South Beach), and Harrington State Park (South Beach).

Fish Consumption
Wisconsin�s fish consumption advisory is based on the work of public health, water quality, and fisheries experts from eight Great Lakes states. Based on the best available scientific evidence, these scientists determined how much fish is safe to eat over a lifetime based on the amount of contaminants found in the fish and how those contaminants affect human health. Advisories are based on concentrations of contaminants, along with angler habits, fishing regulations, and other factors.
In 2001, Wisconsin adopted a statewide general fish consumption advisory that applies to all (non-Great Lakes) waters of the state based on statewide distribution of mercury in fish and species differences in mercury concentrations. The statewide general advisory eliminated the need for many of the pre-2001 advisories because the equivalent of more stringent advice now applied through the general advisory. In addition to the statewide general advisory, some waters still require more stringent advice or exceptions to the general advisory. Exceptions to the general advice apply to some species of fish from specific waters where higher concentrations of mercury, PCBs, or other chemicals require advice more stringent than the general advisory. More information about the specific consumption advisory can be found in the publication: Choose wisely: a health guide for eating fish in Wisconsin [PUB-FH-824], which is found online at

AIS Species
Lake Michigan hosts a variety of Aquatic Invasive Species, including the following: Eurasian Water Milfoil, Fishhook Waterfleas, Spiny Waterfleas, Zebra Mussels, Rainbow Smelt, and Round Goby. In addition, Rusty Crayfish are common in Sauk Creek. It should be noted that there are likely invasive plant species that exist in wetland and riparian areas along Sauk and Sucker Creek, including Japanese knotweed, purple loosestrife, garlic mustard and glossy buckthorn.


Watershed Condition
The majority of the streams within the Sauk and Sucker Creek watersheds have natural community classifications of cool-warm transition headwaters. There are a few smaller streams that are classified as macroinvertebrate streams or have no classification, and the lower portion of Sauk Creek in the City of Port Washington could be classified as cool-cold transition headwater. Overall, the water quality of Sauk Creek could be considered as good to poor. Fish and macroinvertebrate communities rated excellent to poor in both the lower and upstream reaches, with ratings varying at each site, depending upon the index used. In some cases, excellent fish community sites co-exist with macroinvertebrate sites rated as poor (Table 5).

Across the sub-watershed, it is stream habitat, especially within the headwater areas that is a limiting factor. Stream channelization, along with associated sedimentation from runoff and bank erosion, are limiting factors that negatively impair fish and macroinvertebrate populations. Heavy growth of filamentous algae on the stream bottom, which was especially apparent at site SC-6, also degrades the habitat and water quality. Water chemistry monitoring was done in 2014 at the monitored sites, and showed elevated concentrations of Total Phosphorus that exceed Wisconsin�s water quality standard for all sample locations. Dissolved oxygen levels did not appear to be a problem in either stream when sampling was done, with the exception of SC-6. This tributary to Sauk Creek had very low readings during the fish community sampling event.

Other streams within the wider Sauk-Sucker Creek Watershed were not sampled in 2014. Ozaukee County has done extensive work within the Watershed to improve fish passage, including work on Sucker Creek, Mineral Springs Creek, and Sucker Creek.

Lake Health
There are three lakes within the Sauk and Sucker Creek Watershed, although none were assessed during 2014. Ludowissi Lake is in the headwaters of Sauk Creek with a surface area of 11 acres and a maximum depth of 25 feet. Recent satellite data from Ludowissi Lake suggest the lake is supporting its fish and aquatic life designated use.
Grasser Lake is located within Sheboygan County, is 10.7 acres in size, and has a maximum depth of 33 feet. The third lake is an unnamed lake located within Harrington Beach State Park. This �lake� is actually an abandoned quarry that flooded many years ago. It is 23 acres in size and has a maximum depth of 47 feet. Little is known regarding the latter two lakes because of limited monitoring.

Port Washington Harbor is the first manmade harbor on Lake Michigan, constructed in the 1870s. In addition to providing safe haven for vessels, the harbor received shipments of coal since the Port Washington Power Plant was constructed in the 1930s. Sauk Creek discharges to the harbor.

