Land stewardship changes could spark water quality improvements in Lower Red

Contact: Dan Olson, 218-846-8108

Implementing voluntary land use management practices would reduce water pollution in the Lower Red River Watershed according to two draft studies by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and local watershed partners. The MPCA invites comments on the studies through Sept. 12.

Local partners include the Kittson, Marshall, and Roseau Soil and Water Conservation Districts and the Two Rivers, Joe River, and Middle-Snake-Tamarac Rivers Watershed Districts.

Excessive levels of bacteria, sediment, a pesticide called chlorpyrifos, and chloride, along with stressors causing poor fish and aquatic insect communities, contribute to impairments in this northwest Minnesota watershed. The stressors that negatively impact some fish and aquatic insect communities include barriers to fish passage, altered stream flows, lack of physical habitat, high levels of suspended sediment, and low dissolved oxygen.

The reports also recommend implementation of practices to protect waters currently in good condition.

People have made extensive changes to promote water drainage in order to facilitate crop production. These changes include straightening streams and installing drainage ditches. The changes have also resulted in negative impacts to water quality, stream habitat, and fish and aquatic insect communities.  Water-based recreation is impaired at times by excessive bacteria levels.

To bring about significant water quality improvement, the studies recommend widespread changes in land use and agricultural practices. These voluntary actions, coupled with increased public understanding and support, need to occur because the vast majority of land is privately owned and used for agriculture. While landowners in the Lower Red River Watershed have long been engaged in good land stewardship practices, the MPCA and its partners recommend they continue to build upon best management practices known to improve water quality. The agency and its partners also recommend that all Minnesotans take steps to improve public understanding and interest in protecting water quality.

Open for comment are the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) 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.

The draft Lower Red River of the North TMDL and WRAPS reports recommend restoring stream reaches to more natural meandering; creating water impoundments, which can reduce flooding, support stream flow, and improve water quality; taking highly erodible areas out of production; and adding buffers, cover crops and perennial vegetation.

The documents are available on the MPCA's Lower Red River/Red River of the North Watershed webpage. The reports may also be reviewed at the MPCA Detroit Lakes office at 714 Lake Ave.

Comments on the draft reports should be sent to Danielle Kvasager, 714 Lake Avenue, Suite 220, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota 56501; or by email, danielle.kvasager@state.mn.us. For more information, call her at 218-846-8117. Comments must be received by 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 12.

Written comments must include a statement of your interest in the report (specify which report, WRAPS or TMDL), 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.