Regional officials are banding together to plan for the future of the Snake River Watershed and they are looking for help and input from the public in order to do it right.
From forest stream to St. Croix
The headwaters of the Snake River are in the Solara State Forest in Aitkin County, and from there it winds its way south, looping around the west side of Mora. Then it heads east and curves north, where it is fed by the Ann River, the Groundhouse River and Mud Creek out of Quamba before flowing first into Pokegama Lake and then to Cross Lake. From there, it takes the last steps of its meandering journey as it flows eastward into the St. Croix River.
Overall, the Snake River Watershed – the entire area that feeds the Snake River with its groundwater – is approximately 1,006 square miles or 643,534 acres in extent touches four counties: Aitkin, Kanabec, Mille Lacs and Pine.
“Water quality is a high-level concern across the state,” said Pine County Land and Resource Manager Caleb Anderson. “Historically, watershed planning was done by municipal boundaries or political boundaries, so there were many water plans – city plans, county plans, watershed district plans – and they were overlapping. The state has come up with a system for planning watershed and water-quality improvement, and that system is called the ‘One Watershed, One Plan’ initiative – a way to do water planning along watershed boundaries.”
Water quality challenges
Anderson noted that the Snake River Watershed deals with a number of water quality challenges coming from agriculture, lake development and the towns along the river including Mora and Pine City. Anderson said a range of projects are possible within the plan.
“It’s an interesting watershed with lots of work to do,” he said. “[Projects] can really vary. It can be related to groundwater protection, surface water improvement, best practices for farmers or lakeshore owners. It could be monitoring where we need more data. Cities will sometimes look at projects related to their storm water – that can be a significant contributor of pollutants.”
He said they are looking for input from residents on what areas need the most attention.
“It’s about creating good, sound strategies for restoration and protection of these water resources that the community holds so dearly,” Anderson said
Planning, funds, actions, consequences
Anderson said that there is already state funding attached to the plan, so once it is completed, staff can put more time into implementing the plan and less into applying for grants.
“One of the things that I like about this planning process is that there are multiple entities involved to hold each other accountable,” he added.
Anderson said that residents need to be aware that everything they do or do not do with their water has an effect.
“The water quality practices that happen or don’t happen on Pokegama Lake affect Cross Lake as well as all the way down the St. Croix to the Mississippi system,” he said. “There’s always somebody downstream that is affected by what we do in our watershed.
“It’s a different way of thinking. If my property is nowhere near a lake or a river, it’s easy to dissociate yourself from the total watershed function. There’s plenty of science that shows that the condition of that whole drainage area has an impact on those lakes and rivers. It’s a nice challenge for a landowner to think a little bit more critically about potential runoff, even if you’re not close to a lake or river. Even if you’re in the middle of a town, the rate at which that water goes off your property to the street, down the storm sewer, to the river – it matters.”
For further information contact Deanna Pomije Deanna@KanabecSWCD.org 320-679-1391.
View a video on the Snake River Watershed planning process at www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHyC-AtGEzc