The best plans often go astray, Dean Steingraber, Waupaca County Highway Commissioner will tell you.
Steingraber planned to have new culverts in place on County Trunk X, to carry water from the Wolf River into the Mukwa Marsh, before school began this week.
“The work was to be done so it would not hinder school buses,” he said. For various reasons, some weather related, the plan has not panned out.
Weather is an increasing concern because recent rain is raising the water level in the Wolf, a normal fall occurrence.
This history has increased anxiety because removing the two smaller culverts and installing the new ones could be more difficult and take longer as the ideal time line evaporates with each rain.
The existing culverts were installed because of the 1979 flood in New London after County X was relocated from east of Big Eddy Road, and a serpentine route along the river’s south shoreline, and straightened to its present course.
A bridge, acting like an overflow outlet, was eliminated and the new road became a levee, restricting the river from spreading over a larger area because the Northport bridge impeded flow.
The new culverts have been assembled by county workers in the parking lot south of County X and the Wolf River Sturgeon Trail.
Steingraber said the larger culverts and spacing will increase the distance under the road and meets the federal standard of a span defining a bridge, making future work eligible for 90 percent federal funding. It also makes an option for a bridge more feasible.
The new culverts are 10 feet wide and four feet deep. The state Department of Resources approved placing them six inches deeper than the existing culverts.
Walleyes for Tomorrow donated $10,000 to the project for walleye spawning in the spring.
Tom King, a New London WT member and Sturgeon Trail advocate, said the larger culverts will increase flow through the marsh exiting down river, enhancing the spawning by carrying fry that hatch to the river.
Walleyes for Tomorrow is one of many conservation organizations helping establish the Sturgeon Trail along the south shore of the river from Big Eddy Road to the lot where the new culverts are stored.
Steingraber said the trail will be restored, including the surfaced walk over the culverts, when County X is resurfaced. He said similar rock will be used so sturgeon spawning should not be affected.
Wisconsin fisheries director Ron Bruch, who managed the lake sturgeon program from 1986-2010, sees a need to improve “spawning rock” that has deteriorated along segments of the trail.
Bruch made the assessment this spring while helping with the annual sturgeon studies dating back prior to 1965, when his predecessor Dan Folz, then stationed in the basement of the old Waupaca County Courthouse, was experimenting on successfully raising sturgeon under hatchery conditions.
This spring’s spawning season was the largest I have observed in my 50 years of writing about it.
Sturgeon Trail supporters have discussed other projects, including adding fishing piers, improvements to the marsh walk – with information kiosks, and enhancing the marsh so more of its natural inhabitants can be observed.
Jim Bricco said, “The trail always seems busy with people on it. It is more than a fishing area, although there always seems several of the (fishing piers) are in use most days.”
Bricco, who lived along the river for many years, said he enjoys the calming effect of the river. “I find it peaceful.” Bricco said, one of his favorite times is sitting and listening to the growing chorus of frogs as the sun sets.