Citizens Have Been Monitoring Minnesota's Lakes and Streams for 20 Years!

It started in 1998 with 17 volunteers monitoring the health of 22 streams sites in southeast Minnesota. Today there are more than 400 volunteers and 500 stream sites across Minnesota. The data they collect are indispensable to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

If you’d like to be part of this program to help ensure clean water in Minnesota, go to the program’s webpage at www.pca.state.mn.us/cmp, or call the MPCA at 651-296-6300 (Twin Cities) or 1-800-657-3864 (Greater Minnesota). The MPCA provides equipment and training, and no experience is needed.

View Press Release: https://www.pca.state.mn.us/featured/20-years-400-volunteers-and-priceless-information-about-water-quality

Explore the Rainy-Lake of the Woods Basin through a virtual tour

The International Rainy-Lake of the Woods watershed is incredibly unique – it straddles the Canada/U.S. border and is dominated by water – streams, rivers, wetlands, lakes. Because about 41% of the watershed is in the U.S.A. (Minnesota) and 59% is in Canada (Ontario and Manitoba) agencies work across the border to ensure healthy waters. Not only does water provide the foundation for the thriving fishery and tourism industry, it is a vital source of drinking water for many communities including International Falls in MN, Fort Frances and Kenora in ON, Winnipeg, MB and many First Nation and tribal communities.

Watershed Restoration and Protection Projects - A Virtual Tour Tour of Local Projects

 

The Lake of the Woods Sustainability Foundation has created an interactive website specifically for the Rainy-Lake of the Woods Basin as a hub for you to get all your Basin-wide information.  Here, you will find all the latest newsletters, events, and resources.

New: Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed Website

 

The Lake of the Woods Sustainability Foundation has created an interactive website specifically for the Rainy-Lake of the Woods Basin as a hub for you to get all your Basin-wide information.  Here, you will find all the latest newsletters, events, and resources.

Rainy-Lake of the Woods Basin News & Events

Watershed News: A Series about Water Quality on Lake of the Woods

By Kelli Saunders, International Watershed Coordinator

Water…it gives us life, it symbolizes summer, it has spiritual meaning, it calms us, it’s what defines our community.  To celebrate the importance of water locally and the great efforts collectively to protect it, this space will be dedicated to water throughout the summer months – its quality, its governance, its future and how we can all help to preserve it.

What is a Watershed and what’s unique about ours?

By Kelli Saunders, International Watershed Coordinator

Everyone lives in a watershed and here in Kenora, we live in what’s called the Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed, a massive basin, with its beginnings (called headwaters) only a short distance west of Lake Superior.

Our watershed: is it healthy?

By Kelli Saunders, International Watershed Coordinator

Last week, I outlined what a “watershed” is and described the geography of ours – the Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed.  It is huge and diverse, so it goes without saying that the environmental issues are just as diverse. 

IJC needs public’s help in setting water quality targets for Lake of the Woods

By Kelli Saunders, International Watershed Coordinator

The view from space is compelling. Each summer, Lake of the Woods is plagued by blue green algae blooms, as can be seen in the satellite image pictured above. It’s a transboundary lake – provincially and internationally – and that means that we must cooperate closely with our neighbors in Manitoba and the U.S. to protect our shared waters.

The Rainy River – an environmental restoration success story

By Kelli Saunders, International Watershed Coordinator

For those of us living at the north end of Lake of the Woods, the Rainy River is a two hour car drive away and perhaps not familiar to us, but this river is the most influential tributary to Lake of the Woods, contributing about 70 per cent of the total water flowing into the lake. This week, we take a look at a bit of the fascinating history of the cleanup of the Rainy River – which has had a direct impact on the health of Lake of the Woods.

Lake of the Woods: The Algae Mystery

 By Kelli Saunders, International Watershed Coordinator

Last week, I discussed the impressive cleanup of the Rainy River, including substantial reductions in phosphorus from the paper mills, sewage treatment plants and other sources in the past several decades. The question I left you with was, if phosphorus was reduced, why are we still getting algae blooms?

Phosphorus, algae’s favorite food, stimulates its growth. When algae die and fall to the lake bottom and decompose, the phosphorus is released.

Toxic blue-green algae is actually a cyanobacteria

By Kelli Saunders, International Watershed Coordinator

Algae are microscopic, plant-like organisms that can occur naturally in ponds, rivers, lakes and streams. Although they can be olive-green, red or black, depending on the species, the blue-green version most of us are familiar with are actually a group of bacteria, called cyanobacteria. In the Rainy-Lake of the Woods watershed, algae have been around for years and, in fact, explorers, fur traders and settlers reported them 200 years ago. Algae thrive on the nutrients (mainly phosphorus in this part of the country) in the water – some is natural and some is human-caused, like agricultural and stormwater runoff or leaching from septic systems.

Contaminants, erosion, invasive species – what’s happening?

By Kelli Saunders, International Watershed Coordinator

Contaminants are generally less of a concern here than in other more populated areas, like the Great Lakes. Nevertheless, they can enter the surface and groundwater from what are called “point source discharges” like wastewater treatment plants, stormwater drains, industrial outfalls and more diffuse, “non-point sources” like runoff from agricultural fields or septic systems. The point source discharges are controlled through regulations, but diffuse sources are harder to monitor and manage. 

Contaminants, erosion, invasive species – what’s happening?

By Kelli Saunders, International Watershed Coordinator

Several of the articles in this column have focused on water quality issues. Today, I’ll focus on the successful cooperation that has grown over the last decade between governments, our Foundation, the International Joint Commission (IJC) and other partners to work together to understand the issues and find solutions. You’ll get a sense that there is great communication across the border – this is fairly unique. Since the watershed is shared between two provinces, one state and two countries, you can well imagine that there are many players; in fact, there are over 27 agencies with some form of water quality mandate in this watershed.

