District working to form Minnesota River Basin Commission
The District has worked hard this past year to form a new governmental organization, the Minnesota River Basin Commission. Taking over where the Minnesota River Board left off (disbanded January 2014), the new commission would coordinate water management throughout the entire Minnesota River Basin. The structure of the Commissioner would be organized around the 13 adjacent major watersheds districts..
Though federal, state, and local agencies are currently charged with managing water quantity and quality, the work of these agencies is not necessarily coordinated. Nor is there overall leadership in managing water resources, with well-defined vision or goals. No single entity is looking out for the wellbeing of the entire basin.
As this District brochure shows, the amount of sediment finding its way into the River the last 35 years or so has increased dramatically. And this sediment flowing down the Minnesota River into the Mississippi, Lake Pepin, and all the way down to the Gulf poses a major hazard to water quality. (The PCA — Minnesota's Pollution Control Agency — claims that 80 to 90 percent of solids suspended in the river are sediment.)
As the PCA explains on its website, "High levels of suspended sediment flow through the Minnesota River and the South Metro portion of the Mississippi River. Excess sediment — primarily clay and silt — contributes to cloudy, murky water, which degrades habitat for fish and aquatic life, and lowers the aesthetic quality of our rivers for recreation and tourism."
The District introduced a bill, SF2204, this year to the Minnesota Senate and hopes to get legislation into the house this coming year.
For more information on the mission of the District, see these three recent documents:
- This report by the Minnesota River Basin Commission suggests the impacts of sediment and erosion on the Minnesota River.
- This presentation by Patrick Belmont, Utah State University, addresses how to maintain productive land and restore clean water.
- Sediment Loads on the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers reprises a talk given late last year by Chris Ellison of the USGS.