Commission staff have completed a water quality protection plan for the Jackson Creek watershed in Walworth County. The plan was initiated in 2012 at the request of the Kettle Moraine Land Trust and was prepared in cooperation with the Delavan Lake Improvement Association, Delavan Lake Watershed Initiative, Delavan Lake Sanitary District, University of Wisconsin Extension, and local municipalities including the Town of Delavan, City of Elkhorn, and Walworth County.
The Jackson Creek Watershed Protection Plan is intended to be a practical guide for communities in the watershed and vicinity -- including Jackson Creek, Turtle Creek, Delavan Lake, and the Rock River -- to work together to protect and improve land and water resources and meet water quality requirements for phosphorus and sediment in the watershed. Fertilizer pollution can cause phosphorus and sediments to build up and can "feed" toxic strains of algae that deplete the oxygen and sunlight needed for native plants and animals to thrive. Erosion caused by the lack of, or removal of, shoreline vegetation and erosion-prone agricultural and/or construction practices can cause sedimentation, affecting both water quality and water supply.
Under the Jackson Creek plan, protection of the watershed is focused on human needs and the hydrologic and ecological integrity of the water system, which ultimately contribute to a healthy economy. The plan provides recommendations for measures to: 1) minimize further degradation of the surface water; 2) reduce nonpoint agricultural runoff and urban runoff; 3) encourage the preservation of natural resource connections for wildlife; and 4) promote stewardship of the watershed (see Executive Summary in the draft plan).
The plan describes a recommended 10-year implementation program that includes assessment of pollutant loads and load reduction goals, prioritization and locations for installation of best management practices to meet the target load reductions, information and education activities, restoration practices, estimated costs, potential funding sources, responsible agencies, and methods to gauge success.
Best management practice implementation focuses on agricultural land use (which represents 85 percent of the sediment and nutrient loading to Jackson Creek), wetland buffer areas, and urbanized land uses in order to reduce runoff. Absent the implementation of best practices related to development, continuing suburbanization in the area would likely increase pollutant loads to the watershed and alter the hydrology, increasing the potential for more flooding.
Among the agricultural best management recommendations summarized in the draft are no till, cover crops, grassed waterways, nutrient management planning, and wetland restoration/buffers. Among the developed- and urbanized-area best management practices provided are recommendations that include green infrastructure improvements such as rain gardens, porous pavement, bioswales, and green roofs.
Additional recommendations include remediation work such as re-meandering sections of the Creek that were previously straightened or ditched. Re-meandering along with reconnecting the river to the floodplain would allow for a longer waterway and greater capacity to assimilate nutrient loads, reduce erosion, and restore the natural form and function of Jackson Creek and instream habitat.
The plan also recognizes that the protection of floodplains from encroachment, establishment of wetland vegetation buffers, preservation of groundwater recharge areas, and implementation of stormwater infiltration best practices are vital to mitigating negative impacts to water quality and wildlife in the watershed.
Despite challenging land use impacts in the area, the plan describes the Jackson Creek watershed as resilient and able to sustain a fair- to high-quality macroinvertebrate (aquatic insect) and coolwater fishery community. Equally important, the plan notes the watershed has demonstrated the capacity to improve, provided that it is protected. Enhancements to the watershed would allow for reductions in nutrient loads and flooding; the maintenance of water quality that contributes to wildlife habitat, recreational use, and property values; and recharge to the shallow aquifer for both water supply and sustainable environmental flows.
Download a copy of the SEWRPC CAPR No. 320, Jackson Creek Watershed Protection Plan, June 2017 report here.