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In cooperation with Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians

Water Quality and Hydrology of the Lac Vieux Desert Watershed, Gogebic County, Michigan, and Vilas County, Wisconsin, 2002-04

Scientific Investigations Report 2005-5237

By T.L. Weaver, B.P. Neff, and J.M. Ellis

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Abstract

Lac Vieux Desert is a prominent 6.6 square-mile lake that straddles the Michigan-Wisconsin border and forms the headwaters of the Wisconsin River. For generations, the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians have used Lac Vieux Desert and the surrounding area for growing and harvesting wild rice, and hunting and fishing. The Lac Vieux Desert Band is concerned about the impact of lake-stage regulation on hydrology and ecology, and the impact on water quality of development along and near the shore, and recreational watercraft use and sport fishing. In 2005, the U.S. Geological Survey completed a water-resources investigation of the Lac Vieux Desert watershed in cooperation with the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians.

 

Water quality of Lac Vieux Desert is typical of many lakes in the northern United States. Trophic State Index calculations classify Lac Vieux Desert as a highly productive eutrophic lake. The pH of water in Lac Vieux Desert ranged from 6.5 to 9.5, and specific conductance ranged from 62 to 114 µs/cm. Chloride concentration was less than 1.5 mg/L, indicating little effect from septic-tank or road-salt input. Results indicate that the water can be classified as soft, with hardness concentrations reported as calcium carbonate ranging from 29 to 49 mg/L. Concentrations of calcium, magnesium, chloride, and other dissolved solids ranged from 47 to 77 mg/L. Alkalinity of Lac Vieux Desert ranged from 27 to 38 mg/L.

 

Pervasive aquatic blooms, including a bloom noted during the September 2003 sampling, are apparently common in late summer. Biological productivity at Lac Vieux Desert does not appear to have changed appreciably between 1973 and 2004. In the current study, total phosphorus concentrations ranged from 0.01 to 0.064 mg/L and dissolved nitrite plus nitrate nitrogen concentrations ranged from at, or below detection limit to 0.052 mg/L. Overabundance of nutrients in Lac Vieux Desert, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus, could result in considerable degradation in lake-water quality.

 

The estimated water balance includes the following inputs from the surrounding watershed: direct precipitation (35 percent); runoff, composed of streamflow and overland flow (50 percent); and ground-water flow (15 percent). Outputs from Lac Vieux Desert include streamflow into the Wisconsin River (68 percent) and evaporation from the lake surface (32 percent). Seasonal regulation of Lac Vieux Desert outflow results in an artificially high lake stage throughout the year, except from late winter to very early spring, prior to snowmelt and runoff. Regulation of Lac Vieux Desert outflow causes Wisconsin River streamflow to be artificially low during spring and summer and artificially high in fall and winter.

 

Recent studies indicate that lake-level regulation over the past century may have affected wild rice growth and propagation in Lac Vieux Desert. As per licensing agreement between the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Wisconsin Valley Improvement Company (operators of the dam at the outlet), the maximum lake level of Lac Vieux Desert was lowered about 0.8 feet to investigate the relation between lake-level regulation and propagation of wild rice from 2003 through 2012. Recent plantings of wild rice by the Lac Vieux Desert Band have been successful, indicating that suitable habitat and hydrologic regime were present in 2004-05.


Citation:

Weaver, T.L., Neff, B.P., and Ellis, J.M., 2005, Water quality and hydrology of the Lac Vieux Desert Watershed, Gogebic County, Michigan, and Vilas County, Wisconsin, 2002-04, Date Posted: February 6, 2006: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2005-5237, 42 p.
[https://pubs.water.usgs.gov/SIR2005-5237]

Contents

Abstract

Introduction

Purpose and Scope

Previous Studies and Data-Collection Efforts

Description of the Study Area

Climate

Geologic and Hydrologic Setting

Glacial Sediments

Bedrock

Methods of Investigation

Water-Quality Sampling

Water-Quality Reporting Levels

Streamflow and Lake-Stage Measurement

Water Quality of Lac Vieux Desert Watershed

Effect of Stratification and Turnover on Water Quality of Lac Vieux Desert

Water Clarity

Nutrients and the Trophic State of Lac Vieux Desert

Field Water-Quality Parameters, Major Ions, Solids, Nutrients, and Hardness

Ammonia

Mercury

Invasive Species

Hydrology of Lac Vieux Desert Watershed

Tributary Streamflow

Misery Creek

Scaup Lake Outlet

Marsh Bay Creek

Lobischer Creek

Unnamed Tributary on South Side of Lac Vieux Desert

Factors Affecting Lake Stage

Water-Balance Components

Runoff

Precipitation

Ground Water

Evaporation

Lac Vieux Desert Stage and Outflow

Effects of Outflow Regulation

Hydrology

Ecology

Other Effects of Outflow Regulation

Summary and Conclusions

Acknowledgments

Selected References

 

Appendices

Appendix A. Field water-quality parameters, major elements, solids, hardness, and nutrients in Lac Vieux Desert, Gogebic County, Michigan, and Vilas County, Wisconsin

Appendix B. Daily mean streamflow for the Wisconsin River near Land O’Lakes, Wisconsin, from June 2002 through September 2004

Appendix C. Legal lake stage at Lac Vieux Desert, Gogebic County, Michigan, and Vilas County, Wisconsin

Figures

1-2. Maps showing:

1. Location of Lac Vieux Desert study area, Gogebic County, Michigan, and Vilas County, Wisconsin

2. Locations of Lac Vieux Desert watershed, other surface-water features, and selected Michigan and Wisconsin cities and villages

