Itasca Waters Aquatic Invasive Species Project (ongoing)
In 2013, Itasca Waters approached the Itasca County board to alert them to AIS issues in the county. We asked for money from the trust fund to initiate a preventative program. The first request was for money to institute a Comprehensive Invasive Species Management Area and to begin inspections and education on AIS at boat access ramps throughout the county.
The first request was turned down, but in 2013 the environmental trust fund allocated $20,000 for Itasca Waters to begin the program to educate the public. In 2014, the State allocated money to counties to provide awareness and inspections throughout Minnesota. Itasca County requested that Itasca Waters be the organization to raise AIS awareness and AIS knowledge within the county.
The demographics included access ramps, resort owners, bait shops, fishing guides, aviation businesses offering water landings, marine dealers, and riparian owners. Itasca Waters hired a project coordinator, and the AIS program began.
The program was governed by a technical committee from numerous agencies. We hired AIS inspectors the first year and found that on the 7 original lakes inspected (Bowstring, Deer, Pokegama, Splithand, Swan, Trout and Wabana) 29% of the boats inspected failed to follow state guidelines. In 2015 that percentage decreased to 9.5%, and has continued to drop in 2016 and 2017.
Each year the program has increased lake access inspections and has accomplished the goal of increasing awareness at all levels. Itasca Waters coordinated the program though 2016 and transferred the program to Itasca County Soil and Water at the beginning of 2017. At the end of 2016 nearly 20,000 inspections were conducted on many more than the original 7 lakes, numerous decontamination units were in operation, and summer jobs were provided to numerous people throughout the county. The program continues in 2018.
Itasca Community College (ICC) Water Testing Lab (completed 2015)
In 2015, operations of the ICC Water Testing Lab were transferred to RMB Environmental Laboratories, Inc.
When Itasca Waters received the first grant in 2007, the objective was to provide a state-certified water-testing laboratory that would provide local water testing capabilities and a practical educational experience for students at ICC who had an interest in water science. Under the direction of Drs. John Downing and Jack Jones, the ICC Lab obtained credible data from nearly 300 Itasca County lakes that had never been sampled. Due to lack of grant opportunities, ICC was unable to continue the operation of the laboratory and ICC, along with Itasca Waters, developed a plan to have a private laboratory take over the operations.
RMB Environmental Laboratories, Inc., Detroit Lakes, MN, owned and operated by Robert Borash, has agreed to operate the lab and to allow the continued education of ICC students in water sample collection and analysis. RMB has a long history of working with students and Robert Borash and his staff will fulfill Itasca Waters’ goal of maintaining a water quality lab in conjunction with student participation. RMB has the ability to analyze water samples from a variety of sources, including well water. Local lake associations and private residents are encouraged to contact RMB for more information regarding any water testing that they might need.
Purple Loosestrife Control (completed 2014)
In 2015, this project was transferred to Itasca Soil & Water Conservation District. Purple loosestrife control was begun in 2007 by the Turtle Lake Association before being turned over to Itasca Waters in 2011. Itasca Waters was the fiscal agent for this project for the years 2011 through 2014.
Economic Assessment of the Value of Lakes and Lake Water Quality in Itasca County, Minnesota (Completed 2014)
The general objective of this study was to estimate the recreational value of the County’s lakes and how these values change due to changes in water quality. Not surprisingly, Itasca County residents place a high value on water quality in local lakes. A study by Dr. Daniel Phaneuf, funded through a Blandin Foundation grant, shows that county residents are willing to pay at least $10 million per year (nearly 1.5 percent of total county income) to prevent a 20 percent decrease in future water quality. These findings: 1) suggest that high water quality in Itasca County provides substantial economic value by augmenting the appeal of recreation access, and 2) reflect residents’ concerns for how impaired water quality might affect future generations. A four-page summary can be read here and the full report here.
Diagnostic Study—Pokegama Deer Lake Clean Water Partnership (Completed 2013)
This innovative study funded by a Clean Water Partnership (CWP) grant from the MPCA analyzed “nutrient input-output” samples from lakes and streams associated with Pokegama and Deer Lake and was a collaborative effort between SWCD, lake associations, and citizen volunteers.
This unique study about two important, but very diverse, lakes in Itasca County came up with some very surprising discoveries that you may find of interest. To read the full report, click here.
Dr. John Downing, Professor, Iowa State University;
Dr. John Jones, Curators’ Professor, University of Missouri;
Dr. William Simpkins, Professor, Iowa State University;
Jacob Smokovitz, Graduate Research Assistant, Iowa State University;
Noel Griese, Lakes & Waters Specialist, Itasca County SWCD;
Eric Ahlstrom, Itasca Community College Water Quality Lab Coordinator; and
Randy Hedin, Itasca Community College Water Quality Lab Chemist (not pictured)
Itasca County Sensitive Lakeshore Identification (Completed 2013)
The Itasca Waters Board agreed to support a LCCMR grant that would identify sensitive lakeshore in Itasca County with Paul Radomski, Science Advisor, MN DNR and Jim Gustafson, SWCD, as the lead investigators.
To read the final report, click here:
Itasca Native Shoreland Buffer Incentives Program (NSBI) (Completed 2013)
In 2008, grants were received to pilot a incentive program for maintaining or restoring shoreland buffers.
Congratulations to everyone who worked on the Itasca County NSBI project! Here is the full report, complete with photos. The project involved trained citizens (college students, lakeshore owners, Master Gardeners) who helped conduct the research. The Itasca County Lake Challenge Worksheet was used to guide lakeshore owners through an evaluation of their shoreline, identifying “lake-friendly” and “unfriendly” practices, and outlined action steps an owner might wish to implement.
Surface Water Assessment Grants (SWAG) (Completed 2013)
Two SWAG grants were received from MPCA in partnership with SWCD and ICC. The purpose of these grants was to sample and assess water quality for Itasca County lakes and the Bigfork River Watershed and included lakes that had never been sampled in the past. Visit Itasca County Lake Data for specific lake data.