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Water in Wisconsin's Northwoods and Michigan's Upper Peninsula serves as the basis of life and health. With countless lakes, rivers, springs, and aquifers, water is also linked with the very identity of this region. As a service to our listeners, WXPR is pleased to announce the creation of a new reporting position with a specific focus: water.

Water in Wisconsin's Northwoods and Michigan's Upper Peninsula serves as the basis of life and health. With countless lakes, rivers, springs, and aquifers, water is also linked with the very identity of this region. As a service to our listeners, WXPR is pleased to announce the creation of a new reporting position with a specific focus: water.


United States


Water in Wisconsin's Northwoods and Michigan's Upper Peninsula serves as the basis of life and health. With countless lakes, rivers, springs, and aquifers, water is also linked with the very identity of this region. As a service to our listeners, WXPR is pleased to announce the creation of a new reporting position with a specific focus: water.








Northwoods Lake Study Aims to Give Insight to Future Lake Health in Warming Climate

Right now, there is a lake in Vilas County that has no snow on it. Researchers based out of UW-Trout Lake Station in Boulder Junction use shovels, snowblower, and plows to keep it clear all winter long, leaving the thick ice exposed. It’s the second year of field work for the study that is looking at the impact of what no snow or ice cover could mean for the health of lakes in the Northwoods. WXPR first told you about study last winter on The Stream . “This year we actually had freeze up....


Bringing Back History: The Attempt To Restore Wild Rice On Spur Lake

Pete McGeshick II looked out upon Spur Lake and thought about what used to be. “The lake was full,” he said. “The rice bed was full all the way around.” Wild rice used to grow thick on the 113-acre undeveloped lake in eastern Oneida County. It grew tall, too. “You could come out here and you could see people harvesting wild rice,” McGeshick said. “A lot of them, you couldn’t even see because the wild rice was so high.” McGeshick, a Sokaogon Chippewa tribal member and former Rice Chief, is 80...


Urban Wetlands, A Flood-Control Tool, Face Threats Under New Trump Administration Rule

The construction on Stevens Street on Rhinelander’s north side is nearly complete as heavy machinery rumbles by the auto dealerships that line the road. But Tom Jerow didn’t come to look at a car or check up on the road work. “I see a beautiful wetland with lots of diverse vegetation that are indicators of wetlands,” Jerow said. Wedged between Rhinelander Toyota and the Aspirus Clinic is a low-lying wetland with tamaracks, cattails, and reeds. Jerow is a retired regional water division...


Half Of Wisconsin’s Wetlands To Lose Federal Protection, Conservation Groups Estimate

Walking out onto a muskeg, or wetland, the first things most people notice are the sensation of sinking and sound of suction. Saturated sphagnum moss, or peat moss, covers the wetland. It’s walkable, but only with knee boots on. Legs sink to calf-level. They’re buoyed by the moss, although water seeps in. But upon arriving at this wetland in Iron County, Aaron Marti first noticed a different sensation. “If you take a deep breath,” he said, “you can get a bit of a whiff of, it’s kind of a...


How Do Professionals Manage Local Trout Streams? Often, It’s Through Explosives

In this line of work, projects don’t start with a bang. They end with one. With a booming explosion on Tuesday morning, a portion of stream at the headwaters of Big Haymeadow Creek in Langlade County again flowed freely, a beaver dam blasted out of the way. Jeremy Irish, an assistant district supervisor with the USDA’s Wildlife Services program, triggered the blast, undoing some of this year’s construction by beavers in the area. In the process, he cleared another portion of one of northern...


Ashland Sees Historic Oredock Redevelopment As Bridge To The Future

A walk to the end of the Ashland Oredock feels like a walk out onto Lake Superior for Ed Monroe. “We’re out amongst the buoys and the shipping lane,” he said. What’s left of the Oredock--a slender tongue of concrete--juts 1,800 feet out from the city of Ashland. Not long ago, the superstructure, a hulking mass of metal, would have risen 80 feet over his head. During the Oredock’s operation, and after it was out of use, kids used to play out here, fishing and even jumping off the top. But...


National Forest Continues Recovery After Massive 2016 Flooding

The water flow on a little creek in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest is modest. In fact, the stream is small enough that it has no name. Officially, it’s Unnamed Tributary to Morgan Creek. But on July 11, 2016, it was just one of the unassuming streams that heavy rainfall turned into rushing rivers in this area of the National Forest. “Roads were gone. Bridges were gone. Culverts were gone,” said Jim Mineau, a hydrologist for the National Forest. This area is near the Ashland-Bayfield...


Objectors: National Forest Choosing Wrong ‘Fork In The Road’ With Northwoods Cutting Project

On a sunny day in a shaded forest, Don Waller and Dave Zaber, two environmental professionals, came across an orchid growing on the forest floor. This part of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest near Eagle River is maturing, with tall trees, a shady canopy, and a cooler temperature. It’s good orchid habitat. But that might change soon, Zaber said. “We’re in a proposed cutting unit of the Fourmile timber sale,” he said. The National Forest has slated this area for selective harvest, part...


Wisconsin-Based Evinrude Stops Boat Motor Production, Surprising Local Repair Shops

On a hot, sunny day last week, Jim Montgomery pulled a 1958 Evinrude Lark outboard motor outside his repair shop for a tune-up. Montgomery pointed to the “fancy chrome on the hood,” a sign that, although the motor is now vintage, it was considered deluxe at the time. Montgomery owns Duke’s Outboard Service just outside Rhinelander. Long ago, he lost count of the number of Evinrude motors he’s fixed. “I have no idea. Just a lot. Thousands,” he said. But that stream of Evinrudes coming into...


