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Studies call for land use changes in Two Rivers Watershed

Based on two new studies available for public review and comment, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and local watershed partners are recommending a number of actions, including projects to restore streams, ditches and wetlands, and voluntary land management practices by landowners to restore and protect waters in the Two Rivers Watershed. Members of the public have until 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 23, 2019, to comment on the studies.

The studies found that about 79 percent of streams in the watershed have been altered to promote soil drainage. Alterations such as stream channelization and ditching have had a negative impact on water quality, and on fish and aquatic insect communities affected by low flows, low dissolved oxygen levels and poor habitat.

In addition, some stream reaches are impaired for human recreation due to excessive levels of E. coli bacteria.

The majority of land in the watershed is privately owned and farmed — 63 percent is used to grow crops. While landowners have long been engaged in good land stewardship practices, the Two Rivers Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Study and Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS) Report recommend widespread changes to restore and protect water quality and aquatic life in streams and ditches. These include increased use of water impoundments, buffer strips and other actions to reduce erosion and runoff.

The TMDL Study quantifies the recent pollutant levels in waterbodies, identifies pollution sources, and proposes ways to return water quality to an acceptable level. In contrast, the WRAPS Report identifies impaired water bodies and those in need of protection, and identifies actions needed to achieve and maintain water quality.

The study and report are available on the MPCA’s Two Rivers Watershed webpage. The reports can also be reviewed at the MPCA Detroit Lakes office at 714 Lake Avenue, Suite 220.

For more, see this week’s North Star News!

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