Public input: Forestry meeting- Tuesday October 27th @ 6:00PM

Making the Mississippi Muddy

The Mississippi River in Aitkin County has long been noted as being muddy.  This was confirmed in recent studies that found high levels of sediment in the river.  This resulted in 147 miles of the river being listed as impaired for Total Suspended Solids (TSS), and triggering a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study.  The impaired stretch extends from the Swan River in northern Aitkin County to the Crow Wing River south of Brainerd.  A Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study establishes the amount of a given pollutant that a water body can accept and still meet water quality standards.  This was completed to determine the reduction in pollutants needed to again meet water quality standards.  Where is the sediment coming from and how can it be reduced? 

The main source of sediment in this stretch of river comes from non-point sources – especially bed and bank erosion.  The soil deposits left behind from Glacial Lakes Aitkin  / Upham are finely grained and easily erodible.  They are comprised of fine, layers of sand, silt, and clay with very little coarse sand and gravel. Beds of silt and clay are found in areas where the lake was deepest. Sand and gravel can be found in areas where the lake was shallow and along beach ridges. As Glacial Lake Aitkin began to drain, peat deposits developed in the bog areas that remained. The flat topography associated with Glacial Lake Aitkin soils generally prevents erosion, however, these fine-grained soils are highly susceptible to erosion when disturbed, particularly along river and stream banks where the soil is on a slope or incline.  Bends in the river also commonly experience erosion. 

The effects of sediment on the aquatic life in the Mississippi River was a concern that was investigated through the TMDL study.  The aquatic community reflects the cumulative impacts of pollutants, habitat alteration, and hydrologic modification on a waterbody over time.  Degradation of surface waters can lead to changes in biological communities as pollutant intolerant species are replaced by species that tolerate more polluted waters.  The presence of a diverse and reproducing aquatic community is a good indication that the aquatic life beneficial use is being supported by a stream.

All the Upper Mississippi River reaches that are impaired by TSS exhibited good fish ratings.  The total number of fish species observed at each monitoring station ranged from 11 to 24. The good scores indicate that the current fish community is either not impacted by the existing elevated TSS, or has adapted to the existing sediment levels.  These good scores also indicate that the fish community is not negatively impacted by pollutants (in this case high TSS levels), habitat alteration, and hydrologic modifications to the impaired portions of the Mississippi River.

So what can be done to reduce the sediment levels in the river?  There are strategies that can be implemented to minimize sediment.  The following were outlined in the TMDL report:

  • Land Conservation through easements and acquisitions.  Conservation easements typically restrict future subdivision and development of the property, favoring natural habitat values.  Incentive payments may be available to property owners interested in this program.
  • Excluding livestock from access to riverbanks.  Exclusion fencing and alternate water sources can accomplish this.  Technical and financial assistance may be available to assist landowners.
  • Creating / protecting vegetation along the riverbanks.  Deep rooted native vegetation can help to hold the soil in place.  Trees and shrubs are especially important.
  • Minimizing stormwater impacts.  Reducing or slowing runoff from large rain events can reduce sediment entering the river.  Rain gardens and vegetated swales are simple practices to implement. 

Several partners were involved in this study including the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Aitkin County Soil and Water Conservation District.  The full TMDL report is available on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency website at https://www.pca.state.mn.us/sites/default/files/wq-iw8-60b.pdf

Photo Credit:  Kyle Fredrickson, Aitkin County SWCD

Gravel Pit Certification Starts Making a Difference in Aitkin County

Many Aitkin County gravel pit owners have joined the fight against the spread of noxious weeds through gravel pit certification.

Canada Thistle

The goal of the Gravel Pit Certification Program is to certify gravel with a reduced seed bank, to reduce maintenance costs and the spread of Minnesota noxious weeds throughout the county.  The most common noxious weeds that infest gravel pits in Aitkin County are Common Tansy, Spotted Knapweed and Canada Thistle.

Active gravel pits/owners in the program working toward reducing seed banks in Aitkin County gravel are:

Franklin Turnock

Allen Ammala Excavating

spotted knapweed

Mark Ritter

Emery Inc.

