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Water quality in Lake of the Woods Watershed generally good, Minnesota agency reports

Seven of the 22 stream segments studied showed low oxygen levels or excess sediment, which are conditions detrimental to fish and aquatic insects, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said Wednesday, Nov. 13.

The majority of streams in the Minnesota portion of the Lakes of the Woods Watershed meets state standards for water quality, according to new studies released by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. However, seven of the 22 stream segments studied showed low oxygen levels or excess sediment, which are conditions detrimental to fish and aquatic insects, the MPCA said Wednesday, Nov. 13.

The west branch of the Warroad River exceeded water quality standards for E. coli bacteria.

“The Lake of the Woods Watershed is one of many areas in Minnesota where it’s important to take actions that not only correct impairments that exist, but also protect areas that are not impaired but could become so,” Katrina Kessler, MPCA’s assistant commissioner of water, said in a statement.

The MPCA completed two studies for the watershed. A study of total maximum daily loads -- TMDLs, for short -- identifies “impaired” waters that don’t meet water-quality standards, along with the sources of pollution and how much pollution reduction is needed to meet water quality standards.

The watershed restoration and protection strategy (WRAPS) report recommends ways to protect waters in good condition and improve impaired waters.


MPCA studied the portion of the Lake of the Woods Watershed within Minnesota, at the northern tip of the state, which is more than 80% open water or wetlands. Roughly 12% of the land is used for agriculture. Recreational fishing brings in many tourists year-round.

Landowners and local partners, such as Lake of the Woods and Roseau counties, Warroad River Watershed District and soil and water conservation districts in the watershed, have long been engaged in good land stewardship practices and water quality improvement projects. These have included shoreline stabilization, wetland preservation and grants for upgrading septic systems.

The MPCA is recommending further efforts, including:

  • Reducing overland and stream bank erosion.

  • Stabilizing ditch outlets and improving agricultural drainage management.

  • Improving septic system compliance.

  • Reducing pollutants in municipal stormwater runoff.

  • Improving in-stream habitat, base flows and stream connectivity for fish passage.

  • Improving grazing management and limiting cattle access to streams.

  • Improving the quality of vegetative buffers and protecting wetlands.

The MPCA is asking for public comments on the two reports, which are available on the MPCA website at pca.state.mn.us or at the MPCA Detroit Lakes office at 714 Lake Ave., Suite 220. Mail or email written comments to Cary Hernandez, MPCA, 714 Lake Ave., Suite 220, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501 by 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12.
Written comments must include a statement of the respondent’s interest in the report and the action requested of the MPCA, including specific references to sections of the draft document(s) that should be changed and the reasons for making those changes.

For more information, call Hernandez at (218) 846-8124.

Wednesday’s news from the MPCA comes on the heels of a report issued Friday, Nov. 8, from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources that larval zebra mussels have been found in Muskeg Bay on the western side of Lake of the Woods. While no adult zebra mussels have been found, the DNR said larval zebra mussels, called veligers, were present in high numbers at the Muskeg Bay site.

The DNR didn’t find any veligers at the other two sampling sites near Long Point and Zippel Bay, the agency said.

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