Study highlights critical need to protect water resources in Big Fork River watershed

Contact: Anne Perry Moore, 218-302-6605

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and local partners in the Big Fork River watershed recommend restoring one lake and protecting “good quality” water resources, according to a recently-released draft report now available for comment through June 29, 2017.

Located in the Rainy River-Lake of the Woods Basin, results from monitoring and analysis showed water quality is generally good to excellent in the watershed’s entire stream network and many of its lakes. In particular, lake water quality is very good in many headwater lakes in northern Itasca County. 

Island Lake, in the watershed’s west-central portion, was determined to need restoration due to excess nutrient levels. Reducing phosphorus from the surrounding watershed by adopting local best management practices (BMPs), and in-lake alum treatments, could slow down or stop the lake’s “eutrophication,” or accelerated aging and increased levels of algae due to excess nutrients.

MPCA scientists and local partners believe wetlands may be contributing to problem areas in the Bowstring River and Popple River systems with dissolved oxygen issues. Oxygen is necessary to maintain a waterbody’s healthy ecosystem for fish and other aquatic life. The MPCA staff and partners will focus on these stream systems during the next monitoring cycle starting in 2020.

Protecting water quality in this watershed is also dependent upon the continued use of BMPs when managing timber harvests and other forest activities to prevent erosion and other detrimental impacts.

Comments on the draft report should be sent to Mike Kennedy, 525 South Lake Avenue, Suite 400 Duluth, Minn., by email at or by phone 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.

This draft report, available on the Big Fork River Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy webpage, quantifies the pollutant levels, identifies pollution sources and proposes ways to return water quality to an acceptable level. It also identifies impaired water bodies and those in need of protection. Many partners that helped develop the draft include the Big Fork River Board, Itasca and Koochiching counties and Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and many local interested citizens.

For more information about the agency’s watershed approach to restoring and protecting Minnesota’s water quality, visit the agency's Watershed approach webpage.