Mississippi River Brainerd Watershed
Restoration and Protection Project

Water-quality testing results are in for Aitkin County

After two years of water sampling and testing the health of the Mississippi River Brainerd Watershed’s lakes and streams, the results are in, and for an overwhelming majority of Aitkin County’s waters it’s good news.

Out of the 47 lakes and streams tested in Aitkin County, 31 met or exceeded the state standards of water quality. That’s 66%, numbers Janet Smude, district technician of the Aitkin County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), wasn’t surprised about.

“Results of the water quality testing are very useful in focusing our work,” said Smude. “We now know what areas of the Mississippi River Brainerd Watershed are struggling and in need of help/restoration. We also know where our outstanding water resources are. Using this information we can ensure that our limited financial resources are used wisely in restoring impaired waterbodies and protecting valuable resources.”

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and the local SWCDs have been collecting samples from within the Mississippi River Brainerd Watershed, which covers parts of Crow Wing, Aitkin, Cass, Morrison and Todd counties, including 212 lakes larger than 10 acres, and 2,149 river miles. Elements studied include water clarity, oxygen, nutrient, and bacteria levels in area lakes, streams, and rivers. MPCA crews also sampled fish using electrofishing equipment and collected invertebrate samples.

“By monitoring the state’s major watersheds it helps to prioritize efforts and to bring them back to water-quality goals,” said Bonnie Finnerty, watershed project manager with the MPCA’s Baxter office. “Having data helps to support the conversations and provides a goal-focused context for people to work together.”

In Aitkin County, Lone Lake is one that met the state water quality standards. Dave Scott is on the board of the Lone Lake Property Owners Association (LLPOA) in Aitkin County where he volunteers as the water quality team leader. The LLPOA also communicates and works together with Aitkin County Lakes and Rivers Association—an organization of about 10–15 lakes.

“As a property owner on Lone Lake, I ‘accidentally’ bought property on a clean lake and we’re trying to keep it that way,” said Scott. “We take annual secchi disk readings and measure lake elevations. Every fourth year we do water sampling and analyze the chemistry of the lake water.”

Lone Lake property owners also work to keep their lake healthy in other ways.

“We encourage no-mow buffer zones near the lakeshore and stress the importance of planting native plants with better root structures,” said Scott. “This allows more-effective percolation so sediment and fertilizers aren’t washed into the lake. We especially encourage younger generations to join us in helping to keep Lone Lake healthy.”

Aitkin County lakes that did not meet state standards include Portage, Gun, Fleming, Elm Island, Waukenabo, Ripple, Esquagamah, and Blind. Smude said these waters will be further investigated and a plan will be created to restore water quality. Strategies will also be developed to protect lakes and streams that meet water-quality standards.

For more information about the five-county Mississippi River Brainerd Watershed, visit Click on the Watershed Management Project tab, and look for the Mississippi Brainerd Watershed WRAPS for a link to the Storymap of the Mississippi Brainerd Watershed. The interactive Storymap will be continually updated with data, website links, videos, media coverage, events, and more.

This project, funded by the Clean Water and Land Legacy Amendment, was created to preserve Minnesota’s drinking water sources, as well as protect, enhance and restore wetlands, prairies, forests, fish, game, and wildlife habitat. For more information about Aitkin County SWCD, visit or call (218)927-6565.

Mille Lacs Lake Watershed Management Group

mille-lacs watershed photo #1Mille Lacs Lake, located in east central Minnesota, is recognized as one of the premier walleye producing lakes in the world, and is considered by many to be one of Minnesota’s crown jewels. The Mille Lacs Lake Watershed Management Project has been active since 1996, and works toward a goal of protecting the water quality of Mille Lacs Lake. To help them attain their goal the following projects are being undertaken:

Lake Mille Lacs Lakescaping Education and Implementation: This project will educate landowners about lakescaping through classroom and hands-on planting workshops held in 2009. Participants will gain the skills needed to design and implement a lakescaping project of their own. In addition, parcel data mapping will be conducted to identify future potential project sites. The Watershed Group is mille-lacs watershed photo #2fortunate to be partnering with the Lake Mille Lacs Association on this project, with funding provided through a generous donation from the Minnesota Waters Lake and Stream Conservation Partnership.

Rain Garden Education: During the summer of 2009, the Mille Lacs Lake Watershed Management Group will also work to educate landowners on the benefits of implementing rain gardens to manage runoff from developed areas of lakeshore property. These gardens are designed to trap rain water, and allow the sediments and nutrients carried in the runoff to settle out, before reaching the lake or river. Donations from the Aitkin County Water Planning Task Force, and Project AWARE Foundation are supporting this work.  Watch for a workshop and demonstration planting to be scheduled in the summer of 2009!

Water Quality Monitoring: The Watershed Group has just wrapped up detailed water quality monitoring on 12 tributary streams to Mille Lacs Lake, and the outlet of the lake. Samples were collected during 2007 and 2008. All data is storedmille-lacs watershed photo #3 with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and is being analyzed by S.E.H. A detailed report will be available in May of 2009. Funding for this sampling was provided by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Surface Water Assessment Program.

The Mille Lacs Lake Watershed Management Group meets every other month, normally on the third Monday. All meetings are open to the public, and participation by those interested in the watershed is encouraged. For more information, check out the Group’s website at

2010 Water Quality Project Information