VERNON COUNTY - Weister Creek is a spring-fed stream, some 15 miles long, in Vernon County, and is a tributary of the Kickapoo River. The lower five miles of Weister Creek is surrounded by wetlands, forests and fields, and lies in the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, an 8,000-acre public land. Weister Creek is classified by the DNR as a Class One Trout Stream.
Weister Creek is a great example of a stream restoration in the Driftless Area supported by Trout Unlimited (TU). For the past several years TU along with a wide range of other organizations, have provided financial support for a restoration project within the Kickapoo Valley Reserve. It is a big project with a total length of 2.6 miles, that in addition to stream improvement provides habitat for hunting and is a demonstration site for many nongame wildlife habitat practices.
In the second week of April 2018, just before one of the two last major snow/ice storms that impacted the Driftless area, Vernon County Conservation Congress delegate Bill Greendeer noticed an area of drainage into the creek near Irish Ridge. He described the problem as “a manure trench dug by a landowner to drain a field above the creek, with the landowner having spread manure over the same area 8-10 times.” Greendeer notified Vernon County Conservationist Ben Wojahn, who went out to inspect the area.
“A local landowner had taken a drainage ditch that ran down the hill from a field to Weister Creek, and enlarged it to better drain off his field,” Wojahn said. “The ditch enlargement is not allowed in that area, and the landowner has been notified by the DNR and is acting to fix the problem as quickly as possible.”
Ryan Pappas, DNR Water Management Specialist for Crawford, Juneau, La Crosse, Monroe, and Vernon counties, confirmed that the landowner is being required to undo activities to enlarge the ditch. Although no “spoils material,” which is to say animal waste had been placed in the ditch or areas immediately adjacent to it, the landowner had spread solid manure mixed with bedding material on the field that is drained by the ditch.
Because the ‘spoils material’ had not been spread in a prohibited area, and because the landowner is fully cooperating with repair and clean up, no penalties or fines will be administered.
“Overall it is a very minor wetland impact,” Pappas said. “Although clean up and repair was delayed with the late season snow storms and melt, the work is 90 percent complete as of Friday, May 11 and should be completed soon.”
Trout Unlimited Driftless Area Restoration Effort (TUDARE) Outreach Coordinator Duke Welter visited the scene on Friday, May 11, and reports that the water was “muddy, but not smelly, and there were tracks in the area which look like they were made by a tractor being used to make the stipulated repairs.”
When contacted about the situation, a staffperson from the Kickapoo Valley Reserve reported, “We checked with the County Conservationist because we heard the same thing. The report of a manure spill circulating is not an accurate report. It was not a ‘spill.’”