Waterfront Bulletin for December 2015

Having trouble viewing this email? View it as a webpage.

Waterfront Bulletin

December 2015

MPCA accepting proposals for monitoring grants

The Request for Proposal (RFP) process for Surface Water Assessment Grants (SWAG) is now open. Agreements under this program are funded by the Minnesota Clean Water Fund (Legacy Amendment). The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) will award up to $550,000 through a competitive process. All proposals must be submitted through the SWIFT e-supplier portal and must be received no later than Jan. 6. Proposals received after this deadline will not be considered.

Eligible proposers must have a SWIFT Vendor ID and Supplier Portal Account to access the RFP and apply for the SWAG. Additionally, local partners who are awarded and agreement will be required to use SWIFT to review and approve, through electronic signature, the final agreement and work plan.  Detailed registration directions are available on the SWIFT e-supplier portal.  Proposers should be aware that it can take several days to receive a required Vendor ID from SWIFT. If you need technical assistance for the SWIFT e-supplier portal, please contact the SWIFT helpdesk line: 651-201-8100, option 1.

The primary objective of the SWAG is to determine the health of Minnesota lakes and streams. Through this program, local partners collect information that identifies waters which are in need of restoration or protection strategies. The MPCA works with local partners to focus these strategies at the major watershed scale.

Legacy Amendment

Monitoring locations for this RFP are located within the following watersheds:

Additional information for this program can be found at the MPCA’s SWAG webpage.

DNR now taking applications for metro projects

DNR grant program

The Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources is now accepting grant applications for metro projects that qualify for the Conservation Partners Legacy program. $1.6 million is available for conservation projects in the 7-county metro area or cities with a population of 50,000 people or greater. This includes the counties of Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott, and Washington, and the cities of Duluth, Rochester, and St. Cloud. Projects must be on public lands/waters or on lands permanently protected by a conservation easement.

The CPL program funds projects that restore, enhance, or protect forests, wetlands, prairies, or habitat for fish, game and wildlife in Minnesota. Grant requests may range from $5,000 to $400,000 with a maximum total project cost of $575,000. Nonprofit organizations and government entities are eligible to apply, and a 10% match of non-state funds is required. Applications are available online and are due Jan. 29 at 4 p.m.

For more information, check out the Request for Proposal or visit the DNR website. Questions? Please email lscplgrants.dnr@state.mn.us

Report: More good news than bad for Pine River watershed

Pine River in central Minnesota

It’s more good news than bad for the Pine River watershed in central Minnesota, according to intensive water monitoring and stressor identification by the MPCA and local partners. Issues like low dissolved oxygen, excess sediment, and elevated nutrients seem to be isolated to a handful of tributaries.

From its source at Pine Mountain Lake in Cass County (about a half mile west of Backus), the Pine River flows southeast to its confluence with the Mississippi River, 10 miles north of Brainerd. The Pine River watershed begins in Cass County and flows into Crow Wing County, covering 779 square miles and draining about 498,560 acres.

The watershed includes the Whitefish Chain of Lakes that runs through the center from west to east. The northern half of the watershed is predominately forest and wetland with scattered agricultural lands. The southwestern portion of the watershed is opposite, with predominately forests, agricultural lands, scattered wetlands, and small lakes.

Water bodies showing signs of stress to fish and other aquatic life include:

  • Arvig Creek with low dissolved oxygen levels
  • South Fork Pine River with excess sediment and suspended solids
  • Wilson Creek that shows the most notable levels of increased nitrogen and phosphorus

Continued health of this watershed is aided by passionate work by grassroots groups like the Pine River Watershed Alliance and lake associations throughout the Whitefish Chain of Lakes.

The Pine River watershed biotic stressor identification report and a two-page summary are available on its MPCA watershed webpage.

