There are 80 major watersheds in Minnesota. Intensive water quality monitoring and assessments are being conducted in each of these watersheds every ten years. Aitkin County includes portions of seven of these watersheds including:
- Kettle River
- Mississippi River – Brainerd Unit
- Mississippi River – Grand Rapids Unit
- Pine River
- Rum River
- Snake River
- St. Louis River
During the ten-year cycle the project partners, led by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, work to evaluate water conditions, establish priorities and goals for improvement, and take actions designed to restore or protect water quality. When a watershed’s ten-year cycle is completed, a new cycle begins.
A process for restoring and protecting water quality
The MPCA developed a process to identify and address threats to water quality in each of these major watersheds. This process is called WRAPS or the Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy. WRAPS has four major steps or phases.
Step 1. Monitor water bodies and collect data
Step 2. Assess the data
Step 3. Develop strategies to restore and protect the watershed’s water bodies
Based on the watershed assessment, a WRAPS report and a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) are completed. The two provide details on water quality issues and identify what needs to be done to clean up streams and lakes that are impaired and to protect those that are at risk of becoming impaired.
Step 4. Conduct restoration and protection projects in the watershed
Various local units of government, including soil and water conservation districts, take the lead in developing and carrying out implementation plans based on what is learned during the earlier steps of the process.