Bacteria, excessive sediment, low flows, more contribute to Red River impairments between Georgetown, Breckenridge

Contact: Dan Olson, 218-846-8108

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and local watershed partners recommend widespread implementation of practices to improve fish habitat and reduce erosion, E. coli bacteria and excessive sediments in the Upper Red River Watershed according to recent reports. These draft reports are available for comment through Aug. 23.

Extensive monitoring and assessment of conditions in the Red River and its tributaries in the region between Georgetown and Breckenridge, including Moorhead, found excessive levels of E. coli bacteria and total suspended solids (mainly soil deposited by field runoff and wind and streambank erosion that cloud the water). Impairments to fish and aquatic insect communities, as well as recreation such as fishing and swimming were also found throughout the watershed.

Water quality in the watershed is generally poor, reflecting intensely cultivated land use, changes to streams to increase drainage, intensive drainage, and a consistent lack of vegetated buffers around many wetlands and streams. Conditions affecting fish and aquatic insect populations include barriers to migration such as culverts and control structures, and loss of consistent stream base flows in the summer and fall, a common condition in highly drained agricultural areas.

The draft Upper Red River Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and Upper Red River Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS) reports recommend actions that can correct existing problems and prevent new ones, including field windbreaks, additional buffers, cover crops/perennial vegetation, culvert resizing/replacement and removal of barriers to fish migration.

The TMDL report quantifies the pollutant levels, identifies pollution sources, and proposes ways to return water quality to an acceptable level.

The WRAPS report identifies impaired water bodies and those in need of protection, and identifies the actions needed to achieve and maintain water quality.

The reports are available on the MPCA'S Upper Red River webpage. Comments on the draft reports should be sent to Jim Courneya, 714 Lake Ave., Suite 220, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501 or by email at jim.courneya@state.mn.us. Comments must be received by Aug. 23, 2017.

Written comments must include a statement of your interest in the report, a statement of the action you wish the MPCA to take, including specific references to sections of the draft report you believe should be changed, and specific reasons for your position.
The draft WRAPS report is part of the state’s watershed approach — a holistic way of gauging the health of streams and lakes and developing strategies to restore or protect their water quality. Many partners that helped develop the draft report include the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District and other local organizations.