MINNESOTA RIVER CLEAN-UP: TEN YEARS LATER. October 2002

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1 MINNESOTA RIVER CLEAN-UP: TEN YEARS LATER October 2002

2 MINNESOTA RIVER CLEAN-UP: TEN YEARS LATER October 2002 Kris Sigford, Author Water Quality Program Director Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy i

3 Acknowledgements This report was made possible through the generous support of The McKnight Foundation. We also thank a number of reviewers from state agencies, academia, watershed projects, and conservation groups for their thoughtful review and comments. Any errors, omissions or oversights are the responsibility of the author. The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of Minnesota s environment and the health of its people. Founded in 1974 as Project Environment Foundation, MCEA applies policy analysis, law, and science to advocate positive, longterm solutions to the critical environmental issues facing Minnesota. Questions or comments about this report can be directed to: Kris Sigford WATER QUALITY PROGRAM DIRECTOR MINNESOTA CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL ADVOCACY 26 East Exchange Street, Suite 206 Saint Paul, Minnesota ii

4 TABLE OF CONTENTS Acknowledgements... i Table of Contents...ii Table of Tables...iii Table of Figures...iii Introduction... 1 Goals and Recommendations are Developed... 1 Major Pollutant Sources and Actions to Address Them... 3 Point Sources... 3 Unsewered Communities... 4 Septic Systems... 5 Storm Water... 6 Nonpoint Sources and Agricultural Funding Programs... 6 Summary of Sources and Actions Ten Years Later How Does the River Look? Impaired Waters Lists MPCA Trend Analysis State of Minnesota River Summary of Surface Water Quality Monitoring Conclusions and Recommendations Performance Standards for Agriculture Targeting and Accountability for Agricultural Subsidies Enforce Existing Laws Improving Agricultural Drainage Point Sources of Phosphorus Basin Wide Leadership iii

5 TABLE OF TABLES Table 1 Minnesota River Basin Top Phosphorus Point Source Discharges... 4 Table 2 Status of Minnesota River Basin Unsewered Communities... 5 Table 3 Agricultural and Water Quality Funding Programs Table 4 Summary of Minnesota River Basin Total Maximum Daily Load Listed Waters Table 5 Minnesota River Pollutant Trends TABLE OF FIGURES Figure and 2001 Monitoring Season Total Suspended Solids Yield Figure and 2001 Monitoring Season Total Phosphorus Yield Figure and 2001 Monitoring Season Nitrate-N Yield Figure 4 Minnesota River at St. Peter Daily Average Flow and Total Suspended Solids Samples iv

6 INTRODUCTION In September of 1992 former Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson announced an ambitious plan to clean-up the Minnesota River in 10 years. His goal was to make what was then considered to be the state s most polluted waterway swimmable and fishable by In this report, the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA) examines the results of a decade long series of studies and efforts to achieve that goal. We look at water quality problems in the Minnesota River in 1992, goals and recommendations established for cleaning-up the river, what was done, what was spent, and water quality results at present. Finally, we present recommendations to accelerate completion of the job in the next 10 years. GOALS AND RECOMMENDATIONS ARE DEVELOPED The Governor's "swimmable and fishable" goal actually comes directly from the federal Clean Water Act. It means that water quality meets standards established to protect body contact recreation ("swimmable"), aquatic life and human health ("fishable" fish can live in the water and people can safely eat the fish they catch). When lakes, rivers, and streams are found to be violating water quality standards, they are "impaired" meaning that their beneficial uses such as swimming, fishing, and the ability to safely eat fish caught from them has been negatively impacted. The affected waterbody must then have a clean-up plan called a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) prepared for it which, when implemented, will result in the waterbody meeting standards. Seven years before Governor Carlson s announcement, in 1985, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) developed a TMDL for the lower 25 miles of the Minnesota River intended to address recurring toxicity problems caused by insufficient dissolved oxygen and excessive ammonia concentrations. The TMDL called for reductions from the Metropolitan Council's Blue Lake and Seneca wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) and a 40% reduction in the organic load from upstream "nonpoint" sources. ("Point sources" such as WWTPs and industrial dischargers discharge wastewater subject to the terms of a federal permit from a discrete pipe or pipes. "Nonpoint" sources pollute waterways from overland runoff, such as farm field runoff or a failing septic system.) In response to the TMDL, the MPCA renewed discharge permits for the Blue Lake and Seneca wastewater treatment facilities that included more restrictive advanced treatment effluent limitations for Biochemical Oxygen Demand and ammonia. In 1989, the Minnesota Legislature funded the Minnesota River Assessment Project (MRAP), a cooperative effort involving more than 30 federal, state, and local agencies. The project was designed to 1

