Effort to improve the Apple River’s water gaining momentum

A broad effort to clean up the Apple River and reduce its harmful impacts on the St. Croix is getting underway, funded by two new grants.

Upper Apple River

Upper Apple River

The Apple River is the single largest contributor of algae-causing phosphorous to the St. Croix. Now, people who live near the Apple can help its health, and by extension the water quality of the St. Croix, by participating in a new effort.

The Apple River Action Plan was created by a coalition of nonprofit groups, local cities and St. Croix County, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and other agencies. Its goals are:

  • Understand the sources of algae blooms in the St. Croix River near the outlet of the Apple River.
  • Reduce watershed loading of phosphorus to the Lower Apple River by 26%.
  • Improve in-stream and shoreline habitat for fish and other wildlife in and along the Lower Apple River.
  • Preserve, enhance, and provide opportunities to appreciate the natural scenic beauty along the Lower Apple River.

The project was the subject of a recent article in the New Richmond News, focusing on two grants received by the Star Prairie Land Preservation Trust to help implement parts of the plan. The grants will fund education and outreach, and voluntary programs for landowners near the river to take steps to reduce runoff and improve water quality:

Overall the grants provide for hands-on tasks, including developing a habitat inventory and a four-part lecture series focusing on river protection. The grants also enable the trust to act on its own strategic plan by creating an outreach plan designed to educate shoreline property owners and encourage protection of the river shoreline with conservation easements, a service central to the trust’s mission.

So far the trust has conducted several river surveys with the help of volunteers from Star Prairie Fish & Game aimed mostly at recording invasive species and evidence of erosion indicating possible nutrient loading into the river. The St. Croix County Department of Land and Water Conservation will compile the data gathered from the surveys into a habitat inventory.

Ultimately that information can be used to educate property owners up and down the river about erosion control and infiltration practices. The information can also set the stage for funding of restoration projects.

If enough momentum can be created among owners and other concerned citizens and organizations, county ordinances due for review and approval by 2014, can be strengthened through their input during the review process.

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Steps that land-owners can take to help the river include maintaining native vegetation along the water and using farm practices which don’t cause excessive runoff.

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