SUPERIOR, Wis. — A northern Wisconsin college is working with a mix of local, state and federal partners on a project to slow the flow of stormwater and reduce erosion in the area.
Northland College in Ashland is leading is leading an effort to solve stormwater runoff through wetland ponds, Wisconsin Public Radio reported. Northern Wisconsin has seen three floods in the last six years that have caused millions of dollars in damage. The region is also dealing with more frequent, intense rainfalls.
The college has been working with Bayfield County landowners since 2013 to reduce flood peaks and erosion in North Fish Creek, said Matt Hudson, associate director of the college's Mary Griggs Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation.
The Great Lakes Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have designated nearly $300,000 for project funding through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, he said.
Researchers found that North Fish Creek in particular is prone to flash floods and erosion partly because of the region's clay soils and sandy deposits, according to past studies by the U.S. Geological Survey.
Holding back water in the form of a pond can reduce the amount of water rushing into the stream, the amount of erosion in the stream and the amount of sediment that gets into Chequamegon Bay, Hudson said.
Getting landowners involved isn't easy, said Travis Tulowitzky, a conservation technician with Bayfield County Land and Water. The county is also involved in the project, working with three landowners so far to install eight wetland basins.
"Farmers, for the most part, do not want to give up their field," said Tulowitzky. "That's their livelihood."
Project organizers are also working with a stream restoration firm to reduce erosion in the creek, Hudson said. About two-thirds of the sediment in Chequamegon Bay on Lake Superior comes from 15 to 20 large eroding banks.
The project is intending to show that bank-stabilization is a successful strategy for reducing the amount of sediment in the creek.
"It's helping with a public resource need in terms of improving Fish Creek and reducing sediment to the bay, which affects the city of Ashland's drinking water and all the recreation and boating and charter fishing and just the people living in the Ashland area," Hudson said.