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Impaired water identified, restoration plans are next

Kayakers paddled on Lake Henry last summer. (Karla Mikkelson/Echo Press)

Statewide, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is leading an effort to monitor, assess and, if necessary, improve the quality of Minnesota’s lakes and streams.

Locally, those efforts are focused in the Long Prairie River Watershed District, which covers approximately 551,612 acres (862 square miles) and encompasses all or parts of Douglas, Otter Tail, Todd, Morrison and Wadena counties.

The watershed includes more than 240 lakes greater than 10 acres in size and 884 miles of rivers and streams.

The Long Prairie River begins in Douglas County and flows through Todd and Morrison counties before entering the Crow Wing River south of Motley.

Since 2011, lakes and streams in the Long Prairie River Watershed have been sampled for water quality.

Scientists got all the data back last year and determined which lakes and streams had good water quality and which had some problems.


Last week, the MPCA and Douglas Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) hosted a meeting to outline newly identified impaired waters for the public.

There were 65 lakes in the watershed that were tested. Fifty-five met water quality standards and 10 did not, mostly due to excess nutrients and dissolved oxygen impairments in the lakes.

Chloride was listed as the impairment for Winona, Henry and Agnes in Alexandria.

Six streams in the watershed were also listed.

The impaired waters identified in the Long Prairie River Watershed include: Nelson, Fish, Twin, Henry, Agnes, Winona, Echo, Crooked (east), Jessie and Latimer lakes, and Spruce, Harris, Eagle, Moran, Dittberner’s, and Venewitz creeks.

Bonnie Finnerty, MPCA watershed project manager, said, “Right now, we’re in the process of talking about the lakes and streams that are impaired.”


Now that testing is complete and data has been evaluated, efforts will be centered on developing strategies to protect and repair water quality; called WRAPS, Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies.

The WRAPS will help determine where the state and local stakeholders should focus efforts.

First, scientific analysis for impairments will help determine the sources of pollution and the reductions needed to meet water quality standards.

Next, an implementation table, which contains strategies and actions designed to achieve and maintain water quality standards and goals, will be generated.

Finnerty said the WRAPS will help figure out if it makes more sense to put money into protecting an area versus cleaning it up.

“We have to think of it in a watershed scale and do what’s best for the watershed,” she said.

Then, the WRAPS process moves on to implementing a plan of action to conduct restoration and protection projects in the watershed.

According to the MPCA, in this step, restoration and protection projects can include all traditional permitting activities, in addition to programs and actions directed at nonpoint sources.

Partnerships with state agencies and various local units of government, including watershed districts, municipalities, and soil and water conservation districts will be necessary to implement these water quality activities, according to the MPCA website.

The Long Prairie River Watershed Restoration and Protection Plan will reportedly be in draft form this summer.

Each of the other 80 watersheds in Minnesota is undergoing a similar project over the next 10 years to extensively monitor the chemical and biological health of the watershed’s lakes and streams, according to the MPCA.


Locally, several other water quality items were noted:

● Douglas County SWCD received Clean Water Legacy grants totaling $96,375 for 2014.

● The Chippewa River Watershed Restoration and Protection Plan will be drafted this summer and public meetings will be scheduled.

● Douglas County officials will update the County Water Plan, which outlines actions, projects and goals for the next five years.

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

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