3. Photograph showing Lac Vieux Desert, Gogebic County, Michigan, and Vilas County, Wisconsin, looking east from dam site at the outlet along the south shore, May 2005 4

4-6. Maps showing:

4. Bathymetry of Lac Vieux Desert, Michigan and Wisconsin

5. Glacial geology of the Lac Vieux Desert watershed and surrounding area, Michigan and Wisconsin

6. Identification number and location of lake-stage and streamflow-gaging stations, miscellaneous streamflow measurement sites, and water-quality sampling sites in and around Lac Vieux Desert, Michigan and Wisconsin

7-9. Graphs showing:

7. Thermal stratification of Lac Vieux Desert, Michigan, at sampling site 3A, September 2002 and September 2003

8. Thermal stratification of Lac Vieux Desert, Wisconsin, at sampling site 5A, September 2002, September 2003, and August 2004

9. Dissolved-oxygen concentration and depth, Lac Vieux Desert, Wisconsin, at sampling site 5A, August 3, 2004

10-14. Photographs showing:

10. Misery Creek, Gogebic County, Michigan, looking upstream near site 05390064, summer 2004

11. Marsh Bay Creek, Gogebic County, Michigan, looking upstream at U.S. Forest Highway 3218, summer 2004

12. Marsh Bay Creek, Gogebic County, Michigan, looking upstream about 0.75-mile downstream of U.S. Forest Highway 3218, summer 2004

13. Lobischer Creek, Gogebic County, Michigan, looking upstream at U.S. Forest Highway 3218, summer 2004

14. Unnamed tributary on south side of Lac Vieux Desert, Vilas County, Wisconsin, looking upstream at South Shore Drive, May 2005

15-19. Graphs showing:

15. Estimated water input and output of Lac Vieux Desert, Michigan and Wisconsin, as a percentage of total water entering or leaving the lake

16. Observed monthly precipitation at Lac Vieux Desert, Michigan and Wisconsin, for 2002-03 compared with 30-year average monthly precipitation for the period 1971-2000

17. Mean daily streamflow of Wisconsin River at Lac Vieux Desert outlet and mean daily Lac Vieux Desert stage, Michigan and Wisconsin, June 2002 through September 2004

18. 10-day rolling mean Manistique River streamflow at outlet and mean Manistique Lake stage, Michigan, 1942-47

19. 10-day rolling mean Wisconsin River streamflow at outlet, calculated net basin supply, and mean daily Lac Vieux Desert stage, Michigan and Wisconsin, 2002-04

20-21. Aerial photographs showing:

20. The east part of Rice Bay, Lac Vieux Desert, Gogebic County, Michigan, looking east August 2005

21. The northwest part of Misery Bay, Lac Vieux Desert, Gogebic County, Michigan, looking northeast August 2005

Tables

1. Land use in the study area, Gogebic County, Michigan, and Vilas County, Wisconsin

2. Monthly precipitation recorded at Lac Vieux Desert, Wisconsin, in 2002-03, compared to 1971-2000 monthly mean precipitation

3. Monthly mean temperatures recorded at Eagle River, Wisconsin, in 2002-03, compared to 1971-2000 monthly mean temperatures

4. Sampling depth, transparency, and concentrations of total phosphorus and chlorophyll-a in Lac Vieux Desert, Michigan and Wisconsin

5. Carlson’s Trophic-State Index calculations for Secchi disk transparency, and concentrations of total phosphorus and chlorophyll-a in Lac Vieux Desert, Michigan and Wisconsin

6. Lake trophic states and classification ranges for Trophic-State Index, Secchi disk transparency, and concentrations of total phosphorus and chlorophyll-a for Michigan

7. Carlson’s Trophic-State Index calculations for Secchi disk transparency, and concentrations of total phosphorus and chlorophyll-a in Lac Vieux Desert, Michigan and Wisconsin, for samples collected by Wisconsin Valley Improvement Company, Michigan Departments of Natural Resources and Environmental Quality, and U.S. Geological Survey

8. U.S. Geological Survey National Water-Quality Laboratory lab codes, schedules, and respective analytes used for sampling Lac Vieux Desert, Michigan and Wisconsin, 2002-04

9. Sensitivity of lakes to acid rain; guidelines for Wisconsin

10. Concentrations of total and methyl mercury in Lac Vieux Desert, Michigan and Wisconsin

11. Flow measurements of streams tributarty to Lac Vieux Desert, Michigan and Wisconsin

12. Delineated areas of Lac Vieux Desert watershed, Michigan and Wisconsin

13. Magnitude of water-balance components and net basin supply to Lac Vieux Desert, Michigan and Wisconsin, During the study period (July 2002 through July 2004)

14. Gaged and ungaged areas of streams tributary to Lac Vieux Desert, Michigan and Wisconsin

15. Calculated Evaporation rates for May through October for lakes in northern Wisconsin

16. Acerage of wild rice growing in Lac Vieux Desert, Gogebic County, Michigan, 2000 through 2004

References

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 1996, Order issuing new license for Wisconsin Valley Improvement Company, Wisconsin River, Project No. 2113-022, dated July 18, 1996.

U.S. Forest Service, 2004, Lac Vieux Desert wild rice plan: Prepared by U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service in cooperation with nine other State and Federal Agencies and the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indian Tribe, Michigan, 9 p.

Wisconsin Valley Improvement Company, 1990a, An assessment of water level fluctuation effects on wild rice (Zizania sp.) in Lac Vieux Desert: Wisconsin Valley Improvement Company, Wausau, Wisconsin, 25 p., 2 app.


For further information, contact:

 

U.S. Geological Survey

Michigan Water Science Center

6520 Mercantile Way, Suite 5

Lansing, MI 48911-5991

mi_dc@usgs.gov

 

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