The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Improvements made to Little Niagara

The Little Niagara has experienced major construction and has been enhanced and reverted back to its natural state.

According to sustainability fellow James Boulter, changes to the Little Niagara include a new route, addition of rock armor on the banks and bottom of the river to increase flow and decrease erosion and diverting storm drainage from the campus mall area. The construction was also designed to make the Little Niagara more accessible to students on campus.
“The change is local but the impact will be amplified,” Boulter said.
The river’s main purposes are to serve as a coldwater spring that flows into the Chippewa, improve biodiversity and create a healthier fish population.

Lynn Peterson, Assistant Director for Operations in Facilities Management, said the layout of the stream was designed to create a cooler, faster-flowing, more oxygenated stream that can increase diversity.
“They added rock to armor the bank to keep the water within a certain narrow course. Keeping the river cold means keeping it moving fast,” Peterson said. “You need to keep the water moving fast because when it slows up, it absorbs the air temperature.”

Peterson worked in collaboration with John Sours of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to design the layout to
increase the possibility of introducing fish into the Little Niagara. Peterson said introducing fish into the river could happen in the future, but with storm runoff being drained into the Little Niagara, that is not an option at this point.

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“There is a concern that any trout they would plant into it would not survive the storm events that we have,”
Peterson said. “It isn’t the fact that the river itself couldn’t handle it but temperature comes up so quickly.”

Stormwater and runoff from the new education building and new W.R. Davies Center have been redirected away from the river, but not all stormwater, according to Peterson. She said each step taken will be an improvement.

“Specifically due to Dr. B, the stormwater surrounding the new education building has been re-directed to the Chippewa, a river that can handle the heat,” Peterson said.

What has been done to the river is a redesign to make the river flow more naturally and allow it to be a habitat again.
“The ripples and the shallow ripples that get oxygen back into the water … we have a couple of falls and plunge pools that also add oxygen, provide habitat,” Peterson said. “Every time the stream bends a little bit, it creates new environments. It’s all about the diversity.”

To increase diversity with the river and animals, Peterson said a vast array of native plants are being planted. The plants are going to serve as a hold to keep the banks strong.

The restoration was initially set to cost $144,000 and was completely funded by the Facilities Management, Peterson said.

Another reason for the restoration of the river is to make it a more positive part of campus that students and faculty can enjoy and use, Peterson said.

Senior Abby Amundson took courses at UW-Eau Claire this past summer and watched the reconstruction of the Little Niagara. Amundson said that having a river on campus gives the campus a unique look. “I think having the Little Niagara is something more than just a tiny stream,” said Amundson. “It makes the campus a whole lot prettier and really fits in with the new Davies.”

Peterson said when the initial plans were being discussed they collaborated with students and faculty to make sure it would develop into not only a place where students can hang out, but a place that can be used for for classes as well.

“It has been recreated as a central feature of campus,” Boulter said. “It is a centerpiece, a showpiece. Students will enjoy the river, instead of it being a barrier. It will be used for classes and makes campus
more beautiful.”

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Improvements made to Little Niagara