The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), the Department of Agriculture (MDA), and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are launching a new public awareness campaign in May to help protect water and prevent fish kills in southern Minnesota by highlighting best management practices for reducing polluted runoff from agricultural lands. The campaign, which aims to educate residents and agricultural landowners, is prompted by recent incidents of fish kills in trout streams.
The geography of southeast Minnesota makes the region especially vulnerable to fish kills from polluted runoff into lakes and streams. Understanding the risk factors, such as applying chemicals and manure to lands too close to rain events, may help residents take proactive measures to minimize runoff, which maximizes soil value and reduces fish kill risk.
Minnesota’s weather is getting warmer and wetter, and strong storms following long dry periods can especially increase the risk for fish kills in streams. Weather transitions from extreme wet to dry are also happening more quickly and more frequently, making the timing of manure applications critical to prevent rain from washing away valuable nutrients and polluting downstream waters.
“Minnesotans treasure our waterways and protecting these vital resources requires collaboration among numerous partners — from residents and agricultural landowners to local partners and state agencies,” said Dana Vanderbosch, MPCA assistant commissioner. “This campaign builds on investments state agencies have been making for numerous years to increase the use of best management practices that prevent runoff and protect our lakes, streams, private wells, and our fish.”
The campaign message encourages landowners to:
- Avoid applying chemicals and manure to lawns and fields when rain is forecast.
- Stay clear of steep slopes and surface water locations.
- Consult the University of Minnesota Extension’s manure management website to calculate best application rates for fields.
The public awareness campaign includes direct mail to agricultural landowners, radio spots, and digital media efforts to reach residents from eight counties in southeast Minnesota (Dodge, Fillmore, Goodhue, Houston, Olmsted, Rice, Wabasha, and Winona counties). This campaign is funded by the Clean Water Fund which enables the protection and restoration of Minnesota’s waters. Promotional support from water and agricultural partners will also extend the campaign efforts.
“Smart application of manure, pesticides, and fertilizers is critical to maximize their value and increase crop productivity,” said Peder Kjeseth, MDA assistant commissioner. Kjeseth noted that when manure or pesticides are applied improperly or too close to rain events, potential runoff may impact water quality and could contribute to fish kills.
The most important message for all residents is to call the Minnesota Duty Officer immediately at 1-800-422-0798 to report any spill, runoff, or fish kill. Fish kills can be caused by disease, changes in water quality, weather, water temperatures, water levels, and external sources, such as polluted runoff. Reporting fish kills promptly is the key to identifying the specific cause before evidence of external sources can wash away. The DNR serves as the lead agency on fish kill investigations until a discharge/release has been identified as the cause.
This campaign is one of several efforts Minnesota’s state agencies are undertaking to reduce pollution from runoff. An interagency team is also reviewing the investigation and response guidance for fish kills.
Everyone has a role to play to reduce runoff into lakes, streams, and groundwater to maximize soil and crop quality and protect fish and drinking water. To learn more, or download a toolkit to help reduce runoff, visit www.pca.state.mn.us/fishkills.