7 assess water quality and set water quality improvement objectives for individual tributaries and sites along the main stem of the river. MRAP concluded that: Large amounts of sediment and nutrients are carried into the river during rainfall and snow melt. Fine clay and silt particles cause serious problems in the river s watersheds including turbidity and the transport of nutrients and other pollutants that can cause low dissolved oxygen levels. Biological communities are adversely affected by pollution throughout the Minnesota River and its tributaries. Levels of chlorophyll-a indicate the presence of large amounts of algae in the river. This condition is pronounced during summer low flow conditions. Levels of phosphorus in the basin are high enough to produce nuisance growth of algae. Nitrate levels in the Minnesota River are high, exceeding the Federal Drinking Water Standard of 10 milligram/liter downstream of Mankato. High fecal coliform bacteria counts are found throughout the river basin. To address these findings, the report made the following recommendations: Establish a phosphorus standard for the Minnesota River basin. Implement soil erosion control practices on all land. Develop and implement plans to manage urban storm water in all communities. Reduce phosphorus and nitrogen through agricultural best management practices, feedlot runoff control, septic system upgrades, and control of inadequately treated point sources. Restore wetlands in carefully selected locations to settle solids, remove nutrients, and reduce peak flows, thereby protecting stream banks. Conduct long-term trend monitoring of the entire Minnesota River basin. Limit stream channelization and river clearing and snagging. Strategies should be set to meet a 10-year goal for addressing pollution in the basin. Watersheds should be prioritized so that resources can be used to address critical problems first. 1 From 1992 to 1994, a Minnesota River Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) established by the MPCA met to develop a set of recommendations for improving the river's water quality, biodiversity, and natural beauty. The CAC report, also issued in 1994, shared many recommendations put forward by MRAP, but added: 1 Minnesota River Assessment Project Report, Report to the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources, January

8 Manage drainage ditches and storm sewers as tributaries; Restore floodplains and riparian areas; Enforce existing laws; and Mandate practices to control runoff if voluntary compliance does not work. 2 MAJOR POLLUTANT SOURCES AND ACTIONS TO ADDRESS THEM POINT SOURCES It has been estimated that point sources were responsible for 64% of the 441 tons of phosphorus measured in the Minnesota River at Jordan during the low flow year in Subsequent upgrades of three major wastewater treatment plants have lessened this percentage, but point sources still exert considerable influence on water quality during low flow periods. From the MPCA has overseen the disbursement of over $303 million in loans and nearly $8 million in grants for wastewater treatment facility construction in the basin (see Table 3). In particular, the Blue Lake and Seneca plants operated by Metropolitan Council Environmental Services have been upgraded in response to the 1987 re-issuance of the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit requiring reductions in their discharges of carbonaceous biochemical oxygen demand and ammonia-nitrogen. During the 1990's the two facilities implemented biological phosphorus removal treatment strategies. The Mankato wastewater treatment facility was upgraded in 2000 and has installed chemical phosphorus treatment equipment. Table 1 shows the 1991 and 2002 loading from the top point source phosphorus discharges in the Minnesota River basin. Note that the reductions from Blue Lake, Seneca, and Mankato total 215,720 pounds per year, a 45% reduction from This is equivalent to 108 tons, or nearly 25% of the total tonnage from all sources estimated in 1987, at low flow. The cities of Waseca and Fairmont and the (industrial) Associated Milk Producers (AMPI) have also made substantial reductions. These major reductions have been partially offset by substantial increases in phosphorus discharged from the Willmar, Marshall, Montevideo, and Norwood/Young America WWTPs, and a massive increase from the Minnesota Corn Processors industrial discharge. One reason for the inconsistency in phosphorus performance is that the MPCA's phosphorus strategy a guidance document useful to determine whether a NPDES permit holder will have a phosphorus limit imposed does not assign a limit based on an impaired receiving water, but rather acts only if the discharge is new or expanded or the plant is upgrading, and the phosphorus discharged is more than 1,800 pounds per year. Of 133 municipal WWTPs in the basin, only 12 have received a limit through application of the strategy. 2 Minnesota River Basin Plan, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, December Hereafter Basin Plan. 3 Minnesota River Basin Information Document, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Hereafter Basin Information Document. 3

