MPCA seeks comments on water quality strategy for Chippewa River Watershed

Contact: Forrest Peterson, 320-441-6972

Marshall, Minn. — The Chippewa River Watershed stands out as a prime example of surface water pollution issues in greater Minnesota, and how to address them.

The Chippewa River Watershed drains a 2,080 square-mile area entering into the Minnesota River near Montevideo. It includes portions of Otter Tail, Grant, Douglas, Stevens, Pope, Swift, Kandiyohi, Chippewa counties, and a very small portion of Stearns.

All the water quality details are found in the Chippewa River Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS) report, which is available for public comment Aug. 8 through Sept. 7, 2016. The report summarizes past efforts to monitor and improve water quality, and identifies future strategies for restoring and protecting water quality.

Another report, which details specific water quality impairments among individual lakes and streams in the watershed, will be available for public comment concurrently. The Chippewa River Watershed Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) report is part of a nationwide effort under the federal Clean Water Act requiring states to adopt water quality standards to protect lakes, streams, and wetlands from pollution.

According to the reports, lakes and streams in the Chippewa River Watershed are polluted with excess nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), algae and sediment, and have low levels of dissolved oxygen and altered habitat conditions. In some areas, the pollution is severe enough to harm aquatic insects and fish. Of 64 lakes assessed for aquatic recreation, 30 fully support that use, and 34 are impaired.

The watershed landscape is dominated by cultivated crops with small portions of perennially vegetated landscapes and developed areas. Because of poor natural drainage in many parts of the southern area, large portions have been altered by artificial drainage for settlement and farming.

To meet the water quality improvement goals in the watershed, the WRAPS report states that citizens and landowners must work to fully implement the buffer rule, convert marginal cropland to perennial cover, expand application of cover crops and improve management of nitrogen fertilizer.

Unique among the state’s 80 watersheds, the Chippewa River Watershed’s “10 percent project” engages farmers, landowners, scientists and conservationists to create more continuous living cover. This helps to protect and restore waters for fishing, hunting, swimming and recreation, provide good wildlife habitat, and is profitable for farmers.

Comments on the WRAPS and TMDL reports should be submitted in writing to Paul Wymar, MPCA, 504 Fairgrounds Rd., Ste. 200, Marshall, MN  56258, or by email to paul.wymar@state.mn.us. Written comments must be received by 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 7, 2016.

Comments must include a statement of the action you wish the MPCA to take, including specific references to sections of the report that you believe should be changed, and specific reasons supporting your position. After reviewing comments, the MPCA may revise the draft reports.

Wymar is available to answer questions by phone at 507-476-4282. More information is also available from Kylene Olson, Chippewa River Watershed Project administrator, 320-321-1717, kylene@chippewariver.org.

The draft WRAPS and TMDL reports are available on the MPCA’s Chippewa River Watershed page, and upon request at the MPCA office at 504 Fairgrounds Rd. in Marshall. For more information on Minnesota’s impaired waters list and TMDL studies, call the MPCA at 800-657-3864 or visit the agency's Impaired waters webpage.