An extensive water quality monitoring project has been executed throughout the Snake River watershed for a number of years. The results show that while in general the water quality is good, there are areas in the watershed that could use improvement. Most of the impairments are due to human activities in close proximity to bodies of water. The most common impairments are sediments and excess nutrients.
Sediments are the result of soil eroding and running into water bodies. Nutrients come in the form of manure, fertilizers, grass clippings, and other vegetation finding their way into the lakes and streams.
These nutrients provide food for aquatic plants, and result in green, weedy lakes in the summer. The Snake River Watershed management board is working to enhance and protect the water quality throughout the watershed. We are currently promoting projects that reduce erosion and runoff in the areas of Knife Lake, Knife River, Quamba Lake, and Mud Creek. Funding is available to help with the implementation of water quality improvement projects in these areas
Lake projects generally involve shoreline stabilization and natural buffer filter strips. Stabilizing the shoreline will prevent landowners from losing shoreline, and keep excess sediment out of the water. We promote native and un-mowed plantings along shorelines over bluegrass mowed lawns. Native plantings provide extensive root systems upwards of ten feet deep, compared to bluegrass lawns that only provide a few inches of infiltration. Natural vegetation buffers are great at holding soil in place, as well as reducing runoff before it reaches the water. The plants do this by slowing down runoff. This causes the water to drop sediments and debris it may be carrying, and then the water soaks into the ground through the deep root channels. Nutrients are then used up by the plants before they can reach the lake and cause algae blooms.
Other projects that we promote primarily deal with livestock in areas close to the water. Livestock can cause problems when in or near lakes and streams. They can increase the amount of erosion near streams through heavy use and grazing plants on the shoreline that would otherwise help hold the soil in place. Livestock can also result in manure getting directly into the stream, causing the excess nutrients discussed earlier. What can be done about it? Livestock can be fenced out of the immediate stream areas and given a set crossing instead of crossing in random locations. This can greatly reduce the side effects of having livestock near the stream. Once again, there is funding available to help out with these projects.
If you have any questions, please contact the Snake River Outreach coordinator, Aaron Johnson (320) 209-5030 or Kanabec Soil and Water Conservation District Technician, Jacquelynn Olson (320) 679-3781 x106.