Duluth’s urban streams feature trout, pollution and rays of hope

Contact: Anne Perry Moore, 218-302-6605

Few U.S. urban areas can boast of having anything close to Duluth’s 16 state-designated trout streams and 43 named streams within the city’s boundaries. Unfortunately, urban streams often suffer predictable consequences: 11 of Duluth’s trout streams are impaired by human-related activities. These impairments are the focus of two Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) draft reports open for public comment from March 19 through April 18, 2018.

The reports are the Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) study and the Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies (WRAPS) report. They are companion documents that quantify pollutant levels, identify pollution sources, and propose ways to return water quality to an acceptable level.

The WRAPS Report summarizes information, tools and stakeholder input that can be used by local governments, landowners and others to decide on the best strategies and most effective places for those strategies to protect and restore water quality.

The watershed’s problems are related to a highly-developed environment that includes impermeable roofs, paved streets, and parking lots. As a result, the collective runoff generates water temperatures too warm for cold-water fish, E.coli bacteria, sediment, stormwater and road salt. Other streams’ fates include passage through concrete culverts, manmade ditches or being buried underground.

Some have more favorable conditions. Most Duluth-area trout streams start out in natural, nearly flat wetland areas before rapidly descending rocky cliffs into the St. Louis River and Lake Superior. Several manage remarkably well and still support native populations of fish species.

The MPCA and local partners assessed Duluth’s urban streams and lakes as part of the state’s watershed approach. This effort monitors water quality, conducts watershed analyses, encourages civic engagement, planning, implementation, and effectiveness evaluations to help determine the health of the state’s 80 major watersheds.

The Duluth Urban Area Streams Watershed designation was created to address the unique combination of a significant metropolitan area split by the Lake Superior-South and St. Louis River watersheds.

The two Duluth Urban Area Streams Watershed draft reports are available on the MPCA’s Duluth Urban Area Streams Watershed webpage or at MPCA’s Duluth office, 525 Lake Avenue South, Suite 400. Written comments should be submitted between March 19 and April 18, 2018 to Brian Fredrickson, MPCA, 525 Lake Avenue South, Suite 400, Duluth, MN 55802, or by email to brian.fredrickson@state.mn.us. No comments will be accepted by telephone. However, if you need further assistance or clarification, contact Fredrickson at 218-302-6604.

Written comments must include a statement of your interest in the draft TMDL or WRAPS report, a statement of the action you wish the MPCA to take, including specific references to sections of the draft TMDL or WRAPS reports you believe should be changed, and, specific reasons supporting your position.

After receiving public comments, the MPCA will revise the draft reports and submit them to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for finalization. The reports will form the basis for projects and watershed implementation strategies that will follow.