June 26, 2018
After two years of water sampling and testing the health of the Mississippi River Brainerd Watershed’s lakes and streams, the results are in, and for an overwhelming majority of Crow Wing County’s waters it’s good news.
Out of the 53 lakes and streams tested in Crow Wing County, 47 met or exceeded the state standards of water quality. That’s 88%, numbers Melissa Barrick, district manager of the Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) wasn’t surprised about.
“Most of the lakes in the watershed consistently exceed the state standards for water quality, and we’re proud of that,” she said. “For those that didn’t meet the standards for various reasons, we’re here to help improve the water quality for not only aquatic life, but aquatic recreation as well.”
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and the local SWCDs have been collecting samples from within the Mississippi River Brainerd Watershed, which covers parts of Crow Wing, Aitkin, Cass, Morrison and Todd counties, including 212 lakes larger than 10 acres, and 2,149 river miles. Elements studied include water clarity, oxygen, nutrient, and bacteria levels in area lakes, streams, and rivers. MPCA crews also sampled fish using electrofishing equipment and collected invertebrate samples.
“By monitoring the state’s major watersheds it helps to prioritize efforts and to bring them back to water-quality goals,” said Bonnie Finnerty, watershed project manager with the MPCA’s Baxter office. “Having data helps to support the conversations and provides a goal-focused context for people to work together.”
In Crow Wing County, Crow Wing Lake is one body of water that did not meet the water quality standards. Mike Valentine is president of the Crow Wing Lake Improvement District (CWLID) and he, along with others, has been working to improve the health of the lake for several years.
“Earlier this spring, CWLID went to the MPCA to put together a watershed remedial action plan—working our way toward what we need to do to continue making progress in Crow Wing Lake,” said Valentine. “The partnership to improve Crow Wing Lake is a case where government is helping to energize the program. Everyone wants the lake to be cleaned up and stay in shape, but we can’t do it by ourselves. The MPCA and SWCD all joined in and we’ll work together.”
Reasons for Crow Wing Lake not making water quality standards could be determined with further testing.
“One cause could be that when the lake is stirred up, the materials are resuspended,” said Valentine. “With the help of the MPCA and Crow Wing SWCD, we’ll do some oxygen profiles and nutrient phosphorus analysis, and also figure out what is contained in the bottom sediment of the lake.”
Other Crow Wing County lakes that did not meet state standards include Grave, Sebie, Upper Dean, Fawn, and Lower Mission. Barrick said these waters will be further investigated as well, and a plan will be created to restore water quality. Strategies will also be developed to protect lakes and streams that meet water-quality standards.
A public meeting will be held for residents of lakes and streams located in the five counties of the Mississippi River Brainerd Watershed that did not meet the standards. Representatives from the MPCA and Crow Wing SWCD will talk to residents about the assessment data and the current water quality analysis results, potential risks, or solutions. There will also be time for questions. The meeting will be held 3–5 p.m. on Thursday, July 26, at Center Township Hall, 24339 County Road 3, Merrifield.
This project, funded by the Clean Water and Land Legacy Amendment, was created to preserve Minnesota’s drinking water sources, as well as protect, enhance and restore wetlands, prairies, forests, fish, game, and wildlife habitat.
For more information about the five-county Mississippi River Brainerd Watershed, visit www.crowwingswcd.org. Scroll down the homepage and click on the image of the Storymap of the Mississippi Brainerd Watershed. The interactive Storymap will be continually updated with data, website links, videos, media coverage, events, and more.