Most waters in Missouri River basin fail to support fishing and swimming; restoration needed

Contact: Forrest Peterson, 320-441-6972

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the local Missouri River Basin work group are recommending a number of actions to restore and protect water bodies in the Missouri River Basin in southwest Minnesota.

Generally, most streams and lakes in the basin fail to support swimming or fishing. Stream bank erosion and stormwater runoff degrade water quality with sediment that clouds the water, excess nutrients that grow algae, and bacteria that can make the water unsafe for swimming. These pollutants are also harmful to fish and other aquatic life.

The basin includes the headwaters of the Upper Big Sioux, Lower Big Sioux, Rock, and Little Sioux rivers. These watersheds lie in portions of six counties: Lincoln, Pipestone, Murray, Rock, Nobles and Jackson. After leaving Minnesota, they flow into Iowa and South Dakota. Agriculture dominates land use, with 80 percent in row crops and 11 percent in pasture.

The MPCA and local partners have identified a number of restoration strategies, as recommended in two reports that are open for public comment through Oct. 25:

  • The Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), which establishes the amount of each pollutant that a water body can receive and still meet water quality standards, and allocates reductions to different sources of pollutants.
  • The Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS), which identifies strategies for restoring and protecting water quality in the watershed.

In the Missouri River basin, recommendations include buffers along shoreland, stabilized stream banks and stormwater control projects. Agricultural practices include greater use of cover crops, prevention of over-grazing of stream banks by limiting cattle access, minimum or no tillage, temporary storage of water and greater crop diversity.

Many groups are participating in restoration and protection efforts, including watershed districts, soil and water conservation districts, cities and several state and local organizations. Individuals are always encouraged to get involved.

The reports are available on the Rock River Watershed webpage.

The MPCA encourages those interested in the Missouri River Basin to review and provide feedback on the reports. Comments on the reports should be submitted in writing by 4:30 p.m. Oct. 25, to Mark Hanson, MPCA, 504 Fairgrounds Rd., Marshall, MN 56258, or sent by email to

Written comments must specify which report you are commenting on, include a statement of your interest in the report, and the action you wish the MPCA to take, including specific references to sections of the draft report you believe should be changed. You must state the specific reasons for your position.