Watershed restoration and protection project kicks off this year
A long-term, comprehensive study of the Rum River and its tributaries will begin this summer, establishing a baseline to protect the scenic waterway for future generations.
The kickoff event for the major Watershed Restoration and Protection Project (WRAPP) was hosted March 28 at the Isanti Government Center, with a full house in attendance. The project is part of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s efforts to chronicle the 81 major watershed basins in the state, with funding coming from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment approved by voters back in 2008.
“The Rum River watershed study will be a springboard to cleaner water, along with being a prerequisite to access funding for any future projects,” explained Mille Lacs Soil & Water Conservation District Administrator Susan Shaw. “We were missing a good coalition up and down the river. There have been good local efforts by lake associations and other organizations, but this study will be tying us all together. We feel really good about what will come from the study.”
Jamie Schurbon from the Anoka County Soil and Water Conservation District and Holly Carlson from Isanti County Zoning, were also on hand to open the meeting, they along with Shaw, represent the three main counties involved in the study. Altogether, 11 local governmental entities are involved, including the Mille Lacs Band of the Ojibwe.
Extensive and varied monitoring
The enthusiasm of Bonnie Finnerty, Aaron Onsrud, Chandra Carter and Dereck Richter of the MPCA, was evident as they explained to the crowd the variety of information which will be gleaned from the water over the course of the study. Finnerty said it will be a holistic approach to protecting the Rum, which includes volunteer citizen monitoring in certain spots. Through monitoring sites in streams and lakes, she said the study provides a more efficient way to deal with impaired water – as opposed to just collecting samples at the Rum’s mouth in Anoka, for example.
Richter and Carter spoke about the data breakdown which will be collected over the multiyear study of the Rum as the scientists lock in water clarity, nutrients, sediment, dissolved oxygen, ecoli, chloride and chlorophylla levels to determine “stressor IDs.”
Richter further explained that there are 10 locations on Lake Mille Lacs alone for data collection.
Onsrud, an aquatic biologist, said that 49 biological sites have been selected to round up fish and invertebrate samples. He may also be talking to private landowners to seek permission to draw samples from other sites. He and his team will use electroshock techniques to sort and weigh the creatures, along with sending two of each species back to the lab for deeper analysis.
“We are so excited since this is the most people we’ve seen come to a watershed study kickoff meeting, and that says a lot about how much you people care about the Rum River and its tributaries,” Onsrud said. “If you see us out on the sites – and a lot of sites are near bridges – come watch us sample fish and do our other jobs.”
Project results will include plans to improve impaired sections of the Rum River watershed, as well as protecting good conditions where they exist.