Since that time, a recreational marina was constructed in the harbor. Two channel slips also provide dock space for recreational and charter boats. The cooling water discharge for the We Energies Power Plant, recently converted to natural gas in place of coal, discharges to the harbor. The City of Port Washington Sewage Treatment plant outfall also discharges to the harbor. The harbor was last dredged by the US Army COE in 2004. However, there are no known sediment contamination issues in this harbor.

Sauk and Sucker Creeks (SH01)

Natural Communities

The majority of the streams within the Sauk and Sucker Creek watersheds have natural community classifications of cool-warm transition headwaters. There are a few smaller streams that are classified as macroinvertebrate streams or have no classification, and the lower portion of Sauk Creek in the City of Port Washington could be classified as cool-cold transition headwater.

Site Selection & Study Design

The watershed study within the Sauk Creek sub-watershed utilized historical survey locations studied by WDNR biologists in 2010 and in preceding years. The sites selected represent good special coverage of the sub-watershed, capture stream habitat (natural vs. ditched) and contributing land area (urban vs. agriculture vs. mixed woodland-agriculture).

At each sampling location, a single fish and qualitative fish habitat survey was completed; with the fish community assessed using either a backpack or towed electro shocker. At each same stream segment, a single Total Phosphorus water quality grab sample was taken, and later was sampled for aquatic macroinvertebrates. Additionally, one location, representing the lowest portion of the sub-watershed, was sampled five extra times on a monthly basis for Total Phosphorus.

Methods & Procedures

All sampling activities followed accepted WDNR sampling protocols. For fish community assessments, a single backpack shocker or towed electroshocker was used of a set distance of 35 times mean stream width, or 100 meters if the stream was less than three meters in width. The collected fish were then identified and counted. At each fish sampling location, a DNR qualitative habitat survey was also conducted. Aquatic macroinvertebrates were collected from a riffle within the fish sampling site using a kick-net. The collected macroinvertebrates were then sent to UW-Stevens Point aquatic Entomology Lab for identification and indexing.

Study Results

Seven monitoring stations were sampled during the 2014 field season in the Suck Creek TWA. Based on fish surveys (Table 3) in the watershed, the modeled natural communities at each of the seven monitoring stations were able to be verified (Table 4). Sauk Creek has a cool-warm natural community at 6 of the seven monitoring stations. Fish surveyed at Station ID 10030655 indicate a cool-cold transition headwater natural community, not the modeled natural community of cool-warm transition headwater.

Water chemistry and biological parameters were taken at all seven monitoring stations. Six total phosphorus samples were taken at SC-1 (SWIMS Station ID; 10030655) throughout the growing season (May ? October) and one phosphorus grab sample was taken at the other 6 monitoring stations (Table 5). Dissolved oxygen was taken once at each of the monitoring stations during 2014and ranged from 0.83mg/L (SC-6) to 11.6mg/L (SC-1) (Table 4).
The Hilsenhoff Biotic Index ranged Poor with a score 7.527 (SC-2) to Very Good with a score of 4.497 (SC-1) (Table 5). The Macroinvertebrate IBI (MIBI) score ranged from 0.8386 (Poor) to 7.142 (Good). The Fish IBI (FIBI) score ranged from Poor with a score of 30 (SC-6) to Excellent with a score of 100 (SC-4 and SC-7) (Table 5).

Study Discussion

Sauk Creek is classified as a cool-warm transitional headwater, and is confirmed as such by comparing the biological community with its modeled ranking with the exception of the portion of Sauk Creek from the mouth at Lake Michigan upstream approximately 0.3 miles. This stream portion (SC-1) has a fish community that better reflects cold-cool transitional headwater communities. This section scores as excellent for fish, and has a fair macroinvertebrate community. And comparing sampling conducted in 2010 with 2014, shows a trend of improvement in the macroinvertebrate community. Total Phosphorus at this location was measured six times during the growing season, and all readings were above 0.075 mg/L, indicating impaired conditions.

The next assessed stream portion is 2.4 miles upstream at Mink Ranch Road (SC-2). This section has an excellent fishery, with Rainbow Trout (stocked) and sculpin present. However, compared with the 200 2and 2010 information, there is a slightly increasing trend in the macroinvertebrate community HBI score, representing a positive trending organic load. The Total Phosphorus reading was 0.328 mg/L.

