If you didn’t know where Badfish Creek was before, you will now. The 22-mile-long stream is crossed by 12 rural bridges, but prior to 2009, only the sign by Cooksville identified the waterway. Now, thanks to Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) and Town of Dunkirk resident Jim Danky, each and every bridge is marked with an official “Badfish Creek” sign.

Danky, a member of the Friends of Badfish Creek Watershed (FBCW), proposed the sign project to the watershed group as a way to raise awareness of the creek. Although paddlers have known and loved this lively little stream for years, FBCW agreed that helping the Badfish is better accomplished with widespread public support, and support is more likely if more folks know where the creek runs.

As a result, in 2009, the state DOT installed signs on Hwy. 138 west of Stoughton and on Hwy. 59 east of Cooksville, including a sign on a Badfish tributary, Spring Creek.

However, Dane and Rock counties and the townships (Rutland and Dunn in Dane; Union and Porter in Rock) through which the creek flows, said they lacked the funds for signs. That’s when FBCW met with Mike Simon and David Taylor of MMSD, who agreed to fund the project. By the end of June 2010 the signs will all be in place. The Badfish is no longer anonymous.

For FBCW to partner with MMSD was a logical step. Although Badfish Creek is a natural stream, about half of its current flow is treated effluent from MMSD’s Nine Springs Wastewater Treatment Plant. That’s 40 million gallons per day, to be exact.

A stream that is half effluent may sound unsettling, but MMSD has a record of steadily improving its environmental impact. The plant’s use of ultraviolet disinfection treatment – a change made in 1986 – eliminated chlorine and its toxic byproducts from the stream and reduced suspended solids from 25 parts to 5 parts per million. This technology rendered the water safe for recreational uses like canoeing and fishing. In 1998, MMSD installed biological filters to reduce nutrient levels, leading to a 90 percent reduction in phosphorus and a clearer stream.

Proposed DNR rules may soon require even greater reductions. Jon Schellpfeffer, MMSD Chief Engineer and Director, said new filters will be expensive enough to possibly outweigh perceived improvements in stream clarity. Instead, he said the plant may use trades – an example is giving funds for stream improvements to the Dane County Land Conservation office – to compensate for not installing the filters. He added that “prescription drugs are the next big challenge, in the industry as a whole as well as on the Badfish.”

Schellpfeffer said that MMSD research biologist Jeffrey Steven monitors the Badfish for environmental health indicators like water quality and macroinvertebrate and fish populations. Schellpfeffer said that Steven’s fish samples regularly include brown trout as well as about 41 other fish species. He added that one of those “other species” is the northern hogsucker, a famously pollution-intolerant fish.

In their quest to help their favorite little stream, FBCW doesn’t just put up signs, of course. The group monitors water quality at Riley Road (Town of Porter, Rock County) and works on several ongoing watershed projects. Since 2009, they have been partnering with the River Alliance of Wisconsin and the DNR’s Aquatic Invasive Species grant program to eradicate invasive Japanese Knotweed at the Riley Road bridge.

With the support of a Dane County Environmental Council grant, they are removing invasive Wild Parsnip from an area along Old Stone Road in the Badfish Creek Wildlife Area. Volunteers are welcome to contact Lynne Diebel, 873-7910, or e-mail lsdiebel@gmail.com.

Many local canoeists and kayakers know the Badfish is a great paddling stream. It’s also a favorite of the UW-Madison Hoofers Club, the Mad City Paddlers and the Four Lakes Sierra Club River Touring Section. And the Prairie State Canoeists from Illinois schedule at least one Badfish trip each year.

Public invited to paddle the Badfish

The Friends of Badfish Creek Watershed invite the public to join their annual canoe outing and picnic, held this year on Saturday, June 12. The paddling adventure – from Casey Road on the Badfish to Fulton Park on the Yahara River – will conclude with a BYO brown bag picnic lunch in the park. Last year’s event drew 25 paddlers. See  www.friendsofbadfishcreekwatershed.ning.com for more information. Contact Lynne Diebel,  lsdiebel@gmail.com, by June 11 to sign up.

Recommended for you