The Mississippi River - La Crescent watershed drains 95 square miles in Houston and southeast Winona counties, an area defined by wooded bluffs and spring-fed cold-water streams that flow directly to the Mississippi River. Pine Creek is the largest cold-water tributary in the watershed, draining more than half of the entire watershed (58 square miles). Streams in this watershed support good water quality, except the lower part of Pine Creek, which has high sediment contributing to poor water quality, habitat and temperature conditions.
This area is known for trout fishing and karst geography. The erosive effects of water have sculpted thick layers of limestone over thousands of years. The landscape is characterized by abundant sinkholes, springs, caverns, and underground waterways. Karst is like the Swiss cheese of rock. As water flows through karst, it mixes above and below ground. This mixing means pollutants on land can easily reach groundwater used for drinking. Protecting the streams are important for ensuring safe drinking water and for the economic impact of tourists visiting this area to fish, hike and camp.
What's being done
The MPCA has completed the first intensive water monitoring cycle in the watershed, along with identifying stressors to fish and bugs. The data collected is summarized in reports below. The MPCA plans to draft the Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS) report and Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study for the Mississippi River – La Crescent watershed by the end of 2019. Currently, the MPCA is working in the watershed to better capture water quality priorities of local residents and identify priority areas to implement best management practices for water quality improvements. Information from these projects will be described in the WRAPS report.