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Apple River action plan focuses on water quality

More than two dozen people interested in the water quality, habitat and natural beauty of the lower Apple River attended an open house sponsored by the St. Croix River Association at the Somerset High School on Tuesday, Sept 20.

One of the primary goals of the plan is to understand the sources of algae blooms in the St. Croix River near the outlet of the Apple River.

"The concern for the lower Apple River came from a private citizen who encouraged a ($10,000) Department of Natural Resources grant to have a plan focus on this area," said Cheryl Clemmens, of Harmony Environmental, who facilitated development of the plan. "We got a group of people together who were knowledgeable about the area and brainstormed the concerns about the river and what to do about those concerns."

In addition to understanding algae blooms, other plan goals include reducing phosphorus in the lower Apple River by 26 percent, improving in-stream and shoreline habitat for fish and other wildlife in and along the lower Apple River and preserving, enhancing and providing opportunities to appreciate the natural scenic beauty along the lower Apple River.

If the river is allowed to degrade, in water quality and scenic beauty, its value will diminish, said St. Croix River Association Executive Director Deb Ryun.

"Just as important, during the process of developing the water quality goal for the St. Croix River, the Apple River was shown to be a major contributor of nutrient loads. The excess nutrients lead to the increase in algae, turning the water green and stinky," she said.

The goal of the project is to create long-term protection and improvement of the lower Apple River through partnership-based management.

Goals, objectives and strategies for the plan were developed through a series of four partner meetings held between March and June this year. More than a dozen organizations have been involved in the creation and implementation of the plan.

Partner organizations involved in the plan include citizen volunteers, Martell's Landing, National Park Service, Polk County Land and Water Resources, St. Croix County Land and Water Conservation Department, St. Croix County Planning and Zoning, St. Croix County Alliance of Sportsman's Clubs, St. Croix River Association, Star Prairie Land Preservation Trust, Town of Somerset, University of Wisconsin Extension, Village of Somerset and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

"The goal of the open house was to get public involvement in a project that we've been working on with agency partners over the past several months," said Clemmens.

She said the open house was a way for residents to learn about the action plan, ask questions, express concerns and get involved.

Since public involvement is critical for implementing many of the project strategies, agency partners made commitment statements that endorse the plan goals and describe how they'll be involved.

Clemmens said the plan also needs commitment from local residents.

Commitment and comment sheets were given to open house attendees.

The "individual commitment" sheets asked residents to consider making a personal commitment to river protection and improvement and asked for contact information for follow-up with a partner representative.

Among the nearly one dozen commitment options listed were taking water quality samples, inventorying vegetation and bank erosion along the river, participation in local plan and ordinance development with river protection in mind, donating a conservation easement along the river and more.

"So we came up with an action plan, but it's just a start for addressing the concerns related to water quality, habitat and natural scenic beauty of the river," Clemmens said.

Some of strategies to achieve the goals include identifying inappropriate practices on vulnerable lands, providing training for volunteer stream monitoring though the Water Action Volunteers Program, providing technical and financial assistance for restoration of native vegetation and other scenic enhancements along the river, and evaluating the best options for river access which provide views and allow recreation to encourage appreciation of the natural scenic beauty.

Clemmens hopes residents will commit to helping achieve the plan's goals.

She said she was happy with the number of people in attendance at the action plan open house.

"I'm thrilled to see everyone here tonight, it shows that people care," she said in regard to the Sept. 20 open house.


For more information about the lower Apple River Action Plan or to print a commitment form, go to the St. Croix River Association website: http://www.stcroixriver