9 Table 1 Minnesota River Basin Top Phosphorus Point Source Discharges (Pounds/Year) Sorted by 1991 Ranking Discharge (Watershed) 1991 M or E* 2001 Rank Blue Lake WWTP (Lower Minnesota) 211,700 M 135,258 1 Seneca WWTP (Lower Minnesota) 182,500 M 81,617 2 Mankato WWTP (Middle Minnesota) 86,617 M 48,222 5 Willmar WWTP (Hawk Creek) 58,000 65,084 4 Marshall WWTP (Redwood) 55,819 M 69,535 3 New Ulm WWTP (Cottonwood) 37,217 M 36,865 6 Waseca WWTP (Le Sueur) 24,836 M 10, AMPI Dawson, Industrial (Lac Qui Parle) 23,927 M 8, St. James WWTP (Watonwan) 21,408 M 21,408 9 Fairmont WWTP (Blue Earth) 17,702 E 10, Montevideo (Chippewa) 12,313 E 22,312 8 Norwood/Young America (Lower Minnesota) 10,810 M 17, Minnesota Corn Processors (Redwood) 757 E 26,971 7 Total Pounds/Year 743, ,114 * 1991 Figures Were M=Measured; E=Estimated Sources: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Power Point Presentation, Tim Larson (2002). Minnesota River Basin Information Document 1997, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Larry Gunderson, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, communication Sept. 3, 2002, and personal communication Sept. 16, UNSEWERED COMMUNITIES Many small cities and unincorporated areas in Minnesota do not have the facilities necessary to provide adequate wastewater treatment for their homes and businesses. The MPCA reports the presence of 39 incorporated unsewered communities 4 and 90 unincorporated undersewered areas 5 in the Minnesota River basin. Many of these communities use combined storm and sanitary sewer systems that discharge untreated wastewater to tile lines and drainage ditches, most contributing relatively small volumes of extremely polluted water. The presence in some of the communities of locker plants and other businesses producing high strength wastewater exacerbates the problem. In recent years many unsewered communities in the basin have been in the process of planning and/or building wastewater treatment facilities, upgrading individual or community septic systems or connecting to existing treatment facilities in neighboring communities, as shown in Table 2. Note that communities pursuing adequate wastewater treatment represent nearly 75% of the total basin population in incorporated unsewered communities. Some of the construction costs for these projects are reflected in the Wastewater Treatment Facilities entries in Table 3 Water Quality Funding Programs. 4 Status of Incorporated Unsewered Communities, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, March Basin Information Document. 4

10 Table 2 Status of Minnesota River Basin Unsewered Communities Incorporated Unsewered Communities 1990 Population Census Project Status 5 1, , ,012 Have completed wastewater projects or are managing individual septic systems in compliance with applicable requirements. Were in the process of constructing wastewater treatment facilities or connections to existing treatment plants in neighboring communities. Had submitted engineering plans for review by the MPCA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture s Rural Development office. Plan review and approval is one of the required steps for project funding Were working on the Facility Planning process, an engineering plan required as a preliminary step in the funding process Were in the initial planning stages for wastewater improvements. 17 1,620 Were not actively seeking wastewater projects. Source: Status of Incorporated Unsewered Communities, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, March SEPTIC SYSTEMS Collectively, failing septic systems are a major source of fecal coliform bacteria in waterways throughout the basin. The MPCA s 1997 Basin Information Document estimates the presence of 67,630 septic tanks in the Minnesota River basin serving an estimated population of 165,978 people. Of these, 45% are estimated to discharge 3.36 million gallons per day to drain tiles, ditches, creeks or streams. Although prohibited by state law and rule, these high-strength directly discharging systems are not being addressed in an expeditious fashion. Among the 18 counties in the Minnesota River basin responding to a survey by MCEA, not a single one has conducted or has a program to conduct systematic surveys to locate these dischargers. Faribault and Murray Counties (who did not respond to MCEA s survey) have taken a leadership role in conducting comprehensive countywide (Faribault) or lakeshore (Murray) septic system surveys. An additional percentage of septic systems in the basin are inadequate in either design or maintenance, but are not discharging directly to surface waters. Since 1994, Minnesota (Minn.) Statutes and Minn. Rules (R.) chapter (ch.) 7080 have established standards for professional licensing and certification for Individual Sewage Treatment System (ISTS) designers, installers, pumpers, and inspectors. A 1997 statutory amendment required all counties to adopt Minn. Ch complying ordinances by January 1, These ordinances generally require septic system upgrades when property is transferred or building permits for projects likely to increase septage, such as a bedroom addition, are sought. These statutory and ordinance changes are slowly but steadily beginning to correct inadequate septic systems. 5

