Study lays out water protection needs in the Sunrise River

Contact: Mary Connor, 651-757-2629

St. Paul, Minn. — A new report by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and local groups in the Sunrise River watershed recommends action to restore several water bodies in the watershed and protect those in good health. The Sunrise River Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS) report is available for public review and comment through Monday, November 19.

“The strategies recommended in the report will promote land use management along streams and lakes that reduces and prevents nutrient, sediment, and bacteria runoff,” says Christopher Klucas, project manager with the MPCA. “Because many of the strategies rely on the voluntary cooperation of residents and landowners, keeping them closely involved throughout this process is very important.”

In-depth monitoring and analysis show that water quality is degrading in areas of the Sunrise River watershed, showing excess levels of phosphorus and bacteria. The water quality is worst in areas with the greatest human activity, particularly where wetlands and prairie have been converted to urban uses, and agricultural land management practices are affecting lakes and streams. 

Protecting water quality in the area will also protect unique wildlife. The watershed is home to several threatened species of mussels — such as the Higgins eye and the Winged Mapleleaf — and sensitive coldwater species of trout and aquatic bugs. The areas of the watershed near the St. Croix River are some of only a handful of places where the threatened mussel species can be found.

Many groups are participating in restoration and protection efforts, including the county Soil and Water Conservation Districts, local governments, Friends of the Sunrise River, lake associations, the Sunrise River Watershed Management Organization, and the Comfort Lake - Forest Lake Watershed District. Individuals are also encouraged to get involved.

This report is one 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 MPCA encourages those interested in the Sunrise River Watershed to review and provide feedback on the report, which is available online. Comments on the report should be submitted in writing by Monday, November 19, 2014, to Christopher Klucas, 520 Lafayette Road North, St. Paul, MN 55155-4194, or christopher.klucas@state.mn.us. He is available to answer questions by phone at 651-757-2498.

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

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