For more than a decade, the Poplar River Management Board, community groups, and local and state partners tackled stormwater runoff, streambank erosion, and slumping bluffs and won. The Poplar River is now meeting water quality standards for total suspended sediment and will be taken off the state’s “impaired waters” list.
Not only that, it also shows healthy habitat conditions that can support — and sustain — a wide diversity of fish and bug populations.
The collaborators conducted intensive and focused diagnostic studies between 2007 and 2012. And in 2008, they added large-scale, targeted restoration projects that continue today.
Traditional as well as untested projects (including re-meandering a stream away from a “mega-slumping” hillside) focused on the lower watershed’s highly erodible soils and land uses. The impressive and dramatic result? A 300-ton reduction in the average sediment load to the river every year from 2000 to 2010. Today, concentrations of total suspended sediment are within the state standard 92% of the time.
When the MPCA listed the river as impaired in 2004, a required study determined the maximum daily amount of sediment the river could accept and still meet water quality standards. In 2009, the MPCA added the Poplar to its Watershed Pollutant Load Monitoring Network which created a continuous sampling program for stream flow and water quality data. This proved to be invaluable for comparing pre- and post-project records of the river’s condition and improvements.
This long-term monitoring program is a partnership between the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and MPCA with citizen support from the Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment fund.
The Poplar River is a water quality success story that demonstrates the cumulative power of stewards working together and ultimately making a real difference.