11 State Revolving Fund dollars administered by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) have been available for ISTS upgrades via low-interest loans, and have provided $5,460,505 for septic systems in Minnesota River basin counties (see Table 3). The MPCA has administered an additional $707,902 in grants to address ISTS problems. STORM WATER The MPCA s 1997 Basin Information Document lists urban storm water as a significant source of pollutants in the Minnesota River basin, but estimates of its significance are unreliable due to the lack of specific monitoring. The 1997 estimates were based on runoff from 70,600 acres of urban and 119,300 acres of mixed urban-rural areas, annual precipitation of 26 inches, and several assumptions based on national and Metropolitan Council storm water studies. Based on these assumptions the annual contribution of pollutants from urban storm waters was estimated at: Total Suspended Solids 30,350 tons Nitrogen 206 tons Phosphorus 99 tons Biological Oxygen Demand 2,500 tons Urban storm water is also associated with thermal pollution as well as the transport of toxic pollutants from road surfaces and chlorides from snow and ice control on roads and parking lots. 6 Since the early 1990s the MPCA has undertaken a Storm Water Program that, through a general NPDES permit program, has required sediment and erosion control for construction projects that disturb five or more acres of land. Certain types of industrial activities have also been required to obtain coverage under a general industrial storm water NPDES permit (MPCA, Minnesota River Basin Plan 2001). Under the federal Clean Water Act Phase II Stormwater Program, at least eight communities in the basin will be required to obtain a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS-4) general NPDES permit beginning in March The final listing of communities will be published in rule this fall. The general permit developed by the agency requires MS-4s to develop stormwater management plans, but does not require monitoring. As a result, finer estimates of urban stormwater pollution loadings will not be available. NONPOINT SOURCES AND AGRICULTURAL FUNDING PROGRAMS With 92% of the land in the Minnesota River basin under cultivation, it is not surprising that agriculture has a major impact on water quality. In the high flow year of 1991, 90% of phosphorus loading was from nonpoint sources, a whopping 2,976 tons. 8 Runoff from agricultural fields carries high levels of 6 Basin Plan. 7 Chaska, Fairmont, Mankato, Marshall, New Ulm, North Mankato, Shakopee, and Willmar. Source: MPCA map showing cities with population exceeding 10,000, May 21, Basin Information Document. 6

12 phosphorus, nitrogen, fecal coliform, and sediment to waterways. A number of programs and funding sources addressing agricultural pollution have been active in the Minnesota River basin during the past 10 years. Several of these directly subsidize farmers' costs for conservation tillage, riparian buffers, taking sensitive lands out of production, livestock facility upgrades, and related water quality purposes. Among the largest of these programs are: Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Authorized by the 1985 Food Security Act, the CRP is a voluntary program that offers annual rental payments, incentive payments for certain activities, and subsidies to establish long-term resource conserving cover on eligible cropland. The program funds up to 50% of a participant s cost in establishing approved conservation practices. Since 1986 the program has provided $447,083,829 for projects in Minnesota River Basin counties (see Table 3). Source: USDA Farm Service Agency, Conservation Reserve Program Fact Sheet, October 1999, Between 1986 and 1996, an additional $240,000,000 in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) funding was spent to place conservation structures on highly erodible land and to convert acreage in the basin from conventional to conservation tillage. Source: Basin Information Document, page 247. Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) A cooperative effort between the USDA and the State of Minnesota initiated in February 1998, CREP combines the USDA s CRP and the state s Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Reserve program (administered by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) since 1986) with a goal to retire up to 100,000 acres of environmentally sensitive land from agriculture in the Minnesota River basin by September 30, The program matches 2.3 federal CRP dollars for each state dollar appropriated for RIM Reserve easements in the basin. The state has appropriated $81.4 million for the program. CREP reached its 100,000-acre enrollment goal in June The state s portion of the program s funding has currently reached $70,898,734 (see Table 3). Source: Board of Water & Soil Resources, Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program Fact Sheet, Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) A voluntary conservation program administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, EQIP replaced the Agricultural Conservation Program (ACP) and provides farmers with financial and technical help to install or implement structural and management conservation practices on eligible agricultural land. EQIP can fund up to 75% of the cost of certain conservation practices and has been heavily focused on animal feeding facilities in recent years. Since 1997, ACP and EQIP have provided $5,770,776 for projects in Minnesota River Basin counties (see Table 3). 7

