WXPR The Stream

Ben Meyer/WXPR

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 Wisconsin’s best trout streams.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Rhinelander has started examining options for treating PFAS-contaminated water being produced by two city wells.

Wells 7 and 8 have been shut down since last year after excessive levels of the chemicals were found in the water.

This week, Rhinelander Mayor Chris Frederickson said he and others are looking at options for a treatment system for the water from the wells.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

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.

Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest

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.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

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.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

The City of Rhinelander will test for PFAS in the discharge liquid, or leachate, of its long-closed city landfill. The Common Council approved that action this week.

Also this week, the city’s PFAS consultant, Dr. Jim Tinjum, released a white paper with further information on the issue and its potential causes. Tinjum is an environmental engineer at UW-Madison.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

If just one more Rhinelander city well is taken offline, the city won’t be able to meet its water demand, according to a DNR drinking water supervisor.

Only three off Rhinelander’s five municipal wells are currently operating.

It’s been that way since last year, when the other two were shut off due to high levels of detected PFAS.

PFAS is a manmade chemical with links to health risks, including cancer.

DNR Public Drinking Water Field Supervisor Mark Pauli said losing another well would create a water supply problem for Rhinelander.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

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.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

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.

Dan Dumas/Kim Swisher Communications

Drilling on the last exploration site in eastern Oneida County was completed on Wednesday.

Badger Minerals had been overseeing the drilling program, which sought to gather data about potential sulfide minerals hundreds of feet under the earth.

Drilling started on June 5.

Drill cores will be taken offsite and reviewed by geologists, and some will be submitted for lab analysis.

Lake managers might be hurting native aquatic plants – instead of helping them – when they use chemicals to control invasive plants on entire lakes.

New research by DNR Lakes and River Team Leader Dr. Alison Mikulyuk shows native plant communities can struggle when chemicals are used to target invasive Eurasian watermilfoil.

It appears the effects on native plants are worse than if there were no treatment at all.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

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 spread.

In many ways, Anvil Lake is where Dr. Amy Kuhns grew up.

UW-Madison

The City of Rhinelander's municipal Well 7, now shut off because of PFAS concerns, is located at the Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport.Credit Ben Meyer/WXPREdit | Remove

A UW-Madison engineering professor recommends Rhinelander test its old municipal landfill for PFAS contamination.

Dr. Jim Tinjum, who was hired by the city as an environmental consultant, says the closed landfill could be the source of PFAS contamination in the city’s water.

Dan Dumas/Kim Swisher Communications

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 70s.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

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.

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