The Mississippi River – Grand Rapids watershed in northern Minnesota has very good overall water quality, but forest protection is critical to preserving it, according to new draft reports released by the MPCA.
The watershed drains more than 1.3 million acres of land from the Laurentian Continental divide to the Mississippi River near Palisade. It contains almost 2,000 miles of streams and 625 lakes larger than 10 acres. It includes the cities of Grand Rapids, Nashwauk, Coleraine, Hill City, McGregor, Remer, and Cromwell. It is also home to unique plant and animal species such as wild rice and trout, along with a wealth of healthy forests.
The MPCA assessed 73 streams in the watershed on whether they met state water quality standards for aquatic life and recreation. Only six streams had high levels of bacteria that can make water unsafe for recreation, and 17 did not meet expectations for fish and bugs. In addition, the MPCA studied dozens of lakes and found that most meet the standards.
“This watershed is an important source of drinking water for millions of people downstream,” said Katrina Kessler, MPCA’s assistant commissioner of water. “This region has an abundance of beautiful lakes that make it an important recreational destination.”
The MPCA identified several stressors to aquatic life in the watershed, including increased erosion, degradation of habitat by sedimentation and historical ditching, which causes streams to suffer from low levels of dissolved oxygen. The most likely causes of bacteria impairments in the watershed are wildlife and livestock feces, along with failing septic systems.
The MPCA is seeking public comments on the draft reports through Aug. 14. The first report, known as a total maximum daily load, establishes the amount of each pollutant that a water body can accept and still meet water quality standards. The TMDL study addressed phosphorus and bacteria impairments in seven lakes and six streams.
The second report, a watershed restoration and protection strategy (WRAPS), is required by the state Clean Water Legacy Act and uses the TMDL, monitoring results and other information to develop strategies for addressing all pollution sources in the watershed. In the WRAPS report, the MPCA identified several strategies that not only restore impaired waters but also protect the unimpaired waters from degradation:
The draft reports are available on the MPCA’s Mississippi River-Grand Rapids watershed webpage. Email or mail comments in writing to Anna Bosch, MPCA, 7678 College Road, Baxter, MN, 56425 by 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 14. Contact Anna (218-316-3929, 800-657-3864) with questions.
Written comments must include a statement of the respondent’s interest in the report, and the action requested of the MPCA, including specific changes to sections of the draft report and the reasons for making those changes.
Forest preservation critical to Mississippi River-Grand Rapids watershed
Thursday, August 8, 2019