13 Source: Natural Resources Conservation Service, Environmental Quality Incentives Program Fact Sheet, June 2002, Agriculture Best Management Practices (BMP) Funding Program The Agriculture BMP Program is administered by the MDA in conjunction with Minnesota counties. The State Revolving Fund (SRF) program provides loans for water quality related agricultural improvements such as agriculture waste management projects, conservation tillage equipment, and erosion control structures. The counties review and approve the technical aspects of the projects. 9 Since 1995 the program has provided $18,837,071 for Minnesota River basin counties (see Table 3). State Cost Share Minnesota has appropriated approximately $900,000 per year in each of the past 10 years to pay up to 75% of farmers costs in implementing BMPs in the Minnesota River basin. These funds are allocated by formula through the BWSR to Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) in the basin. In addition, the state has appropriated $250,000 in each of the past four years for feedlot improvements in the basin, and one-time appropriations of $475,000 and $300,000 from the general fund and the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources respectively for on-farm water quality projects. This spending totaled $10,775,000 in the past 10 years (see Table 3). Manure Management The MPCA s 1997 Basin Information Document estimates the presence of 9,700 feedlots in the Minnesota River basin between Lac Qui Parle and Ft. Snelling. Manure volumes produced in the basin were estimated at 367 million cubic feet and thought to contain 60,000 tons of nitrogen, 43,000 tons of phosphorus, and 145,000 tons of oxygen demanding materials. Five to 20% of the nitrogen, phosphorus, and oxygen demand in the Minnesota River was estimated to originate as improperly managed manure. Manure is also a major contributor of fecal coliform bacteria in the basin s waterways. Modeling conducted for the Straight River TMDL estimates that livestock manure contributes over 80% of the total fecal coliform load in spring wet conditions. 10 (Note that although the Straight River watershed is in the Lower Mississippi River basin and modeling results are not directly applicable to watersheds in the Minnesota River basin, it is the only watershed for which a fecal coliform TMDL has been completed and is mentioned here to illustrate probable similarities in Minnesota River basin watersheds.) The degree to which livestock manure reaching waterways will be attenuated by the recently revised Minn. R. ch governing animal feedlots is unknown. The rules require one potent source open feedlots lacking runoff controls located near surface waters to reduce runoff by 50% in 2005 and 100% in If fully implemented, this will result in significant water quality improvement. The rules also require a series of practices for land application of manure to fields that would significantly benefit water 9 Dwight Wilcox, Minnesota Department of Agriculture; personal communication. 10 A Computation of the Straight River's Total Maximum Daily Load of Fecal Coliform Bacteria, Second Draft, July 2002, page 64, Table 28. 8

