MPCA reports good water quality and recommends protection strategies for Cloquet River Watershed

Contact:  Lucie Amundsen, 218-302-6600

The Cloquet River Watershed has very good overall water quality, and forest protection is critical to preserve it, according to a draft report recently released by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and local partners. The agency is seeking public comments through June 3, 2020, about the protection and restoration strategies described in the water quality report.

The Cloquet River watershed covers nearly 508,000 acres southwest of Superior National Forest and Cloquet Valley State Forest. The upper reaches of the river, above Island Lake, are designated as primitive under the St. Louis River Management Plan. The watershed contains four major reservoir lakes and a series of smaller lakes that are characteristic of glacial till and sand landscapes.

The MPCA’s report, known as a watershed restoration and protection strategy (WRAPS), is part of the MPCA’s approach to gauging the health of Minnesota’s 80 major watersheds. After intensive water monitoring, the agency and partners identify conditions that are stressing fish and bugs, as well as conditions that foster healthy fish and insect communities. Waters that fail to meet standards are placed on the Impaired Waters List. MPCA monitoring found that just three streams (Beartrap, Hellwig, Petrel) and one lake (Sand) are not meeting water quality standards in the Cloquet River Watershed.

After evaluating water quality in a watershed, the MPCA develops a WRAPS report that local partners use to restore impaired waters and protect healthy ones. The Cloquet River Watershed WRAPS is the result of a strong collaborative effort between the MPCA, other state agencies, Lake County Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD), North St. Louis SWCD and South St. Louis SWCD, St. Louis County, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, 1854 Treaty Authority, U.S. Forest Service, and Allete (Minnesota Power).

Strategies for addressing the identified issues in the Cloquet River Watershed include promoting shoreland protection, programs for maintaining healthy working forests on private lands, and restoring altered stream hydrology.

The MPCA is asking for public comment on the report, which is available on the MPCA web site, or at the St. Paul MPCA office. Mail or email written comments to Tom Estabrooks, MPCA, 525 Lake Ave. S., Suite 400, Duluth, MN 55802 by 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 3, 2020. Call him (218-302-6608, 800-657-3864) for more information.

Written comments must 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; and the reasons for making those changes.