Contact: Anne Perry Moore, (218) 723-2356
All MPCA staff, toll-free and TDD: (800) 657-3864
Duluth, Minn. -- A new Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) water quality report on the lower Little Fork River watershed near International Falls, Minn. suggests logging practices of 80 years ago could be the cause of the river's polluted water.
Jesse Anderson, MPCA research scientist and one of the authors of "Effect of Historical Logging on Geomorphology, Hydrology and Water Quality in the Little Fork Watershed," said historical logging practices changed the landscape and the river's water quantity. "We based our conclusion on scientific water quantity data collected in the watershed by the U.S. Geological Survey from the early 1900s to the present," Anderson said. "Logging allowed more water to flow off the land into the river, especially during spring snowmelt. As a result, the riverbanks eroded, water clarity decreased and now a portion of the river does not meet state water quality standards. The river has yet to recover from these impacts."
In 2004, MPCA staff decided to start a long-term data collection process to better understand the river's current water quality conditions. An interagency workgroup of local, county, state, tribal and Canadian water researchers are now studying the 160-mile long river and determine the pollutants' cause or causes. The group will conduct more detailed monitoring during the next few years.
A 21-mile river segment between the town of Littlefork and the Rainy River was added to the state's impaired waters list for excessive turbidity in 2006. Once water bodies are added to this list, a two-to-four year research and public input process begins. MPCA scientists expect to begin developing a pollutant-reduction plan to help the impaired Little Fork River section meet state water quality standards in 2010.
Throughout the process, the scientists will also try to determine why historical logging activities did not have the same effect on the adjacent Big Fork River's water quality.
As required by the federal Clean Water Act, the MPCA must assess all waters of the state to determine whether they meet state water quality standards. Since the MPCA published the first impaired waters list in 1992, water quality staff have monitored about 16 percent of the state's lakes and 10 percent of its rivers. Of the assessed water bodies, about 40 percent are impaired due to one or more conventional pollutants. These pollutants, which harm fish and waterfowl habitats as well as reduce Minnesotans' recreational enjoyment, include cloudy water due to eroding riverbanks, high nutrients and/or excess sediment levels. Minnesota's 2006 impaired waters list shows 2,250 impairments on 284 rivers and 1,013 lakes (a water body may have more than one impairment).
Minnesota's rivers, streams and lakes are a valuable resource for the state. Not only do they provide great natural beauty, they supply the water necessary for recreation, industry, agriculture and aquatic life. For more information about the agency's efforts to protect state waters, visit www.pca.state.mn.us/water/tmdl/index.html. For a copy of the logging report, visit www.pca.state.mn.us/publications/wq-s1-04.pdf or contact Jesse Anderson at (218) 529-6218 or (800) 657-3864.