Patrick Ritter

Park X LLC

Brooks Pit

Chad Westerlund

Tony Nistler

Johnson Sewer & Excavating INC

common tansy

Carlson Gravel Pit

Hawkinson Construction Co INC

Nelson Lakeside Farm

Kruse Gravel

Rick Boyer

Mark Demenge

Jeanette Strand

Help with noxious weed identification can be found here: https://www.mda.state.mn.us/plants-insects/minnesota-noxious-weed-list

mature spotted knapweed

For more information on Gravel Pit Certification Program : https://aitkincountyswcd.wordpress.com/contact-us/

Enjoy the Outdoors – Week 4

The Aitkin County Soil and Water Conservation District (Aitkin County SWCD) is launching a weekly activity series for kids that encourages getting outdoors and learning about our environment!

Each week will feature a different topic. An activity sheet can be found on the SWCD website and on Facebook. Complete some or all of the activities and share the results with us at AitkinCoSWCD@gmail.com. Each week, one participant will be selected to receive a $ 10 gift certificate to the Dairy Queen. Have fun and take some time to Enjoy the Outdoors!

Week Four listens for Spring Songs! Now is the perfect time of year to look for and listen to our feathered neighbors. This new activity sheet will have you experiencing the outdoors in a different way – by using your sense of hearing. Enjoy getting outdoors this week and listen to the wonderful songs that surround us!

Week 4: Activity Sheet.
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is cardinal-picture.jpg
Week Four (May 4th – May 9th) encourages us to listen for Spring Songs.
Week Three (April 27th – May 2nd) focuses on Forests as Homes!

Week Three focuses on Forests as aHomes. We are surrounded by forests in northern Minnesota, but have you ever thought about how many creatures call the forest home? A new activity sheet opens our eyes to the many benefits of the trees around us! Take a closer look at the trees in your neighborhood as you enjoy the outdoors this week!

Week 3: Activity Sheet.


Week Two (April 20th – 25th) Features Soil!

Week Two featured Soil. So much of what we do depends on soil – from growing food, and landscaping to keeping waters clean and helping wildlife. A new activity sheet featuring soil can be found on the SWCD website and on facebook. Enjoy the outdoors and maybe get a little dirty learning about soil!

Week 2: Activity Sheet.


Week One (April 13th – 18th) Features Water.

Week One featured Water. Ice is coming off lakes, rivers are flowing, frogs are singing. This is a great time to learn about water!

Week 1: Activity Sheet .

Enjoy the Outdoors – Week 3

The Aitkin County Soil and Water Conservation District (Aitkin County SWCD) is launching a weekly activity series for kids that encourages getting outdoors and learning about our environment!

Week Three (April 27th – May 2nd) focuses on Forests as Homes!

Each week will feature a different topic. An activity sheet can be found on the SWCD website and on Facebook. Complete some or all of the activities and share the results with us at AitkinCoSWCD@gmail.com. Each week, one participant will be selected to receive a $ 10 gift certificate to the Dairy Queen. Have fun and take some time to Enjoy the Outdoors!

Week Three focuses on Forests as Homes. We are surrounded by forests in northern Minnesota, but have you ever thought about how many creatures call the forest home? A new activity sheet opens our eyes to the many benefits of the trees around us! Take a closer look at the trees in your neighborhood as you enjoy the outdoors this week!

Week 3: Activity Sheet.


Week Two (April 20th – 25th) Features Soil!

Week Two featured Soil. So much of what we do depends on soil – from growing food, and landscaping to keeping waters clean and helping wildlife. A new activity sheet featuring soil can be found on the SWCD website and on facebook. Enjoy the outdoors and maybe get a little dirty learning about soil!

Week 2: Activity Sheet.


Week One (April 13th – 18th) Features Water.

Week One featured Water. Ice is coming off lakes, rivers are flowing, frogs are singing. This is a great time to learn about water!

Week 1: Activity Sheet .

Native Plant, Shrub and Tree Sale

These native perennials are a great choice for many landscaping projects. Colorful blooms provide habitat for desirable wildlife like pollinators and songbirds.

Deep, extensive root systems can prevent soil erosion, protect water quality, and promote infiltration. Make a difference in your landscaping by adding natives!

Ordering Instructions:
Print off and completed an order forms
Payments are due by April 27, 2020

To pay by check, make checks payable to Aitkin County SWCD.
Return form and payment to:
Aitkin County SWCD
307 2nd Street NW, Room 216
Aitkin, MN 56431

Plants will be available for pick up on May 14th and 15th in Aitkin

For more information, please contact: Aitkin County SWCD