14 quality if fully implemented. Historically, there has been very little state or county oversight of manure application practices, and prior rules governing land application of manure were widely disregarded. The now obsolete Minn. R. ch , subpart 3 required that manure be applied at rates not exceeding local agricultural crop nutrient requirements. A University of Minnesota paper published in 2001 found that the average rate of excess nitrogen applied from both manure and fertilizer was found to be 44% above the University of Minnesota nitrogen guidelines for corn and the average rate of excess phosphorus oxide applied from both manure and fertilizer was found to be 186% above the University s guidelines for corn. 11 Section 319 Nonpoint Source Program Authorized in the 1987 amendments to the federal Clean Water Act, the Section 319 (of the Act) Nonpoint Source program provides funds for nonpoint source implementation projects identified in the State Nonpoint Source Management Plan. Funds for the program are provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and administered by the MPCA. Section 319 is a successor to the Clean Lakes Program, which funded nonpoint source projects intended for lake restoration from 1981 to These programs have funded over $4.5 million for nonpoint source projects and MPCA programs in the basin (see Table 3). Clean Water Partnership Program (CWP) The CWP was created in 1987 to address pollution associated with runoff from agricultural and urban areas. The program provides local governments with resources to conduct diagnostic studies, develop implementation plans, and put in place needed best management practices to protect and improve lakes, streams, and ground water. All major watersheds in the Minnesota River basin currently have active CWP projects which have established diverse sets of goals such as public education; water quality and drainage improvements; flood control; reductions in sedimentation rates and pollutants; consolidation of watershed data; identification of priority issues and areas; management of riparian corridors and shore land areas; coordination of governmental efforts; and promotion of healthy agricultural, industrial, and recreation based economies in the basin. In addition to the implementation of agricultural BMPs, individual projects have undertaken (or have plans for) activities such as water quality monitoring, biomonitoring, well sealing, septic system improvements, household hazardous waste collection programs, and implementation of sub watershed level restoration projects. 12 CWP projects are widely credited with success in the organization of local water quality improvement initiatives. The Redwood River CWP has published an interesting and beautifully produced 2001 report, which details the successes and limitations of the project and a very insightful section of the lessons learned in the process. Since 1981, $19, has been spent on nonpoint source programs in the Minnesota River Basin (see Table 3). 11 Technical Working Paper, Impacts of Animal Agriculture in Water Quality, Dr. D.J. Mulla, et. al., Dept. of Soil, Water and Climate, University of Minnesota, April 3, Outline of Project Results, Diane Ovrebo, Minnesota River Basin Joint Powers Board, August

15 Source: Clean Water Partnership Program web page (August 2002), SUMMARY OF SOURCES AND ACTIONS Public monies spent to improve the Minnesota River through these programs in the last decade total almost $1.2 billion, with 70% of that in payments to farmers to implement conservation measures or retire land from agricultural use. Unfortunately, it is difficult to track the environmental outcomes of this $814 million investment. Federal programs typically report number of practices put in place, or acres enrolled, but not the effects. Also, farmers tend to quit a practice or take land out of retirement when payments cease, further confounding attempts to account for effectiveness. For example, of the 32 counties in the basin reporting corn/soybean residue results for two or more years, 19 reported a decrease in 2000 from their highest year in meeting residue targets. 13 Lastly, the water quality benefits of some practices can take some time to show up. For example, although the full 100,000-acre enrollment in CREP was achieved, the benefits can take three years to fully present themselves. We do not yet know the extent to which nonpoint sources upstream of Shakopee achieved the 40% load reduction in biological oxygen demand called for in the TMDL. The MPCA is working to calibrate a modeling tool which is intended to help determine this, and to help identify the most efficient means for attaining further improvements. 14 Modeling results from five watersheds upstream of the Lower Minnesota watershed are expected this fall, followed by discussions about specific pollutant reduction allocations, and a completed Phase II TMDL by late winter or early spring of Conversely, for the 30% of monies other than payments to farmers, environmental outcomes are comparatively easy to track. The lion s share of this funding (86%) went to wastewater treatment plant upgrades, and resulted in the 45% reduction of phosphorus from the three largest point sources already discussed. Table 3 Sources: MPCA Basin Information Document, pg. 247; Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (November 1997). Minnesota River Basin Plan 2001, pg. 100; Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (December 2001). Farm Subsidy Database ; Environmental Working Group (May 2001); Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program Easement Summary by County (July 2002); Minnesota Board of Water & Soil Resources; Minnesota Department of Agriculture Spreadsheet "Minnesota River Summary.xls"; Dwight Wilcox (August 2002). 13 Residue targets include fields with >30% residue plus fields with >15% residue when following soybeans. Source: Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, 2000 Minnesota Corn-Soybean Residue Survey Results, Statewide Summary By County at 14 Minnesota River Basin Modeling Project Fact Sheet, MPCA, March Jim Klang, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency; personal communication. 10

