Tuesday, August 14, 2012

River Watch Project Underway

HSC has a two year contract with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to monitor water at six sites in the Mississippi River Headwaters watershed for chemical, physical, and biological qualities.  James Owens is the project leader and several other HSC employees are involved. Students from Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig High School and Camp Rabideau Conservation Academy will participate as volunteers in much of the sampling after they receive training provided by staff members at HSC and at the streams that each team and its teacher or responsible adult will monitor. This project is an up-to-date extension of the River Watch Program, which was initiated in the late 1980’s and adopted by the Mississippi Headwaters Board in 1989. River Watch is an international collaborative river-monitoring network of citizen volunteers, organizations, government agencies and private interests working together to ensure the health and wise use of streams and watersheds. In 1996, HSC received a Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant of $465,000 to teach students and teachers about the unique properties of water, water chemistry, invertebrate assessments, soil science, and related topics. The grant allowed HSC to become involved with six schools over a period of five years to carry out extensive hands-on and outdoor field activities, including monitoring, with about 5,000 students and their teachers. This work will now continue, beginning in 2012.

Citizen Scientists

River Watch certified volunteers, referred to as Citizen Scientists, will be trained and teamed with experienced environmental scientists to collect high quality scientific data that will subsequently be used to gauge long-term trends in stream health, develop land management strategies, identify potentially degraded waters, and assess the effectiveness of restoration projects. Through the scrutiny of monitoring and due to their closer proximity to the actual resource, Citizen Scientists obtain a greater understanding and appreciation for our rivers and streams and serve as advocates for the protection of those resources.

Project Goal

A two-year data set will be completed for physical, biological (Escherichia coli), and water chemistry parameters for the Intensive Watershed Monitoring Plan to aid MPCA’s assessment of the aquatic health of the Leech Lake and Pine River watersheds. Six preselected sites will be intensively monitored utilizing MPCA’s Standard Operating Procedure for stream analysis using the ‘pour point’ method of sampling near the mouth of watersheds to evaluate the condition of upstream watersheds in an unbiased manner.  This is designed  to insure that the goals of the Clean Water Act are being met, which are:
  • to insure waters “fishable and swimmable”,
  • to locate possible impairments, if they exist,
  • to provide information leading to stressor identification and guide subsequent remediation plans.