Water quality in the Lake of the Woods Watershed is generally good and needs protection

Contact: Dan Olson, 2018-846-8108

The majority of streams in the Minnesota portion of the Lakes of the Woods Watershed meet state standards for water quality, according to new studies released by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). However, seven of the 22 stream segments studied showed low oxygen levels or excess sediment, which are conditions detrimental to fish and aquatic insects. The west branch of the Warroad River exceeded water quality standards for E. coli bacteria.

The MPCA completed two studies for the watershed. The total maximum daily load (TMDL) study identifies bodies of water that don’t meet water-quality standards (known as “impaired” waters), the sources of pollution, and how much pollution reduction is needed to meet water quality standards. The watershed restoration and protection strategy (WRAPS) report recommends ways to protect waters in good condition and improve impaired waters.

Landowners and local partners such as Lake of the Woods and Roseau counties, Warroad River Watershed District, and soil and water conservation districts in the watershed have long been engaged in good land stewardship practices and water quality improvement projects. These have included shoreline stabilization, wetland preservation, grants for upgrading septic systems, and more.
The MPCA is recommending further efforts, including:

  • Reducing overland and stream bank erosion
  • Stabilizing ditch outlets and improving agricultural drainage management
  • Improving septic system compliance
  • Reducing pollutants in municipal stormwater runoff
  • Improving in-stream habitat, base flows, and stream connectivity for fish passage
  • Improving grazing management and limiting cattle access to streams
  • Improving the quality of vegetative buffers and protecting wetlands

“The Lake of the Woods watershed is one of many areas in Minnesota where it’s important to take actions that not only correct impairments that exist, but also protect areas that are not impaired but could become so,” said Katrina Kessler, the MPCA’s assistant commissioner of water.

The MPCA studied the part of the Lake of the Woods Watershed within Minnesota, at the northern tip of the state, which is more than 80 percent open water or wetland. Roughly 12 percent of the land is used for agriculture. Recreational fishing brings in many tourists year-round.

The MPCA is asking for public comments on the two reports, which are available on the MPCA's Lake of the Woods webpage or at the MPCA Detroit Lakes office at 714 Lake Avenue, Suite 220. Mail or email written comments to Cary Hernandez, MPCA, 714 Lake Ave., Suite 220, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501 by 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. Call Cary Hernandez at 218-846-8124 for more information.

Written comments must include a statement of the respondent’s interest in the report, and the action requested of the MPCA, including specific references to sections of the draft document(s) that should be changed, and the reasons for making those changes.