More water-protection practices needed to restore Wapsipinicon River in southeast Minnesota

Contact: Cathy Malakowsky, 507-206-2608

More practices to prevent manure runoff and other problems are needed in the Upper Wapsipinicon River Watershed in order to reduce bacteria levels in the river, according to new studies released by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). Only a small portion of this watershed is located in Minnesota – 13 square miles in Mower County – with the majority in Iowa. The MPCA studies address only the Minnesota portion of the watershed, which is home to the river’s headwaters.

Water monitoring shows bacteria levels in one section of the river are too high at times to meet the water quality standard for swimming and other aquatic recreation. In addition, several factors, such as nitrogen levels, are negatively affecting the fish and bug populations. The affected river segment has been added to the state’s impaired waters list, which is an inventory of bodies of water that don’t meet water quality standards.

The MPCA has completed two studies for the watershed. The total maximum daily load (TMDL) study identified the waters that don’t meet water quality standards, the sources of pollution, and how much pollution reduction is needed to meet water quality standards. The watershed restoration and protection strategy (WRAPS) report recommends ways to protect waters in good condition and improve impaired waters.

Landowners and local partners have engaged in good land stewardship practices and water quality improvement projects in the watershed. The MPCA is recommending further efforts, including:

  • Agricultural runoff controls such as conservation tillage and cover crops
  • Feedlot runoff controls
  • Septic system improvements
  • Pasture management
  • Buffers and filter strips
  • Improved fertilizer management

The MPCA is asking for public comments on the two reports, which are available on the MPCA web site. Mail or email written comments to Emily Zanon, MPCA, 18 Wood Lake Drive. S.E., Rochester, MN 55904 by 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 15, 2020. Call her at 507-206-2613 for more information.

Written comments must include a statement of the respondent’s interest in the report, and the action requested of the MPCA, including specific references to sections of the draft document(s) that should be changed, and the reasons for making those changes.