County, UWS cooperate on Middle River monitoring

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Douglas County is working with the University of Wisconsin-Superior on a project to monitor Middle River.

The river is a major tributary to western Lake Superior, flowing 33 miles from its headwaters in Bennett.

Lake Superior Research Institute at UWS would be eligible for 10 pieces of free equipment from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources that could be used by students with projects to do, said County Land Conservationist Christine Ostern. The students would also take samples to have them analyzed for phosphorous, she said.

"The students do that for free because they're doing it as a requirement for credit to graduate," Ostern said. The only cost to the county is the cost of testing the samples, she said.

Very little data exists concerning Middle River because little monitoring has been done over the years.

However, it is known that a sea lamprey barrier installed in Middle River in 1983 has negatively impacted the upper channel by restricting movement of fish, aquatic organisms and nutrients.

With a better understanding of the river system, decisions could be made and justified concerning removing or modifying the barrier and other actions to further improve the river.

Ostern said monitoring at a minimum of two sites is desirable and would cost the county $300.

"If we did more than that, that would be good," Ostern said.

The Land Conservation Committee favored the maximum monitoring option of 10 sites at a cost of $1,500.

"It looks like a win, win situation to me," said Supervisor Terry White who seconded committee member Kay McKenzie's motion to approve the project for all 10 sites proposed.

Data collected through the project will provide a better understanding of the river to help guide maintenance or replacement of the lamprey barrier that has been in place for more than 30 years.