Good news, better news in Lake Superior-North watershed draft reports

Contact:  Anne Perry Moore, 218-302-6605

Only one of 67 streams and 152 lakes evaluated for water quality standards along Lake Superior’s far North Shore does not meet the state’s criteria, according to two Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) draft reports open for public comment through July 19, 2018.

The Flute Reed River’s sediment levels are higher than allowed under state standards and are impacting clear water and clean gravel stream habitat for trout. The sediment impairs the trout’s ability to capture food and lay eggs, potentially leading to a population decline. For humans, too much sediment reduces the enjoyment for swimming and other aquatic recreation.

The Poplar River, previously listed as impaired due to excessive sediment, is greatly improved after a decade of local landowners’ efforts to tackle stormwater runoff, erosion, and slumping bluffs. As a result, the MPCA is proposing to remove its impaired status.

Four lakes, Deeryard, Poplar, Devil Track and Tom, are showing downward trends in transparency (cloudy water conditions) but still meet state standards. The remaining assessed water bodies meet all criteria for healthy conditions and are the focus of protection efforts. 

Open for comment are the Total Maximum Daily Load study and the Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies (WRAPS) report. They are companion documents that quantify pollutant levels, identify pollution sources, propose ways to return water quality to an acceptable level and describe protection strategies to ensure continued high quality water resources.

A wide array of stakeholders concerned about watershed resources, and the Cook and Lake County Soil and Water Conservation Districts, have recommended several restoration and protection actions in the more-developed areas within the watershed. These include culvert inventories and replacement, septic system assessments, replacements and improved management, stream access improvements, streambank and lakeshore buffer improvements, and natural stream channel restoration and stabilizations. Other recommendations include improved forestry management and stormwater management, ordinance reviews and revisions, aquatic invasive species investigations and management, and low impact development design to maintain natural hydrology.

The two draft reports are available on the MPCA’s Lake Superior - North watershed webpage or at MPCA’s Duluth office, 525 Lake Avenue South, Suite 400. Written comments should be submitted by 4:30 p.m. on July 19, 2018 to Karen Evens, MPCA, 525 Lake Avenue South, Suite 400, Duluth, MN 55802, or by email to karen.evens@state.mn.us. No comments will be accepted by telephone. However, if you need further assistance or clarification, contact Evens at 218-302-6644.

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.