For years experts have addressed the water quality issues of the Minnesota River by stating it is not where it needs to be.
While one would consider much of that expertise anecdotal, the reality of the river’s water quality is closer to becoming officially determined. In 1972 when the federal clean water act was adopted, it mandated all states do what it could to clean up the bodies of water (lakes, streams and rivers), and since that time much research has been done to determine how that is possible in Minnesota.
After all, the Land of 10,000 Lakes, which relies heavily on its waters as a major part of its economy, has a vested interest in making sure the water in the state is of high quality.
A study conducted by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), with various stakeholders representing the entire river valley providing input, was presented this past Wednesday in Redwood Falls.
According to Bob Finely, who works out of the MPCA office in Mankato, presented the fundamentals of the report to a group of 30-plus individuals representing a variety of agencies and groups with an interest in the impact such a study could have on future planning in the river valley.
The study looked at the turbidity (the amount of suspended sediment in the water as it flows) and the total maximum daily load (TMDL)?of that sediment coming downstream toward where it meets the Mississ-ippi River. The report is now open for public comment.
“This is a very important document,”?said Finley. “It is going to set the tone and direction for the future.”
Goals established in terms of implementation are going to be based on this study, and Finely said that is why it is so important the public take the time to look at the report and make comments about it.
Thome comments can be made by getting a form from the MPCA. Those forms are available online at its Web site, at www.pca.state.mn.us.
The data in the report, said Finley, shows there are a number fo reasons for increased TMDLs, with the amount of sediment increasing during the high flows of the river.
Finley said during low to moderate flow periods of time the Minnesota River is well within the standard of 100 milligrams per liter of sediment, but in the high flow times it is over.
So, one of the challenges the study is likely going to recommend is to find ways to hold water back upriver.
Both Doug Goodrich, executive director of the Redwood-Cottonwood Rivers Control Area (RCRCA)?and Marilyn Bern-hardson, executive director of the Redwood County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD)?agree reducing the amount of water coming down the river is key to reducing the river’s turbidity.
Page 2 of 2 - Bernhardson said studies have shown a change in the approach to sediment discovery, as at one time most believe 60 percent of the runoff was coming from the land, while the other 40 percent was from streambank erosion. Those numbers have flipped, she said, but that does not let landowners off the hook.
Goodrich said this entire process has been an interesting one, as he knows there are a lot of people on boths sides of this issue, and the problem at times is those on the extremes do not have the right information.
Goodrich said RCRCA has been monitoring TMDLs on the Redwood and Cottonwood rivers for a number of years, and he said he sees the issue.
There is more water and it is moving faster,”?he said.
That high flow water then leads to more streambank erosion in the river. Both Bernhard-son and Goodrich know there is no simple answer. What they both believe is the state needs to continue its focus on improving water quality which is really a never ending task.