Redeye River report: Bacteria, sediment stressing aquatic life in watershed

Redeye River in central Minnesota

High bacteria levels and increased sediment are the main stressors to fish and other aquatic life in the Redeye River watershed, according to intensive water monitoring and stressor identification by the MPCA and local partners.

The Redeye River watershed covers nearly 900 square miles in the northern part of the Upper Mississippi River Basin in central Minnesota. The watershed includes all or parts of Becker, Otter Tail, Todd, and Wadena counties.

The Redeye River begins at Wolf Lake and joins the Leaf River, before draining into the Crow Wing River near Staples. The river provides drinking water for households and industries, habitat for aquatic life, riparian corridors for wildlife and recreational opportunities like fishing, swimming, and canoeing. Nearly half the watershed’s land use is agricultural, 30% is forested, 15% is wetlands, and about 4% is developed communities and industries.

Of the waters that fail to fully support aquatic life or recreation, the main source of impairments are due to high bacteria levels and increased sediment. Primary resource concerns are soil erosion by wind and water, surface and ground water management, and changing land use patterns. Increased development, wetland removal, and agriculture have all likely contributed to increased sediment and bacteria to lakes and streams, leading to reduced populations of sensitive aquatic species.

Water bodies with identified impairments and subsequent biologic stressors include South Bluff Creek, Wing River, Union Creek, and tributaries to East Leaf Lake and the Leaf River.

Local partners like the Wadena County SWCD and Otter Tail County coalition of lake associations have helped the stressor identification work by MPCA staff.

The Redeye River watershed stressor identification report and a two-page summary are available on the MPCA’s Redeye River watershed webpage.

Watershed Achievements Report: Buffers, monitoring and projects to benefit lakes and streams

Watershed Achievements Report 2015 cover

The 2015 Watershed Achievement Report highlights the multiple projects and efforts to protect and restore waters throughout Minnesota. Highlights in the 2015 report include:

  • Minnesota’s statewide buffer initiative to filter runoff flowing to lakes and rivers.
  • Intensive water monitoring started or completed in 69 of the state’s 80 major watershed, providing extensive data for identifying stressors to aquatic life and developing strategies to restore and protect waters.
  • Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies are underway for nearly all major watersheds.
  • Projects throughout Minnesota center on better filtering of stormwater, facilitating behavior change that benefits water quality, designing ditches to slow and filter runoff, assisting feedlots with reducing pollutants, installing sewer systems, and much more.

The MPCA submits this report on Clean Water Act Section 319, Clean Water Partnership, and Clean Water fund projects in Minnesota to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency every year.

Governor to convene water quality summit in February

Gov. Mark Dayton, at the annual meetings of the Minnesota Farm Bureau and the Minnesota Farmers Union, announced his plans to convene a statewide Water Quality Summit in February. The summit will focus public attention on the serious challenges facing Minnesota’s water supplies – in both rural and urban areas of the state – and continue statewide dialogue around steps that must be taken to address those challenges. 

The summit will include water quality experts, farmers, legislators, regulators, the business community, members of the public, local leaders, and a wide variety of other stakeholders. “My father believed – as I believe – that stewardship is a profound responsibility of each of us. To take what we have been given – or have acquired – and leave it in better condition for those who will inherit from us,” Gov. Dayton said. “This is everyone’s challenge, and everyone’s responsibility.”

In his remarks to the Minnesota Farm Bureau, Gov. Dayton elaborated on the need for a statewide Water Quality Summit, and provided some additional information about what the summit may address. Audio of the governor's remarks can be found here. Additional details about the Governor's Water Quality Summit will be provided in the coming weeks. Star Tribune editorial, Nov. 25, 2015: "Water quality is a worthy signature issue for Dayton."

Minnesota River Congress selects action board members

The new, citizen-led organization to promote the natural resource and economic health of the Minnesota River basin is closing in on filling all 33 seats on its governing Action Board.

