The actual in-the-field activities of the Upper Rock River Water Quality Project, that is collaboration between the US Fish and Wildlife Service Horicon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge, the Fond du Lac County Land and Water Conservation Department (LWCD), and the Dodge County Land and Water Conservation Department (LWCD), began in early August 2006. Its beginnings go back prior to that in the development of the Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Assessment published by the US Fish and Wildlife Service for the Horicon Marsh NWR in August, 2006. Proposed program highlights for the Horicon Marsh NWR identify as #4 being “Increased conservation projects with landowners in the Upper Rock River Watershed” to inform landowners and the public of the critical issue of soil erosion and resulting sedimentation and contaminants from impacting the Horicon Marsh NWR. At that time, management of the Horicon Marsh NWR and staff of the Fond du Lac County LWCD began conversations on methods in carrying out this activity. Those conversations lead to the start of what is known as the Upper Rock River Watershed Water Quality Project to carry out this critical need for future overall management of the Horicon Marsh NWR.
The initial area of concern was a portion of the Upper Rock River watershed in Fond du Lac County, Ladoga Creek and Willow Creek. Within four months of the start, the planning area was expanded to include the entire West Branch, South Branch and Oak Center Creek areas of the entire watershed of the Upper Rock River in Fond du Lac County.
In mid-2007, the possibility of further expansion of the project planning area south into Dodge County, Plum Creek and Mill Creek Watersheds, was discussed with the Dodge County LWCD. That area was added to the overall project area in late 2007, as was the area east of the Horicon Marsh NWR. This then began a complete watershed planning area approach involving the federal partners for Fish and Wildlife staff, counties, Wisconsin DNR and non-profit groups to encourage understanding and action of private landowners in the critical issues of land use as identified in the original draft of the Horicon Marsh NWR comprehensive conservation plan. This overall watershed approach is continuing today.