Projects in the Red Cedar Watershed

(2020) Red Cedar Basin Assessment for Water Quality Improvement Project Completed

A project funded by the Army Corps of Engineers, Wisconsin DNR, as well as matching funding from many of the stakeholders in the Red Cedar River Water Quality Partnership was completed in 2020.  Monitoring done by Bill James of UW-Stout showed that, compared to monitoring done for the Total Maximum Daily Load project in the 1990s, there was a drop in the amount of phosphorus moving through the Red Cedar River system.  In the 1990s, about 506,000 lbs of phosphorus was estimated to be entering Lake Tainter on an annual basis from the watershed above.  Monitoring done over the last five years indicates that amount is currently at approximately 427,000 lbs per year, meaning there has been a reduction of about 79,000 lbs over that time period.  Using this data and other parameters, Jim Noren of the US Army Corps of Engineers created a model for Tainter and Menomin Lakes that shows that, if the amount of soluble reactive phosphorus (which is the type of phosphorus more readily available to algae) can be reduced by 50%, that will produce a corresponding reduction of also about 50% in the amount of chlorophyll (a measure of algae present) in the lakes.  Recommendations from the project include working to further reduce soil erosion in the watershed, and also to decrease the amount of phosphorus applied to land (mostly as manure).  The project also involved work from UW-Stout looking at economic impacts of clean water in the Red Cedar River Basin, and other socio-economic data of interest.  The final report for all work done for this project can be found here, and you can go to the “Maps and Publications” page for the detailed reports of the various parts of the project (under “Research”).

Red Cedar River Water Quality Partnership

In late 2013, many area natural resource professionals came together to form the Red Cedar River Water Quality Partnership. The focus of the Partnership is to be the main body that oversees water quality work in the Red Cedar River Basin. Partners include representatives from local, state and federal government agencies, private business, lake associations, UW-Stout, non-governmental organizations, and others. The Partnership began meeting monthly, then moved to every other month, and alternates meetings between Menomonie and Barron.

The initial focus of the Partnership was to write a comprehensive watershed management plan for the Red Cedar River Basin. This plan was completed in 2015, and was approved by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the US Environmental Protection Agency in January of 2016.  This ten-year plan now guides the Partnership in overseeing work toward water quality improvements in the Basin.  The plan may be viewed here.

Specific projects that result from the Partnership/Plan will be described here as they develop.  Since approval of the plan, the Partnership coordinator also produces, with the help of the members, an annual list of Partnership accomplishments.  Here are those documents:

2016 Red Cedar River Water Quality Partnership Accomplishments
2017 Red Cedar River Water Quality Partnership Accomplishments


Beginning in 2014, UW-Stout in Menomonie began working with college students from all over the country every summer to study multiple aspects of the Red Cedar River watershed.  With the help of grant money from the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, students come from many diverse locations and backgrounds to gain a unique work, academic and social experience in the Red Cedar River watershed.  They study everything from the geology of the region, the economics and sociology, to the biology and chemistry of the river itself.  These students report on their findings at the end of the summer, and the Red Cedar River Water Quality Partnership uses these findings to help plan and implement activities in the watershed aimed at improving water quality, and improving many facets of living within the watershed.  More information can be found at the Linking Applied Knowledge in Environmental Sustainability (LAKES) REU website here.

Red Cedar Demonstration Farm

After conversations among Dunn County staff regarding ways to assist county residents with agricultural concerns, a partnership was formed by steering committee members including County Conservationist Dan Prestebak, Conservation Planner Leah Nicol, Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) District Conservationist John Sippl, Farm Business Production Management Instructor Mark Denk from Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC), and Dunn County UW-Extension Agricultural Agent Katie Wantoch. The group is known as the Dunn County Soil and Water Health Partnership.

The Partnership began brainstorming ways to manage county farmland located on Highway 12/29 East, the site of the former Dunn County Health Care Center, and managed up until that time by the Neighbors of Dunn County, a standing committee of the Dunn County Board of Supervisors. The land was being rented out to a local farmer.

During some of these discussions, it was suggested that it would be ideal to use the land to demonstrate best managment practices for soil and water conservation. The Partnership submitted a proposal to the Neighbors of Dunn County for rental of the farmland with the following goals:

  • Demonstrating soil and water conservation best managment practices for the Dunn County community, area farmers, and CVTC students;
  • Providing an opportunity for soil and water conservation education, on-farm research, and field demostrations.

The Neighbors of Dunn County approved the proposal in December 2014 with a five-year lease, and Red Cedar Demonstration Farm became a reality. The Partnership has since established research projects and field days on approximately 150 acres that also includes some land owned by the City of Menomonie. Additionally, CVTC students utilize the land for educational experience and are assisted by an agreement with local implement dealers for use of tractors, tillage, planting and harvesting equipment.

More information can be found at the Dunn County UW-Extension website.