Nineteen members were named at the fifth Minnesota River Congress Nov. 12 in New Ulm. The Action Board applications were approved by 93 people attending. Applications since then have raised the total to 24, says Scott Sparlin of Coalition for a Clean Minnesota River.

When complete, the Action Board will include representatives from each of the basin’s 13 major watersheds, and various sectors such as agriculture, business, recreation, and local and state agencies. It will set policy, goals, and objectives for the Congress. It will name a management committee to handle operations such as finance and communications.

In other business Nov. 12, the Congress voted to support proposed legislation (Senate File 2204) creating a Minnesota River Commission. The support is conditional upon an opportunity for the Congress to provide input on the final draft. Photo: Linda Loomis of the Lower Minnesota River Watershed District spoke about the legislation.

The next Congress will be scheduled in late February or early March.

South Metro Mississippi TMDL report submitted to EPA

Sediment clouds Minnesota and Mississippi rivers

After almost four years of processing 400-plus comments and several requests for contested case hearings, the MPCA has finished revisions to the South Metro Mississippi Total Maximum Daily (TMDL) report and submitted it to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for final approval. The report addresses the total suspended solids impairment in the river from St. Paul to Lake Pepin. (Photo: Plume of sediment entering the Mississippi from the Minnesota River.)

During the 2012 public comment period, the agency received requests for contested case hearings from the following entities:

  • City of Minneapolis;
  • Minnesota Cities Stormwater Coalition / League of Minnesota Cities and several other member cities or entities;
  • Minnesota Soybean Growers Assoc., Brown County Corn and Soybean Growers, and several individual producers; and
  • Lake Pepin Legacy Alliance.

After discussions and other communication with MPCA staff, the city of Minneapolis, the Minnesota Cities Stormwater Coalition / League of Minnesota Cities (and most of the member cities / entities) and the Lake Pepin Legacy Alliance withdrew their hearing requests. After much review and discussion, the MPCA denied the other hearing requests.

The revised TMDL report is available on the South Metro Mississippi webpage. Revisions include updates to research, TMDL reports for contributing watersheds, list of regulated wastewater and stormwater entities, and implementation strategies.

Notable changes include removing the across-the-board 25% reduction for all municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s) regardless of location and removing the baseline year. The need for a reduction is now based on an MS4’s location within the drainage area and other factors. For details, see the Response to Comments document on the project webpage.

The majority of sediment in this stretch of the Mississippi originates in the Greater Blue Earth River and Minnesota River. The agency is working on revisions to TMDL reports for those river systems. The revisions address changes in water quality standards.

Mississippi River Forum: Study on reusing reclaimed water from Seneca plant

The City of Eagan is partnering with Metropolitan Council Environmental Services and Barr Engineering to study the feasibility of using reclaimed water from the Seneca Wastewater Treatment Plant. The idea is to shift non-potable demands (like irrigation, firefighting, and vehicle washing) from the city’s treated, potable water supply to reclaimed wastewater.

In addition to reducing demand on the groundwater aquifer the city uses for its potable water supply, this could reduce treatment and water supply costs for users, improve regional source water sustainability, and may even provide a recharge source for groundwater.

This project will be the focus of the Mississippi River Forum Friday, Dec. 18, from 8-9:30 a.m. at the McKnight Foundation in Minneapolis and Friday, Jan. 8, from 8-9:30 a.m. at the City Council Chambers in St. Cloud.

There is no charge to attend the forum or for the light breakfast served but an RSVP to Lark Weller of the National Park Service is requested.

The Jan. 8 forum is also available by webinar and conference call. See connection details on the National Park Service website.

In the news and online

Dayton pushes for $800 million water-quality farmland easement plan in the Pioneer Press

In Minnesota's farm country, clean water is costly in the StarTribune

Experiment looks at effect of pharmaceuticals on fish on Minnesota Public Radio

State agencies nix PolyMet public health impact review in the Pioneer Press

For the sake of our lakes, keep your pavement on a low-salt diet in an MPCA news release