Completing a total maximum daily load (TMDL) study of impaired waterways along the Lake Michigan shoreline is expected to take about four years, the project manager told a DNR work group last week.

Keith A. Marquardt, regional TMDL project manager for the state Department of Natural Resources, briefed the Kewaunee County Alternative Practices Work Group on the study approved by the Legislature that he said will focus on impaired waterways roughly from Sturgeon Bay to Port Washington.

That includes the Ahnapee, Kewaunee and East Twin rivers in Kewaunee County.

TMDL is defined as the amount of a pollutant that a water body can receive and still meet water quality standards – what Marquardt called a “nutrient budget.”

Keith A. Marquardt of the Wisconsin DNR talks about the pending Northeast Lakeshore TMDL study on June 21, 2018.

Although the project is officially dubbed the Northeast Lakeshore TMDL Project, Marquardt said it should not be misconstrued as a study of the shoreline as much as the watersheds that drain into Lake Michigan.

He said the project entails about two years of monitoring and data collection, followed by assembling the data and developing computer models, with final reports due in 2021.

That timing raised concerns over what will become of data already accumulated for the Ahnapee and East Twin rivers. Lynn Utesch said a group of volunteers has been collecting data for about three years, and a TMDL study was completed on a portion of the East Twin River earlier this year.

“We were told that we had to do testing for two years and then we would get implementation,” Utesch said. “So now we’re in our third year – are any of these projects like the Ahnapee, which already has this data – is there going to be implementation prior to all of this (the new initiative), or are we going to be delayed because of this?”

“I wouldn’t want to delay implementation,” Marquardt said.

Russ Rasmussen, DNR water division administrator, said the TMDL study itself does not give the agency any additional authority over discharges into the affected rivers.

“It does give us information,” Rasmussen said, “that we can then apply to our existing regulatory tools to adjust, for example, the permits or what needs to be done for nutrient management planning or something like that, that incorporates the information that we’ve gathered into those current tools.”

Main photo: The East Twin River along Krok Road in Kewaunee County.