Letter to the Editor: Will “watershed enhancement” fix the Little Plover River?
A Fall 2018 groundbreaking heralded the Little Plover Watershed Enhancement Project. While we hope for positive results, our optimism is tempered by how little there is to show for the 13 years we’ve been working with high capacity well interests on “voluntary approaches” to restore some of the flow they divert from the Little Plover. Even in the wetter-than-wet year of 2018 and during the wettest decade since 1947, Little Plover flows still dropped below healthy levels instead of being at historic highs. A couple of normal and modestly dry years could bring more dry-ups and fish kills.
Why? In those 13 years, voluntary approaches have restored only a few percent of the flow diverted from the river. The growers still deny their responsibility and make the preposterous claim that their pumping increases streamflow, despite what the science shows.
The Little Plover enhancement project will expend over 2 million public dollars to fund more voluntary “things” without a clear promise of meaningfully restoring flows. This is not to say that that the Project will not do some good: restoring wetlands, removing invasive species from a forest, and installing fish habitat are all great, but they don’t put more flow in the stream. (Yes, one high capacity well will be removed, but it will be replaced with a land cover that likely makes stream flow a break-even proposition.)
The most important questions about the Enhancement project are, how much flow will be restored, and when? It would be a shame if another 13 years went by with negligible flow restoration to show for it.
OK, maybe the past 13 years have made us a bit cynical – the project deserves a little time to get its bearings. Let’s check back in six months for the answers to “how much and when,” and see if this project will find means to restore the once robust flows of the Little Plover River.
Chapter Trout Unlimited, Board of Directors
Friends of the Little Plover River
River Alliance of Wisconsin