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Looking out for stranded organisms during Wausau’s river drawdown

WAUSAU, Wis. (WAOW) — Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) and GAI Consultants searched the drawn-down shores and sand bars of the Wisconsin River for stranded organisms Thursday.

“Be it a mussel species, fish species, even the mud puppy species,” explained Jamie Nuthals, the Principal Environment Consultant for WPS.

After finding those stranded organisms, the group placed them in deeper water. There, the organisms will be safer and able to grow. So far, consultants have found thirteen mussel species.

Laura Sass of GAI Consultants said they even had an unexpected find with the mussels.

“One of the species that we found that we got excited about was the Lilliput, which had not been previously documented this far upstream in the river,” said Sass.

Officials say they’re out doing the work primarily at sand bars. They are required to wear life jackets, safety vests and hard hats. They ask others to make a phone call if they see a potentially stranded organism.

“Well, if you do see a stranded organism you can currently reach out to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources,” said Jamie Nuthals. “And I don’t think there would necessarily be an issue with helping that into the reservoir itself. So kind of like we’re doing here.”

Nuthals added that any time the city conducts a drawdown, they work with consultants to look out for and save stranded organisms. Laura Sass says their work helps keep the river healthy.

“One of the most important reasons is that we care about the species,” said Sass. “And we don’t want them to stay stranded — especially mussels. If they run out of water, they get too hot, they’ll die and then they’re not available to reproduce and continue their existence.”

Curtis Aderholdt

A WAOW photo journalist since December 2014.

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