Water quality in and around Mille Lacs Lake will be monitored this spring and summer.
Staff members and volunteers working with the Mille Lacs Lake Watershed Management Group began testing water and gathering data the last week of March as the streams around the lake began to open. Water in 12 tributary sites around the lake are sampled for pollutants, such as nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment.
Four sites in the lake itself will be monitored to track water quality. Data that is gathered from the watershed and the lake will be used to locate areas of greatest negative impact to the lake. Efforts to improve the quality of water entering the lake may then be targeted to the areas of greatest concern.
The water surface of Mille Lacs Lake covers 132,520 acres. The watershed, or area of land that is drained by the lake and its tributary streams, includes only 116,480 acres. The lake has a small watershed land area compared to its water surface area. The Rum River, located at the south end of the lake, is the only outlet for the lake.
This results in what is called a long water residency. It may take 20 to 30 years for water, and the pollution it carries, to exit the lake. Because of this long water residency, it is important to reduce the number of pollutants that enter the lake.
Everyone who lives in the Mille Lacs Lake watershed or enjoys recreating on Mille Lacs Lake affects water quality. Projects such as excluding cattle from streams, establishing vegetative buffers along streams, limiting the use of lawn fertilizers containing phosphorus, maintaining septic systems and stabilizing eroding shorelines are all benefits to water quality.
The Mille Lacs Lake Watershed Management Group is working to prevent further degradation of water quality in Mille Lacs Lake and the lakes and streams in its watershed. Other goals include protecting groundwater, preserving wetland resources and managing natural resources for the benefit of recreation, fish and wildlife habitat, and aesthetics.
The watershed management group is composed of volunteers from around the lake, representatives of area lake associations -- including the Mille Lacs Lake Association -- township representatives, staff of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Department of Natural Resources and Environment, the Minnesota DNR, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and staff members and commissioners from Aitkin, Crow Wing and Mille Lacs counties.
The Mille Lacs Lake Watershed Management Group encourages participation from citizens and other area groups. Regular meetings are held to discuss issues affecting the lake and the watershed. For more information about getting involved, contact Heidi Lindgren, watershed coordinator, at 900 Fifth St. S.W., Milaca, MN 56353; (320) 983-2160; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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