Located in south-central Minnesota, the Le Sueur River flows 111 miles through a gently rolling landscape, most of it farmland, until it cuts down through high bluffs to the Blue Earth River. The Le Sueur, which is named for a French explorer, starts in Freeborn County, flowing north and west through parts of Waseca and Blue Earth counties. It passes through the city of St. Clair, which is near the regional hub of Mankato. Tributaries from Steele and Faribault Counties also flow into the Le Sueur. A total of 711,838 acres drain to the Le Sueur, and an extensive ditch and tile system facilitates movement of water throughout the watershed. Several streams (a total of 1,201 miles) flow to the Le Sueur, with its major tributaries being the Cobb and Maple rivers.
Lakes and wetlands currently comprise 3% of the watershed. Many of the lakes are shallow and provide wildlife habitat while others are deeper and popular for recreation. The vast majority of the watershed is planted with crops such as corn and soybeans or used for livestock production.
Water monitoring shows some modest improvements in water quality in the Le Sueur River over the past 10 years, though several sections of the river and its streams continue to suffer from many problems, including turbidity, low dissolved oxygen, and excess nutrients. The Le Sueur watershed is a major source of sediment and nutrients to the Minnesota River.
What's being done
Monitoring and assessment
The MPCA conducted intensive watershed monitoring in the Le Sueur River Watershed in 2008. Assessing the biology of streams in the watershed is difficult because of the extensive changes in the watershed — drainage ditches, drainage tile, and straightened streams to move water off the land faster. The MPCA will consider a different type of assessment for these altered streams in the future.
- Le Sueur River Watershed Assessment and Trends Update (wq-ws3-07020011c)
- Le Sueur River Watershed Monitoring and Assessment Report
- Assessment of Selected Lakes within the Le Sueur River Watershed (Blue Earth, Waseca, Faribault, Steele, Freeborn Counties)
- Le Sueur River Watershed Biotic Stressor Identification Report
- Summary, Identifying conditions stressing fish and macroinvertebrates, Le Sueur River Watershed
- Le Sueur River Watershed Stressor Identification Report – Lakes (wq-ws5-07020011c)
- Integrated sediment budget for the Le Sueur River Basin - June 2011 (wq-iw7-29o)
Strategy for restoration and protection
- Le Sueur River Watershed WRAPS Report (wq-ws4-10a) (MPCA Approval 8/20/2015)
- Summary, Le Sueur Watershed and Restoration and Protection Strategies (WRAPS) (wq-ws4-10b)
- Le Sueur River Watershed TMDL (wq-iw7-39e) (EPA approval 3/15/2016)
- Le Sueur River Watershed TMDL: EPA approval letter (wq-iw7-39g)
- Le Sueur River Watershed priority management zone identification project (wq-iw7-29q)
- Minnesota State University Mankato-Water Resource Center: http://cset.mnsu.edu/wrc/
- Blue Earth County Environmental Services: www.co.blue-earth.mn.us/dept/environmental.php
- Blue Earth County SWCD: www.blueearthswcd.org
- Faribault County SWCD: www.faribaultcountyswcd.com
- Freeborn County SWCD: www.freebornswcd.org
- Freeborn County Environmental Services: www.co.freeborn.mn.us/environmental/default.aspx
- Waseca County SWCD: www.wasecaswcd.org
- Waseca County Planning and Zoning: www.co.waseca.mn.us/zoning.htm
- Greater Blue Earth River Basin Alliance: www.gberba.org