16 Agriculture Funding Programs Table 3 United States Department of Agriculture* Minnesota Board of Water & Soil Resources Minnesota Department of Agriculture CRP OTHER EQIP ACP RIM CREP COST-SHARE* Ag BMP ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) Agriculture Funding Program Total $447,083,829 $240,000,000 $4,097,291 $1,673,485 $20,400,000 $70,898,734 $10,775,000 $18,837,071 $813,765,410 Water Quality Funding Programs Minnesota Department of Agriculture Board of Water & Soil Resources Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Total Water Quality Funding Programs Water Planning ('92-'02) Wastewater Treatment Facilities Ag BMP ('95-'02) State ISTS ( 95-02) Loans Grants CWP ( 81-01) MN Clean ISTS LCMR Wastewater Infrastructure 319 Grants Grants Grants General Fund Lakes Grant TMDL Grants SRF Loans WIF Grants $13,875,000* $13,875,000 $303,907,346 $7,823,682 $311,731,028 Septic Systems $3,551,665 $1,908,840 $707,902 $6,168,407 Local Projects Nonpoint Source ( 94-01) MPCA Programs ( 89-96) $12,638,419 $6,767,042 $19,405,461 $3,420,000 $736,365 $3,787,388 $502,579 $8,446,332 $720,000 $2,650,000 $62,735 $3,423,735 Water Quality Funding Cumulative Total $363,049,963 Total Agriculture and Water Quality Funding Programs ( ) $1,176,815,373 * Funding provided to counties whose territory includes the Minnesota River Basin, but not necessarily earmarked for projects in the basin. Jeff Nielsen, BWSR, personal communication (September 2002). Approximate value based on 85% of the $24 million appropriated by the State Legislature for RIM during the '92, '94, and '96 bonding sessions.

17 TEN YEARS LATER HOW DOES THE RIVER LOOK? Surprisingly, a comprehensive analysis on the changes in the water quality in the Minnesota River basin since Governor Carlson s 1992 challenge to clean-up the river has not been published. Despite early recommendations, monitoring throughout the basin has been inconsistent and often data collected have not captured the effects of significant storm events. Clean Water Partnership projects for all 13 watersheds are in place and have been collecting data for varying periods of time, but data collection methods have not always been compatible. In the absence of such an analysis, we look at progress toward water quality goals in the Minnesota River basin three ways: comparing the list of impaired reaches from 1992 through 2002; through a 10-year trend analysis for selected pollutants prepared by the MPCA; and by looking at the results of monitoring data from mainstem and tributary sites summarized as the State of the Minnesota River. IMPAIRED WATERS LISTS As discussed above, Minnesota's list of impaired waters requiring TMDL clean-up plans represents those river reaches that are not meeting water quality standards, and are therefore not "swimmable" and/or "fishable." The TMDL list has been published on a biennial basis from 1992 to 1998, and on a quadrennial interval since then. As illustrated in Table 3, the list of impaired waters for the Minnesota River basin has been growing over the years as more sites are monitored for a growing list of pollutants. Between 1992 and 2002, 213 new reach impairments were listed, while only three reaches were de-listed, having returned to compliance with water quality standards. 16 Note that 122 water bodies are listed for Fish Consumption Advisories (FCA) due to elevated concentrations of mercury and polychlorinated biphenyl found in fish tissues. The presence of these pollutants is generally thought to be a result of atmospheric deposition of chemicals from widespread air pollution sources. None of the programs described in this report address strategies to reduce the levels of these toxic chemicals. Viewed from the perspective of this catalogue of the basin s impaired waters it does not appear that we have succeeded in meeting the terms of Governor Carlson s ambitious 1992 challenge to make the Minnesota River swimmable and fishable within 10 years. 16 One of the river reaches listed in 1992 for violations of the dissolved oxygen standard (Reach of the Redwood River) and two of the river reaches included on the list in 1994 and 1996 for violations of the fecal coliform bacteria standard (Reach of the Yellow Medicine River and Reach of the Minnesota River) have subsequently been removed from the list because during later monitoring periods they have returned to compliance with the applicable water quality standards. 12