International coordination is alive and well on Rainy – Lake of the Woods watershed

By Kelli Saunders, International Watershed Coordinator

About eight years ago, with coworkers aboard a boat on Rainy Lake, ideas were brewing around the need to somehow coordinate and harness the energy and dedication of individuals working on water issues in this basin and break down communication barriers. Not long after, the concept of establishing an international watershed coordination program was born – a program that would be supported by partners, for partners. My position as International Watershed Coordinator began, with a focus on three levels of integration that, together, make up the International Watershed Coordination Program (IWCP): international, regional and local.

We all can play a role in protecting water quality

By Kelli Saunders, International Watershed Coordinator

Last week, I mentioned that there are three components to the International Watershed Coordination Program here in our basin, one of them being the “local” or grassroots component. This is where you come in. Protecting water quality is everyone’s responsibility, but how does an individual find a way to make a difference? Let me offer a few ideas based on the civic engagement work we do with our partners.

Does it really matter what I do?

By Kelli Saunders, International Watershed Coordinator

The short answer is YES. Reducing impacts on our environment has to be a collective initiative and every single person and the changes they make will have an impact. In past articles, I’ve focused on what agencies are doing to understand watershed issues and work towards protection. Today and next week, I’ll focus on ideas that we, as watershed citizens, can all do.

Canada’s science program Part Two: Baseline Monitoring

By Kelli Saunders, International Watershed Coordinator

Last week, I introduced some of the work that Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) is doing in the Rainy – Lake of the Woods basin to provide a bit of an overview of the program with a focus on its satellite algae-tracking project. This week, the focus is on the baseline monitoring that ECCC has been doing over the course of the past 10 years.

Water Levels: How are they Managed in this Watershed?

By Kelli Saunders, International Watershed Coordinator

Given the very wet conditions throughout the watershed this fall, I thought I’d dedicate this week’s article to a discussion about water levels and how they are managed in this basin. While Mother Nature has the last word on how much water will be in the system, there are management mechanisms in place to help regulate levels as best they can, but with extreme conditions, like this fall, the impact of any human management can be reduced to almost nil in light of Mother Nature’s control.

So you want to become a citizen scientist?

By Kelli Saunders, International Watershed Coordinator

If you’ve been reading these articles since they began in late June, you’ve probably got the sense that there is a lot of research going on in the Rainy Lake, Lake of the Woods watershed basin. This is a good thing – we need lots of data to understand such a huge, complex environment. But, because we are in a remote part of the world with thousands of lakes and streams, there is only so much scientists can do. This is where the “citizen scientist” comes in. The beauty of the citizen scientist is that they can be of any age and any skill level; it only takes a bit of dedication, passion and accessibility to water.

Programs monitor environmental health on Lake of the Woods

By Kelli Saunders, International Watershed Coordinator

This week, I’m circling back to Canada’s science in the watershed – so far, I’ve touched on Environment and Climate Change Canada’s (ECCC) satellite and baseline monitoring initiatives. Today, the focus is on ‘modelling’ – essentially, trying to predict water quality conditions in the basin under various scenarios.

What you can do to keep aquatic invasive species from spreading

By Kelli Saunders, International Watershed Coordinator

We tend to hear more and more concern about invasive species, but what are they and how can we help prevent their spread? An invasive species is one that is not native to a specific location (an introduced species), and that has a tendency to spread to a degree believed to cause damage to the environment, economy or human health.

Bi-national Drain Stencil Project

 

Most storm sewer drains in the U.S. and Canada drain directly to a water body.  Koochiching SWCD partnered with the Lake of the Woods Sustainability Foundation to work with local students on both sides of the border to mark as many drains as possible to help make the public aware that anything that is dumped will go directly to our waterways.  The effort was led by Kelli Saunders of the Lake of the Woods Sustainability Foundation, each school’s shop class created the stencils, the city/town assisted, the school was directly involved, and Koochiching SWCD gave a presentation on how runoff affects our water.

This project is funded by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and The Clean Water Fund.

On May 25, 2017, 6th graders from Falls Elementary School participated in the drain stencil project and completed almost 60 stencils near the school!

The project has been repeated each spring since!

On May 31, 2017, The 8th graders of Fort Frances High School painted a whopping 70 drain stencils starting near the Sorting Gap Marina all the way to the hospital and between.

The same project has been repeated every spring since!

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Lake of the Woods Sustainability Foundation

Lake of the Woods Sustainability Foundation Website

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Mike Kennedy

Project Manager

218-302-6629

mike.kennedy@state.mn.us

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Amy Mustonen

Watershed Project Manager

218-302-6638

amy.mustonen@state.mn.us

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Cary Hernandez

Watershed Project Manager

218-846-8124

cary.hernandez@state.mn.us

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Jolen Simon

Program Coordinator

218-283-1180

jolen.simon@co.koochiching.mn.us

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Kim Yankowiak

Water Resources Technician/Specialist

218-283-1180

kim.yankowiak@itascaswcd.org

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Phil Norvitch

Resource Conservationist

218-471-7287

phil@nslswcd.org

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Kate Kubiak

Conservation Specialist

218-723-4867

Kate.Kubiak@southstlouisswcd.org

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Mike Hirst

Resource Technician

218-634-1842 ext. 4

mike.hirst@mn.nacdnet.net

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Derrick Passe

Project Coordinator

218-834-8575

derrick.passe@co.lake.mn.us

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Philip Larson

Conservation Technician

218-387-3649

philip.larson@co.cook.mn.us

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Zachrie Gutknecht

218-333-4158

zachrie.gutknecht@co.beltrami.mn.us

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Janine Lovold

Water Planner

218-463-1903

janine.lovold@mn.nacdnet.net

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