Public Meeting June 30, 2016 Presenting the Quality of the Waters

You are invited to attend a public meeting to be held June 30, 2016, from 9:30 am to 11:30 am at Hope Lutheran Church in Walker to present the findings of a study conducted over the past four years on the quality of the waters of the Leech Lake River watershed.
Strategies in a soon-to-be-released plan by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to protect the future quality of waters in the region will be previewed. “While the results of the study show the waters in the watershed to be of high quality, there are some areas of possible concern for the future if we’re not vigilant in protecting our waters,” said Lindsey Ketchel, executive director of the Leech Lake Area Watershed Foundation. “We cannot take for granted that our waters will stay clean in the future when there are continued projections for population growth in the region and climate changes looming on the horizon.”
In 2012, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) along with local partners Cass County Environmental Services, Leech Lake Area Watershed Foundation (LLAWF), Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe (LLBO)-Division of Resource Management, DNR, US Forest Service and the Hubbard County Soil and Water Conservation District launched a four-year study called the Leech Lake Watershed Restoration and Protection Study (WRAPS). “This watershed is one of the 80 major watersheds in Minnesota being assessed on a 10-year rotational basis as a result of the 2008 Clean Water Land and Legacy amendment, “said Phil Votruba, MPCA project manager. “The study will culminate in the Leech Lake River WRAPS plan, to be released for public comment mid-summer, that details strategies and responsibilities to keep the waters of the region healthy for future generations to enjoy. With final approval later this year, the plan’s strategies will be incorporated into the Cass and Hubbard County Water Plans to insure the counties and their partners in water quality protection are eligible for funds to implement protection projects prioritized in the plan. “
The Leech Lake River watershed covers 855,000 acres in Cass County, eastern Hubbard County, and a small portion of Beltrami County. The watershed includes priority waters such as the Necktie and Kabekona rivers and Garfield, Kabekona, and Benedict lakes in Hubbard County; and the Leech Lake River, Boy River and chain of 20+ lakes along the river, Leech Lake, the Woman Lake chain, and more than 30 other priority lakes in Cass County. This watershed’s land area ultimately drains to Leech Lake and from there to the Mississippi River and on to the Gulf of Mexico. Over 165,000 acres (20%) of the watershed is surface water. “This watershed contains some of highest value waters in Minnesota,” said Ketchel. “Our waters are essential to our health and quality of life, our recreation, abundant fish and wildlife habitat, and the economic sustainability of our communities.”
From 2012 to 2015, streams in the watershed were monitored for chemical and biological activity plus historical and current lake water quality data was collected and analyzed from lake associations, the LLBO, and local and state agencies. When the monitoring was completed, professionals and citizens participated in meetings to review the results and prioritize strategies for protecting the waters of the Leech Lake River watershed. The draft plan is being written by the Leech Lake Area Watershed Foundation and MPCA using the data gathered and input received throughout the four-year project; Cass County is the fiscal agent for the study.
The general water quality protection strategies in the plan, by resource category, include: continued forestry management to “keep forests forested” to prevent runoff to streams and lakes; replacing and resizing road culverts for proper water management; land conservation; vigilance and modification of local land use controls; livestock management; sediment and nutrient management; shoreland stewardship; continued water quality monitoring; groundwater protection; urban stormwater management; no net loss of wetlands; and protection of unique cultural resources. “Protecting our water quality will require the involvement of the whole community,” said Ketchel. “The public meeting will be an opportunity to hear about the results of the WRAPS study and strategies for future protection of water quality and the role that all sectors of the community can play in the implementation of the WRAPS plan.”
For more information on the WRAPS Project, contact Phil Votruba, MPCA, at, 218-316-3901 or Lindsey Ketchel, Leech Lake Area Watershed Foundation, at, 218-675-5773.