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Assessment of groundwater trends near Crex Meadows, Wisconsin

March 15, 2021

Crex Meadows Wildlife Area (Crex) is a 30,000-acre property in Burnett County, Wisconsin. Crex is managed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) with the goal of providing public recreation opportunities while also protecting the quality of native ecological communities and species on the property. The WDNR’s management strategy includes controlling water levels at flowages in Crex using a system of dikes, water control structures, ditches, and a diversion pump. For the past several decades there has been concern among nearby landowners that the water manage-ment strategy at Crex may be contributing to groundwater flooding in adjacent, privately held properties. This issue has been particularly contentious during periods when regional groundwater elevations are already high. This study was conducted in response to those concerns. For the study, a network of 12 monitoring wells was installed in and to the west of Crex. Groundwater elevations were recorded in the wells before, during, and after water-level changes in the western Crex flowages to assess if groundwater elevations to the west of Crex are detectably affected by the flowage water levels.

This study successfully collected groundwater elevations in 11 study wells during a 3-month period in 2019 when water elevations in the Dike 6 flowage and Erickson flowage were lowered and then raised. The data logger at a 12th location failed and no data were recorded. The groundwater elevation trends in these study wells were compared with groundwater elevation trends at a regional U.S. Geological Survey well to provide information for determining if changing the flowage elevations had a noticeable response in the study wells west of Crex Meadows. This analysis was done by (1) evaluating study well groundwater elevation trends compared to the regional well, (2) using a scatter plot of study well and regional well data during raising and lowering periods,
(3) assessing horizontal hydraulic gradient data during the study period, and (4) assessing the cumulative departure from the mean groundwater elevation for each well.

Overall, regional groundwater elevations had a down-ward trend before and during the flowage lowering period and then had an upward trend during the flowage raising period. This pattern was observed in the regional well and in all the study wells adjacent to and several miles from the flowages. The similarity in patterns indicates that precipitation and regional groundwater flow conditions were the dominant drivers of the system during the study period. The scatter plot and cumulative departure from the mean analysis showed that in addition to regional trends, wells 1, 6, and 7 were likely affected by the changes in the flowage water levels. Overall, at least on the timescale of this study, water management at Crex likely did not have detectable effects on wells outside the Crex property. Wells installed on the Crex property including the wells in the lakebeds of the flowages (wells 1 and 7) and possibly well 6 east of the flowages showed what seems to be minor affects due to water management at Crex.

Publication Year 2021
Title Assessment of groundwater trends near Crex Meadows, Wisconsin
DOI 10.3133/sir20205149
Authors Megan J. Haserodt, Michael N. Fienen
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2020-5149
Index ID sir20205149
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Upper Midwest Water Science Center