Northwoods Lake Research Shows How Angler Catch Rates Can Stay High, Abruptly Crash

Northwoods fishermen and women love when the fish are biting often, offering excitement with every cast. Frequent catches mean the fish population in a lake is doing well. Right? Maybe not. New research shows, in many lakes, the fishing stays good until it abruptly collapses. That research largely belongs to University of Notre Dame PhD candidate Colin Dassow, whose days of research can sometimes feel more like recreation. “I fish for work,” Dassow said. “I do this eight hours a day,...


Facing Invasive Species, Lake Groups Struggle With Decisions About Chemical Treatment

During the first week of June, a boat sprayed chemicals into the waters of Anvil Lake in Vilas County for the first time. It was applying an herbicide called 2,4D, targeting Eurasian watermilfoil, an aquatic invasive species whose presence in the lake has grown and grown. The decision to use chemicals in treating the problem was difficult and often controversial for lake leaders. But it’s a decision more and more lake groups in the Northwoods are forced to consider as invasive species...


Oneida County Drilling Site Neighbors Claim Lack Of Communication, Legality

Ron L. Zabler admits Oneida County winters have been harsh on his family’s cabin in the woods. Some of the paint may be peeling, but that makes this place no less important to him. “Once I’m up here, I don’t want to go back,” said Zabler, whose permanent home with his wife, Carline, is in southern Wisconsin. A lot of his attitude has to do with his family’s history on this plot of land. “I’ve been here since I was 14. I was here when the original owner was here,” said Zabler, who is in his...


Water Action Volunteers Play Critical Role In Monitoring Wisconsin Streams

Every summer month for the last 16 years, Dick and Judi Oehler have been coming to this exact spot on the Deerskin River east of Eagle River. Like always, Judi stands on shore, ready with a clipboard, as Dick steps into the stream. Waders cover him to his chest. The river is about 20 feet across here, and the water comes up to his knees. Plunging a yard stick to the sandy bottom, Dick calls out water depths as Judi records them. It’s a scene they’ve repeated again and again on this...


A Legacy Of Mine Waste: Groups Fight To Save Lake Superior Reef, Shoreline

Standing at Grand Traverse Harbor on the Keweenaw Peninsula, a look right reveals picturesque yellow-sand beaches and unassuming seasonal homes. A look left includes nothing but a black shoreline on this part of the peninsula, which juts into Lake Superior in Upper Michigan. Jay Parent scooped up a handful of the pebbly black sand, which stretches out of sight on the shoreline. “It was this high stamp sand right here all the way across the harbor,” Parent says, gesturing more than head-high....


Newly-Dredged Channel Leads Historic Burnt Rollways Boat Hoist Into Summer Season

From a few yards away, a woman and four small children watch a massive machine rumble to life. They stand, look, and point as a boat is lifted by the Burnt Rollways Boat Hoist, carried over a road and dam, and dropped gently in the water on the other side. “It’s a novelty,” said Scott Blado, who is operating the machine. “It’s just kind of a thing that you go and do. It’s not really a ‘we’ve got to go that way’ kind of thing. It’s more of an event.” This week, operators fired up the hoist,...


Nearby, But Far Different: Two Special Places In Northern Wisconsin, U.P.

As the crow flies, Wildcat Falls near Watersmeet and the Upper Wisconsin River Legacy Forest near Land O’Lakes are only 15 miles apart, on opposite sides of the Michigan-Wisconsin border. But in some ways, these protected places couldn’t be more different. From one, water flows north to Lake Superior. From the other, it flows south, eventually to the Gulf of Mexico. Huge old-growth trees dominate the area near Wildcat Falls, while a young forest supporting threatened species is common near...


Badger Minerals Plans To Begin 24-Hour Drilling In Oneida County June 1

Badger Minerals plans to begin drilling in eastern Oneida County in less than a month, according to documents filed with the county . The mining exploration company’s plans were just approved by the DNR, the final hurdle to commence exploratory drilling. The firm told Oneida County 24-hour-a-day drilling near the Wolf River will begin on June 1. Badger Minerals is a Michigan-based subsidiary of a Canadian company. It wants to learn more about what’s underground at the site in the Town of...


Rhinelander Spread Tons Of Sludge Near Site Of Contaminated Wells, WXPR Investigation Finds

A WXPR investigation has found over a seven-year period in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the City of Rhinelander spread almost 400 tons of sewage sludge at the Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport. Later, the city built two municipal water wells near the place where some of the sludge was spread. Last year, those wells were found to have high levels of PFAS, a chemical with known health risks. Now, a nationally-recognized expert on PFAS and sludge says the contamination in the city’s water...


Wisconsin Has Hundreds Of Thousands Of Lead Water Lines, But Is Also A Leader In Addressing Issue

More than 150,000 Wisconsin homes, businesses, schools, and daycares get their water through lead pipes, according to data newly compiled by the Environmental Defense Fund. Consuming even small amounts of lead can lead to behavioral, learning, and cognitive problems in children. Furthermore, for 300,000 water lines, Wisconsin cities don’t even know what the pipes are made of. Even so, the Environmental Defense Fund calls the state “ahead of the curve” on identifying and addressing lead...


Oneida Co. Approves Mining-Related Drilling Near Wolf River; Full DNR Approval Still Required

On Wednesday, a mining exploration company got a step closer to drilling into the earth near the Wolf River in Oneida County. The county’s Planning and Development committee unanimously approved a permit for Badger Minerals to drill up to ten exploration holes on a private plot of land. The company wants to find out if the area could be a good place for a metallic mine. But, if it wasn’t clear before, public backlash demonstrated there’s plenty of opposition in the Northwoods. It’s the first...