The Upper/Lower Red Lake Watershed covers 1,263,678 acres and contains the largest waterbody within the state (Red Lake). The watershed extends from as far east as Northome to the western shores of Lower Red Lake, south as far as Puposky and Blackduck Lakes, and just north of Upper Red Lake.
The Red Lake DNR Water Resources Program is leading a watershed-wide study to identify and address threats to water quality not only on the Red Lake Reservation but throughout the Upper/Lower Red Lake Watershed. This study is funded by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) but will include many partners throughout the watershed such as Beltrami SWCD, Red Lake Watershed District, and local governments.
Through this process, the program has begun more intensive water quality sampling of some of the Reservation’s streams and those feeding into Red Lake from off the Reservation. Some of the Reservation streams include the Red Lake River, Sandy River, Pike Creek, Big Rock Creek, Mud River, Hay Creek, Blackduck River, and Manomin Creek. Over the next two years, physical parameters (temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, and conductivity) will be recorded more frequently along with nutrient sampling and flow monitoring on these streams.
This project also assesses the biotic integrity (health of fish, plants, and aquatic macroinvertebrates) of the waters and physical characteristics including land use, topography, soils, and pollution sources. From the data gathered, we will determine which waterbodies are meeting water quality standards. Waterbodies that are not meeting standards are identified as impaired and studies are completed to identify what needs to be done to clean up that water body. Additionally, waterbodies that are at risk of being impaired have protection strategies developed. The final phase of a WRAPS is to conduct restoration and protection projects throughout the watershed.
The Water Resources Program will be hosting a public meeting sometime in the next year to provide more information regarding the WRAPS process and to seek input or concerns from Tribal members on water quality of Reservation waters.