Statewide efforts to check the health of lakes and streams are coming to fruition this year with “prescriptions” for healthy waters expected in more than two dozen watersheds.
“Our crews and local partners have been taking thousands of water samples, wading into streams across Minnesota to study fish and other creatures, and crunching far more data than ever before. We are building a comprehensive look of water quality across our state,” said Rebecca Flood, assistant commissioner for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).
“This year we will turn the corner on checking the health of nearly all 80 watersheds. With local partners and citizens, we will also have prescriptions to restore and protect our waters in half those watersheds, with the rest slated for completion soon.”
Starting in 2008 with funding from the Legacy Amendment, the MPCA started a holistic approach to measure the health of the state’s 80 major watersheds. This watershed approach greatly accelerated the state’s assessment of lakes and streams while saving money, compared to the previous approach of studying one lake and one stream section at a time. It also puts focus on protecting healthy waters, a critical component missing from the previous approach of focusing only on impaired waters.
This watershed approach consists of four main steps on a 10-year cycle:
- Intensive water monitoring and assessment to see if major rivers and lakes meet water quality standards
- Identifying conditions that stress fish and bugs as well as healthy conditions that foster them
- Developing Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies (WRAPS)
- Implementing changes to restore and protect waters through local water plans
Local partners, such as watershed partnerships and conservation districts, usually play a major role with the MPCA in the first three steps. They take the lead in the last step – implementation. Local partners and the MPCA seek input from citizens, landowners and others throughout the process. Together, the develop strategies based on local data and sound science that can lead to focused action to protect and restore Minnesota waters into the future.
Currently, WRAPS for the Mustinka River in the northwest and the Root River in the southeast are on public notice, with the Cannon River WRAPS scheduled for public comment next week. Almost 25 more are on track for completion this year. That will bring the total to 40 or half of Minnesota’s watersheds, with more following each year.
The following WRAPS have been through the public comment period and received approval by the MPCA:
- Crow Wing River watershed and WRAPS report
- Goose Creek watershed and WRAPS report
- Le Sueur River watershed and WRAPS report
- Lower Mississippi River Watershed Management Organization and WRAPS report
- Mississippi River – Lake Pepin watershed and WRAPS report
- Mississippi River – St. Cloud watershed and WRAPS report
- North Fork Crow River watershed and WRAPS report
- Pomme de Terre watershed and WRAPS report
- Sauk River watershed and WRAPS report
- Snake River watershed and WRAPS report
- Sunrise River watershed and WRAPS report
- Vermillion River watershed and WRAPS report