Water quality impairments, solutions offered in draft Thief River watershed reports

Contact: Dan Olson, 218-846-8108

Two new studies by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and local watershed partners recommend Thief River watershed landowners promote voluntary practices to reduce water pollution and improve water quality. The draft reports are available for comment through July 25, 2018, at 4:30 p.m. 

Much of the land within the watershed is privately-owned or publicly-managed by federal, state and local agencies for wildlife management and flood water storage. Land owners and managers using best management practices positively influence water quality for aquatic life and recreational activities such as fishing and swimming.

Research linked the watershed’s water pollution with land alterations and/or runoff: 

  • More than 90 percent of the watershed’s stream sections have been straightened or channelized to promote drainage.
  • Straightening streams impairs habitat, water quality, and fish and aquatic insect communities.
  • A portion of the Mud River is impaired for swimming due to excessive bacteria.
  • The Mud and Moose Rivers show low dissolved oxygen levels which are harmful to fish and aquatic insects.
  • The Thief River, between Agassiz Wildlife Refuge and Thief River Falls has sediment levels that can make the water too cloudy to sustain fish.

The draft Thief River Watershed Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study quantifies the pollutant levels, identifies pollution sources, and proposes source goals to return water quality to an acceptable level. In contrast, the Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS) report identifies impaired water bodies and those in need of protection, and identifies actions needed to achieve and maintain water quality.

The draft TMDL study and WRAPS reports are available on the MPCA's Thief River Watershed webpage and at the MPCA Detroit Lakes office at 714 Lake Avenue, Suite 220.

Comments on the drafts should be sent to Denise Oakes, 714 Lake Avenue, Suite 220, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota 56501; by email, denise.oakes@state.mn.us. She is also available to answer questions by phone at 218-846-8119. Comments must be received by 4:30 p.m. on July 25, 2018. More information is available also from Corey Hanson, Red Lake Watershed District water quality coordinator, 218-681-5800, or corey.hanson@redlakewatershed.org.

Written comments must include a statement of your interest in the Thief River watershed TMDL study and/or WRAPS report, a statement of the action you wish the MPCA to take, including specific references to sections of the draft TMDL study and/or WRAPS report you believe should be changed, and specific reasons for your position.