Protect and restore St. Louis River watershed resources: MPCA reports

Contact: Anne Perry Moore, 218-302-6605

Often overshadowed by the more polluted St. Louis River, lakes and other rivers in this watershed have their own water quality issues needing restoring or protection. Two Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) draft reports outline findings and recommendations and are open for comment through March 22, 2018.

The two reports open for public comment are the Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) study and the Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies (WRAPS) report. The two are companion documents that quantify pollutant levels, identify pollution sources, and propose ways to return water quality to an acceptable level.

The WRAPS report summarizes information, tools and stakeholder input that can be used by local governments, landowners and others to decide on the best strategies and most effective places for those strategies to protect and restore water quality.

Located in the Lake Superior Basin, monitoring and analysis showed water quality is fair-to-good in the watershed’s entire stream network and many of its 375 lakes. In particular, lake water quality is very good in the watershed’s headwaters and Whiteface River area in northern St. Louis and Lake counties. 

Conditions affecting the watershed’s stream water quality for aquatic life and recreation such as fish and swimming include:

  • Sediment — soil and other matter — that makes the water cloudy and negatively impact aquatic life;
  • Changes to stream flow that can lead to erosion and other problems;
  • Culverts that prevent fish and aquatic insect travel between stream sections; and,
  • Excess bacteria in some streams can also be unhealthy for human contact.

The report recommends strategies for restoring Dinham Lake and reducing West Two Rivers Reservoir’s excess nutrient levels, which can lead to the build-up of excessive algae in the lakes.

Other strategies include stream bank stabilization, managing stormwater, protecting headwater streams, and working with local cattle farmers to improve pasture and manure management.

Phosphorus and sediment also currently impair aquatic life in West Two River and Stony Creek. The cold-water fishery in Wyman Creek, outside Hoyt Lakes, is also severely impaired due to high temperatures.

Not all waterbodies were assessed; seven stream sections will be tested during the 2020 cycle of the MPCA’s watershed restoration and protection work.

The draft reports are available on the MPCA’s St. Louis River Watershed webpage. The reports are also available at MPCA’s Duluth office at 525 Lake Avenue South. Comments should be submitted in writing by March 22, 2018, to Mike Kennedy, MPCA, 525 Lake Avenue South, Suite 400, Duluth, MN 55802, or by email to Questions about the reports can be directed to Kennedy at 218-302-6629 or 800-657-3864.

Written comments must include a statement of your interest in the report, 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.

Many partners that helped develop the drafts include the St. Louis County, North and South St. Louis Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and many local interested citizens.