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PCA Major Watersheds

Major Watershed Research & Outreach

PCA logoOur office partners with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (PCA) to help provide research and outreach assistance for their Major Watershed approach to water quality restoration and protection. A major watershed is comprised of smaller watersheds which all drain into the same larger lake or river. For instance, the major watershed called St. Louis River includes the smaller watersheds of Keene and Kingsbury creeks. 

Our office is providing both field research and community outreach assistance for  four  major watersheds within the Lake Superior Basin: The St. Louis, Cloquet, Lake Superior South and Lake Superior North. We are also providing assistance with the Duluth Urban WRAPS program.

What’s Stressing our Streams?
field photo of Tim BeasterFor the past three field seasons and again this coming spring summer and fall, South St. Louis SWCD technical staff,  together with our PCA partners, will grab their waders, state of the art survey equipment, and “Rite in the Rain” notebooks and head to remote reaches of streams all along the north shore.  These are long days bushwacking through alder, fording swollen streams and using intuition and scientific knowledge to “read” the stream in order to determine if it is functioning as it should, or if there is something happening in the watershed that is causing trouble in the stream. In addition to water-quality monitoring, staff assess the stability of our local waterways, including the installation of permanent survey markers to measure long-term hydrological changes.

CLL"Walking an entire stream, like the Talmadge River, from its mouth to the headwaters, I got to see tons of cool waterfalls and places I didn't know exist," Tim said. Collecting data along the way, he surveyed six miles of river in four days. Back in the office, the data is carefully entered into a special streams program called RiverMorph, which can help people analyze and visualize stream data quickly and accurately.

This on-the-ground (or in the water) survey work is crucial for establishing and evaluating existing water quality conditions, a task that is mandated to each state by the Clean Water Act. Fortunately for us, the people of Minnesota made it possible to conduct this critical work on more rivers and lakes and at a much more detailed level when they passed the Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment several years ago. Thank you!


Cloquet River Watershed WRAPS
The MN Pollution Control Agency, together with its partners Lake County Soil & Water Conservation District and the South St. Louis Soil & Water Conservation District, are beginning a 10 year process of assessing the health and condition of the many streams, rivers and lakes of the Cloquet River Watershed as part of our State's responsibility to know the condition of our public waters under the Clean Water Act. Besides the Cloquet River itself, other lakes and rivers in this watershed include Fish Lake, Island Lake, Grand lake, Us-Kab-Wan-Ka River, Boulder Creek, and Wolf Creek.

This 10-year process, called the Watershed Approach of the WRAPS: Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy, is being initiated by the MPCA and its partners throughout the State's 81 major watersheds on a rotating schedule.

For more information on the Cloquet River, read this article from the Conservation Volunteer.

Public Participation
Kate Kubiak at civic engagement sessionCitizen engagement is critical to keeping our State’s waters clean and protected. With (over) 10,000 lakes and thousands of miles of streams and rivers, ensuring that we are abiding by the Clean Water Act in this state is a daunting task, and one that can not be left to government alone. In addition to collaborating with PCA staff on collecting critical technical information about State waters, our office is also taking the lead on trying to engage citizens to become aware of the stressors impacting the lakes, rivers and streams that run through their property. With over half of our district’s lands in private hands, good stewardship is critical to not only protecting waters that are clean but also implementing projects to restore polluted waters as quickly as possible.  

In June 2014, our office led 11 community information meetings within the St. Louis River watershed and the Lake Superior South watershed. We had attendance of between two and 25 people at each meeting. Major topics were the new MPCA Watershed Approach and the results of intensive monitoring in these watersheds. Upcoming meetings are being planned for this coming spring from Duluth up to Virginia in cooperation with the North St. Louis Soil & Water Conservation District. These gatherings will be focused on the results of the Stressor Identification Report for the St. Louis River Watershed. The Stressor Identification document is the second formal document that comes out of the Watershed Restoration and Protection Process (WRAPS) and uses field data and research to try to identify what is causing a stream to be impaired. For example, too much turbidity in a stream (the impairment) might be caused by a stressor such as an unstable channel that is cutting into its banks. During high flows the stream will wash away dirt from these eroded banks, causing the water to become muddy when it should be clear.

When scientific data is combined with citizens' ideas and involvement, we hope to more effectively protect and improve our invaluable water resources. If you want to be notified of future watershed meetings, please email Kate or call her at (218) 723-4946.

More about PCA Major Watersheds

The blue area of the map below shows the Lake Superior Basin within Minnesota, sub-divided into 5 'major watersheds'. We are currently working with two of them.

Lake Superior Basin map

The St. Louis River watershed begins on the Iron Range. (The Cloquet River is considered a separate watershed). Click on the map below to visit PCA's interactive webpages detailing the St. Louis River major watershed.
small map of St Louis River major watershed

Lake Superior South watershed is comprised of all the creeks and rivers flowing directly into Lake Superior between downtown Duluth and Silver Bay. Click on the map below to visit PCA's interactive webpages detailing the Lake Superior South major watershed.
small map of Lake Superior South major watershed


© 2015 South St. Louis County Soil and Water Conservation District