Sauk Creek at County Highway A (SC-3) is the last location where the Cool Water Index of Biotic Integrity is utilized for comparing fish communities, and in this location, the fishery is considered Fair. From 2002 to 2014, this site shows the most in declining overall water quality. Both fish and macroinvertebrate scores trend over this time in a negative direction. The Total Phosphorus reading was 0.432 mg/L.

Sauk Creek at County Highway B (SC-7) has seen a positive trend in both its macroinvertebrate community and fish community, trending from poor to fairly poor (macroinvertebrates), and from good to excellent for its fish community. The Total Phosphorus reading was 0.366 mg/L.

The Unnamed Tributary to Sauk Creek at County Highway D (SC-4), like Sauk Creek at County Highway B, has a fish community that is more properly scored with the Small Stream IBI. The fish community here scores as excellent, and has a good macroinvertebrate community. The Total Phosphorus reading was 0.262 mg/L.
The Unnamed Tributary at Jay Road (SC-5) is very near the headwaters at Ludowissi Lake, and despite the heavy surrounding agriculture and its channelized nature, scores as good for its fishery. The Total Phosphorus reading at this site was 0.214 mg/L.

The Unnamed Tributary at County Highway B (SC-6) showed, in 2014, the only poor fish community in the assessment. This is a decline from its fair ranking in 2010. Filamentous algae growth in the assessed section was significant. Additionally, readings of DO were very low at this location. The Total Phosphorus reading was 0.61 mg/L, the highest reading of the study.


Craig Helker, Primary Author and Investigator, Eastern District, Wisconsin DNR
Victoria Ziegler, Program Support, Water Quality Bureau, Wisconsin DNR
Lisa Helmuth, Program Coordinator, Water Quality Bureau, Wisconsin DNR


BMP: Best Management Practice. A practice that is determined effective and practicable (including technological, economic, and institutional considerations) in preventing or reducing pollution generated from nonpoint sources to a level compatible with water quality goals.

DNR: Department of Natural Resources. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is an agency of the State of Wisconsin created to preserve, protect, manage, and maintain natural resources.

FIBI: Fish Index of biological integrity (Fish IBI). An Index of Biological Integrity (IBI) is a scientific tool used to identify and classify water pollution problems. An IBI associates anthropogenic influences on a water body with biological activity in the water and is formulated using data developed from biosurveys. In Wisconsin, Fish IBIs are created for each type of natural community in the state�s stream system.

HUC: Hydrologic Unit Code. A code or sequence of numbers that identify one of a number of nested and interlocked hydrologic catchments delineated by a consortium of agencies including USGS, USFS, and Wisconsin DNR.

mIBI: Macroinvertebrate Index of biological integrity. In Wisconsin, the mIBI, or macroinvertebrate Index of biological integrity, was developed specifically to assess Wisconsin�s macroinvertebrate community (see also Fish IBI). Natural Community. A system of categorizing waterbodies based on their inherent physical, hydrologic, and biological assemblages. Both Streams and Lakes are categorized using an array of �natural community� types.

Monitoring Seq. No. Monitoring Sequence Number, refers to a unique identification code generated by the Surface Water Integrated Monitoring System (SWIMS), which holds much of the state�s water quality monitoring data.

SWIMS ID. Surface Water Integrated Monitoring System (SWIMS) Identification Code is the unique monitoring station identification number for the location where monitoring data was gathered.

TWA: Targeted Watershed Assessment. A statewide study design a rotating watershed approach to gathering of baseline monitoring data with specialized targeted assessments for unique and site specific concerns, such as effectiveness monitoring of management actions.

WATERS ID: The Waterbody Assessment, Tracking and Electronic Reporting System Identification Code (WATERS ID) is a unique numerical sequence number assigned by the WATERS system, also known as �Assessment Unit ID code�.

WBIC: Water Body Identification Code. WDNR�s unique identification codes assigned to water features in the state. The lines and information allow the user to execute spatial and tabular queries about the data, make maps, and perform flow analysis and network traces.