Douglas County develops strategy for Brule River management

The plan sets goals and objectives for effective management of aquatic invasive plants in the Bois Brule watershed.

Travis Johnson works a spot under some downed trees
Travis Johnson works a spot under some downed trees near County Road FF along the Bois Brule River on Saturday, July 9, 2022. A plan developed by Douglas County sets goals to combat aquatic invasive plants to protect water quality and habitat in the Bois Brule watershed.
Jed Carlson / 2022 file/ Superior Telegram

SUPERIOR — Many bodies of water in Douglas County have aquatic plant management or lake management plans, but the Bois Brule River wasn’t among them.

That’s about to change.

Douglas County’s Land and Water Conservation Department developed a plan to use existing data and public input to outline goals, objectives and strategies for managing aquatic invasive plants in the Bois Brule watershed.

Goals include managing aquatic invasive plants to protect native plants and preserve biodiversity; to protect water quality and habitat; to prevent the introduction of new invasive species; and to prevent the spread of existing infestations.

Aquatic invasive species documented in the Bois Brule watershed include aquatic forget me not, curly leaf pondweed, Eurasian watermilfoil, narrowleaf cattail, phragmites, purple loosestrife, reed canary grass, watercress and yellow flag iris.


Zach Stewart, Douglas County’s aquatic invasive species specialist and the plan’s author, said he has been working to reduce invasive species on the river for about two years.

Stewart and land conservationist Ashley Strabel recognized the need for a long-term effort to be successful, so he said they sought a grant to develop the plan.

“It’s a specific plan to guide effective and strategic work, not necessarily eradicating every plant in the river, but investing in key areas to have the biggest positive impact on the resource,” Stewart said.

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Developed to a statewide standard, Stewart said work outlined is eligible for state funding for the next three to five years.

Supervisor Sue Hendrickson, chairperson of the land conservation committee, called the plan stunning.

Strabel said the good thing is the proposal doesn’t require the county to do the work; other organizations can step up to help manage invasive species on the Brule River.

The plan can be updated if new species are discovered or if good progress is made to control invasive species. It must be updated in five years, Stewart said.

The proposal will be presented to the zoning committee June 6 before being considered for adoption by the county board on June 15.


Stewart said once adopted by the county, the plan would need final approval from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, which he expects to happen quickly. Stewart already submitted the plan to the DNR, and he incorporated suggestions made by regional DNR staff in the proposal.

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or
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