WATER QUALITY 2012

Consulting Firm Studies Cross LakeWenck and Associates, an environmental consulting firm, was contracted by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to do a thorough analysis of the Snake River watershed.  After focusing on the upper areas, their attention is now focused on downstream sections including Knife, Quamba, Pokegama, and Cross Lakes.  On May 12th,  specialists Joe Bischoff and Jeff Strom spent several hours on board  with Dean Yorston and Jerry Trent  sampling at specific sites.  A total of 21 sediment cores were taken from the TMDL sites where the CLA water quality team  has for two years  been collecting water samples and recording top to bottom data of the ever-changing factors of dissolved oxygen, pH, specific conductivity, and temperature.  Bischoff and Strom also used electronic data equipment to sample these same factors, and collected large bottles of surface water.   The sediment cores should provide unique insight as to the various components of the bottom of the lake.  Both organic and inorganic matter will be analyzed in a variety of ways.  For example, when the bottom of the lake is in an anoxic condition (no oxygen), how much phosphate is released?  How much phosphate is bonded to iron, calcium, aluminum, etc.?  How much iron is present and is it in a form available to bond with phosphate?  Lake bottom chemistry–leading to Internal loading of nutrients– is  especially important as it relates to algae bloom, curleyleaf pondweed, and water clarity!  The  specialized analysis of these 21 sediment core samples and bottles of surface water is being done by a private laboratory, headed by a University of Wisconsin professor, and is estimated to cost the MPCA $17,000 to $20,000.   Both past and current data that the CLA  water quality team has collected in the Snake River, Cross Lake, and streams will be used as part of the Wenck study.  The MPCA  and DNR have also produced a large quantity of biological data.  A  report will be written by both Bischoff and Strom and  will be available to the water quality team.   Ultimately, the sources and kinds of pollution will be identified and remedial plans can be made.     Jerry Trent

———————————————————————————————————Water and AgricultureThe Minnesota Environmental Partnership joined a coalition of Minnesota cities, conservation groups and farm and business representatives on May 29th to call on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to hold farm operators accountable for cleaning up their share of run-off pollution flowing into Minnesota Rivers.  A demonstration in St. Paul showed that there is a 13 to 1 ratio of agricultural runoff compared to urban landscapes.  The president of the Minnesota Farmers’ Union said “you can’t just wave your hand, you have to have plans in place and this has to go through a legislative process.”  MPCA officials said that they already are in the process of deciding what should be done to clean the state’s waterways.  The Dayton administration and federal officials are working on a program to provide financial incentives.   A spokesman for Friends of the Mississippi said “we all need to do our part to clean up our states’ rivers.  There is no requirement for Minnesota farm operators to take action–and voluntary ag pollution control practices haven’t moved the needle.”  A farmer, who practices soil and water conservation methods on his land, said:  It’s time for Minnesota agriculture to step up and take a greater role in solving water and soil quality challenges.  Farmers who adopt conservation practices must be supported through education, incentives, and technical assistance, and should not be put at a competitive disadvantage.”  This wise farmer said it clearly.  Let’s hope that there is the leadership and tenacity to get it done.  The CLA helped support one significant farm runoff problem affecting Cross Lake and has helped with reducing other run-off problems, but  much more needs to be done.    Jerry trent


Ice-outAccording to a St. Paul Pioneer Press article, creeping ice-outs might mean fundamental changes for state waters.  A mild winter followed by an early spring heat wave forced ice off lakes with record-breaking haste.  An expert at the University of Wisconsin examined historical ice-outs for the northern hemisphere and other countries.  The average change over 150  years was 8.7 days later for freeze-up and 9.8 days earlier for breakup dates.  This means longer periods of open water with the likelihood of causing the water to warm earlier and to higher temperatures.  Fish species vary in their ability to handle warmer water temperatures, but the Cisco/Tullibee needs cool, oxygen-rich water, but warmer water holds less oxygen.  Some reports indicate Cisco die-off in August when the temperature peaks and oxygen levels fall.   Early ice-out may lead to more problems with nuisance weeds such as Curley-leaf Pondweed and greater chance of “algae bloom”.  How we manage our shorelands by eliminating run-off of nutrients can influence the oxygen content of the lake to some extent.