A Coldwater Treasure
Flowing through 25 miles of wetland, prairie and a rugged limestone canyon, the Kinnickinnic River is arguably the best trout stream in the Midwest. Although it is located within an hour's drive of 3 million people, the river flows clear and cold all the way to its confluence with the St. Croix. Trumpeter swans build their nests on muskrat hummocks in the headwater springs, and deer, fisher and the occasional black bear roam the gorge of the lower river, uncrossed by bridges for 7 miles.
The river is protected by public land and easements for much of its length, but it is impaired for two miles in the City of River Falls. In pre-settlement days, this was the most scenic stretch of the Kinni, boasting two waterfalls that gave the city its name. Those falls were dammed in the early 1900s. Monitoring efforts begun by TU in the 1990s showed that the dams raise the summer temperature of the lower river by up to 5°F. The impoundments are choked with sediment and support little wildlife or recreation.
A Once in a Generation Opportunity
In 2019, the River Falls City Council passed a resolution to remove the Powell Dam in 2026, followed by the Junction Falls Dam in 2035-40. A non-profit organization, the Kinni Corridor Collaborative (KinniCC), was formed to bring together the technical and financial resources needed to remove the dams and restore the river.
On June 30, 2020, a major flood severely damaged the Powell Falls dam. The City of River Falls (CRF) drew down the water in the Lake Louise impoundment, and accelerated the dam removal schedule to 2022-23. In February 2022, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved delicensing of the dam.
Due in part to a strong lobbying effort by Trout Unlimited, the Wisconsin State Legislature increased funding for the DNR's dam removal fund in 2020. The Powell Dam was one of the first beneficiaries of the expanded funding: CRF was awarded the maximum grant of $1 million from this fund in June of 2022.
In November 2022, CRF voted to approve a contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a feasibility study for the removal of both the Powell and Junction Falls Dams, along with full ecological restoration of the river corridor. This could result in up to $10 million in federal funding for the Kinni, and speed up full restoration of the river by a decade.
Your support is critical
Our chapter has a longstanding love affair with the Kinni. In their authoritative 1995 guidebook Wisconsin and Minnesota Trout Streams, TCTU members Jim Humphrey and Bill Shogren wrote: "We'll give two hours of our lives, anytime, to fish our respective 100 yards of the Kinnickinnic on a sultry summer evening". A member survey last year showed that our members fish in Western Wisconsin, including the Kinni and the Rush River, more often than anywhere else.
In 2020, TCTU contributed $7,500 to assist the Kinnickinnic River Land Trust with the purchase of The Community Forest, a key 40-acre parcel that opened new public access to the lower Kinni. Dam removal will help keep these waters cool and healthy for generations to come. Public funding will pay for the lion's share of the project, but private donations are needed to match public funds and pay for some portions of the project for which public funding is unavailable.
TCTU is partnering with a constellation of organizations to raise these funds, including our sister chapter KIAP-TU-WISH. As of Dec 1, 2022, TCTU members and supporters have donated $29,000, matched by $15,000 from our chapter account, for a total of $44,000. This has had a tremendous impact on our ability to attract public funding. Please Donate!