Studies identify water quality problems, remedies for Valley Branch watershed

Contact: Cori Rude-Young, 651-757-2680

St. Paul, Minn. — The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and local groups in the Valley Branch sub-watershed — an area primarily in Washington County that includes Lake Elmo, Woodbury Afton, and Oakdale, that is part of the larger Lower St. Croix watershed — are recommending actions to restore several bodies of water and protect those in good health. The Valley Branch Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS) report and Valley Branch Watershed Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) report are available for public review through Oct. 27.

In-depth monitoring and analysis has identified high levels of bacteria and phosphorus in some bodies of water in the Valley Branch watershed, including Kelle’s Creek in Afton and Sunfish Lake in Lake Elmo. Increased urban development has created more impervious surfaces and land disturbance, and resulted in stormwater that carries excess phosphorus and sediment into bodies of water and degrades water quality. Phosphorus can also be released from sediments within a lake, contributing to an “internal loading” of phosphorus. Improperly functioning septic systems may also contribute to water quality problems in the area. The TMDL report quantifies the pollutant levels, identifies the sources of the pollution, and proposes ways to bring water quality back to an acceptable condition.

The WRAPS report identifies impaired water bodies and those in need of protection, and identifies the actions needed to achieve and maintain water quality. For example, fixing substandard septic systems, in-lake treatment strategies, and implementing stormwater-control projects will help improve water quality in the watershed.

Many groups are participating in restoration and protection efforts, including the Valley Branch Watershed District, Washington County, Washington Conservation District, local governments, several state agencies and other organizations. Individuals are always encouraged to get involved.

These reports are some of just a handful completed under the state’s Watershed Approach, a holistic way of gauging the health of streams and lakes, and developing strategies to restore or protect their water quality.

The report is available on the MPCA’s Public Notices webpage or at the MPCA’s St. Paul office, at 520 Lafayette Road N. The MPCA encourages those interested in the Valley Branch Watershed to review and provide feedback on the reports. Comments on the reports should be submitted in writing by Oct. 27, 2015, to Rachel Olmanson, MPCA, 520 Lafayette Road N., Saint Paul, MN 55155-4194, or sent by email to rachel.olmanson@state.mn.us. Olmanson is available to answer questions at 651-757-2473.

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.

More information is available on the MPCA’s Impaired Waters and TMDLs webpage.