Minnesota Updates Impaired Waters List

Since Minnesota Gov. Pawlenty signed the state's Clean Water Legacy Act last year, seven water bodies have been removed from the impaired waters list. Cleanup efforts and better data on the status of the states' waters were made possible with $31 million from the new law.

More than 400 impaired lakes and rivers across the state are now being intensively studied, using the Total Maximum Daily Load analysis. Many more waters need attention, but more time and money is being invested to clean up lakes and rivers than any other period in Minnesota's history.

Of the seven water bodies that have been delisted, three were removed when major wastewater treatment plants upgraded their facilities to reduce the amount of ammonia going into rivers.

• The Red River of the North will be delisted in 2008 after the cities of Moorhead and Fargo upgrade or change their wastewater treatment facilities.

• A portion of the Redwood River will be delisted in 2008 following upgrades at the Marshall wastewater treatment facility.

• Eleven miles of the Chippewa River were delisted in 2006 after Montevideo upgraded its wastewater treatment plant.

Three more rivers --Clearwater River, Swan River, and Cedar Creek-- were delisted after feedlots and septic systems were upgraded.

Shannon Lotthammer, who oversees water quality monitoring for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, said extra monitoring means more will be known about water quality in Minnesota in the coming years. "New monitoring data has shown that 19 waterbodies weren't as polluted as we initially thought, so those have been removed from the impaired waters list. But new information also means that more lakes and rivers will be added to the list," she said.

Lotthammer added that this doesn't necessarily mean that Minnesota's lakes and rivers are becoming more polluted, but that better information exists. "Once we have the water quality information, we can work with our partners to assess and clean up waters that are impaired, much like we did with the seven waterbodies that have been delisted."

The MPCA will submit the 2008 Impaired Waters List to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this spring, which adds 147 new lakes and 150 more river reaches to the list.

High Court Accepts Montana Case Against Wyoming

In February 2007, Montana sued Wyoming in an effort to enforce the provisions of the Yellowstone River Compact. Montana, Wyoming, and North Dakota entered into the compact in December 1950, and the states' legislatures ratified it. The U.S. Congress consented to the compact in October 1951.

The order released by the Supreme Court recently grants Montana's motion to file a complaint. The court gave Wyoming 45 days to file a motion to dismiss and Montana 30 days to respond to that motion.

"The U.S. Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over cases in which one state sues another, but the court did not have to accept this case," said Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath.

Montana interprets the compact to allocate the waters that were in actual use in each state at the time of the compact. Wyoming, meantime, asserts that "pre-1950" rights are excluded from the compact.

The complaint asked the court to order Wyoming to deliver more water in the Tongue and Powder Rivers according to the compact and award the state of Montana damages, costs and other relief.

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