The Redeye River watershed covers 575,366 acres (899 square miles) and is located the northwestern to north-central part of the Upper Mississippi River Basin in central Minnesota. The watershed encompasses all or parts of Becker, Otter Tail, Todd, and Wadena counties.
Monitoring and assessment
In 2011, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency began an intensive watershed monitoring effort at about 40 sites throughout the Redeye River watershed. As part of this effort, MPCA staff joined with the Wadena County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Otter Tail County Coalition of Lake Associations.
- In 2013, a holistic approach was taken to assess all of the watershed’s surface waters for support, or non support of aquatic life, recreation, and fish consumption.
- Of the twelve stream reaches that do not fully support aquatic life or aquatic recreation, the main source of impairments are due to high bacteria levels and ncreased sediment.
- Water resources in the Redeye River watershed are found in a range of conditions, from very high water quality to significantly impaired.
- The primary resource concerns in the watershed are wind and water soil erosion, surface and ground water management and quality, and changing land use patterns.
- Increased development, wetland removal, and increased agriculture have all likely contributed increased sediment and pollutant loadings to surface waters, which leads to reduced populations of sensitive aquatic species.
Strategy development projects
As part of the Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS) process, the MPCA created the strategy map to the right using HUC-12 subwatersheds – drainage areas within the larger HUC-8 Redeye River watershed – to help identify priority areas for targeting actions to improve water quality. Multiple sources of data, maps and analysis tools including HSPF, were combined to create this map.
- Red – High priority restoration (water is Impaired, needs highest attention)
- Orange – Medium priority restoration (water is Impaired)
- Light green – Protection/monitoring (water quality is good but declining or faces threats)
- Dark green – Protect (water quality is good)
The restoration and protection strategies listed in the WRAPS report will be the basis for developing local implementation plans to restore and protect water resources. The report lays out goals, milestones and responsible entities to address protection and restoration priorities in the Redeye River watershed. The targets are intended to provide guidance and “measuring sticks” to assess the watershed’s health and success of actions taken.
Other maps of individual pollutants, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, can be found in the full report.
A Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study was completed for the eight streams reaches that are on the 2014 EPA 303(d) list of impaired waters due to elevated levels of bacteria. The TMDL was approved by EPA in 2017.
Humans, pets, livestock, and wildlife all contribute bacteria to the environment. These bacteria, after appearing in animal waste, are dispersed throughout the environment by an array of natural and man-made mechanisms. The TMDL study found that the high percentage of rangeland and cropland appear to be having an effect on bacteria levels throughout the Redeye River Watershed. Needed bacteria reductions from agricultural runoff range from 8.5% to 83%, depending on the flow and specific stream.
Strategies to prevent manure from entering streams include keeping it in storage or below the soil surface and limiting access of animals to lakes, streams and wetlands. Specifically, by improving field manure (nutrient) management, adhering to or increasing fertilizer/manure application setbacks, improving feedlot runoff control, rotational grazing, and livestock exclusion, bacteria reductions should occur. No reductions are needed from waste water treatment plants in the watershed.
Watershed Project Manager
MPCA Brainerd Regional Office
7678 College Rd, Suite 105, Baxter, MN 56425