18 Table 4 Summary of Minnesota River Basin Total Maximum Daily Load Listed Waters Impaired River Reaches Pollutant Total by (Affected Use) TMDL TMDL TMDL TMDL TMDL (1) Pollutant Ammonia (Aquatic Life) Chloride (Aquatic Life) Fecal Coliform Bacteria ( Swimming) Impaired Biota (Aquatic Life) Low Dissolved Oxygen (Aquatic Life) (4) 2 (4) (3) Mercury FCA (2) (Aquatic Life) Mercury Water Column (Aquatic Life) Polychlorinated Biphenyl FCA (2) (Aquatic Life) (5) (6) 30 Polychlorinated Biphenyl Water Column (Aquatic Life) Turbidity (Aquatic Life) Turbidity from Total Suspended Solids (Aquatic Life) 1 (6) New Listings: Cumulative Total: Notes: (1) TMDL list not published in (2) FCA based on contaminated fish tissue samples from the listed reaches. (3) One reach removed from the TMDL list because it was found to meet the water quality standard for Fecal Coliform bacteria. (4) One reach removed from the TMDL list because it was found to meet the water quality standard for Dissolved Oxygen. (5) Two of these reaches had FCA that were previously included by reference and are now listed individually. They are not newly impaired reaches. (6) Reaches with FCA that were previously included by reference and are now listed individually. They are not newly impaired reaches. Source: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 13

19 2002 MPCA TREND ANALYSIS Another view of the last decade s improvements in the condition of the Minnesota River is provided through analysis of the long-term trends recorded at specific monitoring stations. The difficulty with this approach lies in relating pollutant concentrations recorded at different times under disparate river flow regimens. One of the limitations of the available long-term data is that, while plentiful and presumably accurate, much of it has been collected on a time based interval rather than a flow related basis. A recent MPCA analysis of Jordan and Ft. Snelling monitoring stations in the Lower Minnesota River watershed and the Mankato monitoring station in the Blue Earth River watershed examined long-term pollutant trends. These three stations were selected because they offered both water chemistry and flow data, so that a flow-weighted analysis was possible. The objective of the trend analysis was not to look at loads, but rather to remove the effects of flow and look at changes in concentration over time, thus focusing on the effects of human activity. 17 The analysis, based on data collected by Metropolitan Council Environmental Services, the U.S. Geologic Survey, and the MPCA examined trends in the concentrations of Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD), Total Suspended Solids (TSS), Phosphorus (P), Nitrate/Nitrite (NO2/NO3), and Ammonia-Nitrogen. Viewed through the perspective of this analysis, presented in Table 5, it appears that progress has been achieved during the past decade only for phosphorus and ammonia monitored at Ft. Snelling. The MPCA attributes this progress largely to wastewater treatment plant upgrades. Table 5 Minnesota River Pollutant Trends Minnesota River at Ft. Snelling TSS BOD Phos. NO2/NO3 Ammonia average annual change no no -3.70% no -6.00% (p-value) trend trend 0.05 trend 0.00 Minnesota River at Jordan TSS BOD Phos. NO2/NO3 Ammonia average annual change no no no no no (p-value) trend trend trend trend trend Blue Earth River at Mankato TSS BOD Phos. NO2/NO3 average annual change insuff. insuff. insuff. no (p-value) data data data trend Source: MPCA water quality trend analysis data, Dave Christopherson, 2002, (Note that examination of water quality trends over a 25-year period shows significant reductions in the concentrations of several pollutants at most stations, but these data are not relevant to the 10-year focus of this report. These changes have been attributed by the MPCA to waste water treatment plant upgrades, a 1977 ban on phosphorus in laundry detergents, and an increase in conservation tillage over 1970s levels.) 17 Larry Gunderson, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency; September 3,

20 STATE OF THE MINNESOTA RIVER SUMMARY OF SURFACE WATER QUALITY MONITORING The Metropolitan Council Environmental Services Department, the MDA, and the MPCA recently collaborated in producing a summary of data collected at nine key monitoring stations in the basin during 2000 and Monitoring data was contributed by individual watershed projects, and correlated with meteorological data from the State Office of Climatology and stream flow data from U.S. Geological Survey. (Fecal Coliform bacteria monitoring data was not utilized in this summary.) 18 The results presented below for total suspended solids, phosphorus and nitrate-nitrogen (Figures 1-3) show the comparative contributions of each watershed expressed as pounds per acre. This assessment normalizes mass on the basis of area in order to compare watersheds of different sizes. Figure and 2001 Monitoring Season Total Suspended Solids Yield (Draft) TSS 2001 TSS TSS (lbs/acre) Chippewa Hawk Creek Redwood Cottonwood Watonwan Le Sueur River Blue Earth River High Island Creek Sand Creek Note: Redwood and Cottonwood data from 5/1/01 through 9/30/ This data is available at: 15

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