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Wisconsin River Among 10 "Most Endangered" in U.S.

The Kinnickinnic River is popular for kayaking, trout fishing and more. (Friends of the Kinni)
The Kinnickinnic River is popular for kayaking, trout fishing and more. (Friends of the Kinni)
April 13, 2018

RIVER FALLS, Wis. – The Kinnickinic River is at the heart of River Falls, Wisconsin, and offers visitors to the Twin Cities area opportunities for trout fishing, kayaking and more. But advocates for the Kinnickinic say the two dams on the river put its health in jeopardy, and it's on a list of 10 "most endangered" rivers, compiled by the group American Rivers.

Michael Page, president of Friends of the Kinni, says the upper dam disrupts what would otherwise be a waterfall, and the area between the dams stalls the river for about a mile and flows into a couple of mill ponds. He says that's part of the problem.

"Those two ponds actually add thermal pollution to the river,” says Page, “which, for a world-class trout stream, is a big deal."

He explains the slack water adds almost 5 degrees to the water temperature – and the trout live and die within a window of 6 to 8 degrees, so that extra heat puts them in danger. The Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impact used the river as a model for climate change studies.

The Kinnickinic is the last tributary of the St. Croix River before it flows into the Mississippi, and the St. Croix has federal designation as a Wild and Scenic River. Page says last month, the City of River Falls passed a non-binding resolution calling for both dams to be removed.

"They have a target date for the removal of the lower dam of between 2023 and 2026. However, they are postponing the planned removal of the upper dam until a target date of 2035 and 2040," says Page.

Page says waiting to remove the upper dam will not only continue to jeopardize the river, trout and mussels, but he believes it would be a waste of resources, as the city would have to double up on steps like permits and planning.

Elizabeth Braun, Public News Service - WI