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Tons of Southern Minnesota’s Lakes and Streams are Too Polluted to Fish or Swim in

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency/Star Tribune

Looking to fish and swim in Minnesota this year? Unfortunately, some lakes and rivers are too polluted.

You’ll want to double check where you’re going in the southern section of the state because half of the lakes and rivers in that region are too polluted most of the time for fishing and swimming.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is at the midpoint of a 10-year assessment of state watersheds. Conclusions so far indicate that the problems are worsening and will require 20 to 30 years to address.

“This is further indication that our water challenges continue to increase,” said Shannon Lotthammer, who heads the MPCA’s environmental analysis division.

Gov. Mark Dayton is backing a law that would require farmers to plant 50-foot-wide strips of natural vegetation between streams and their fields to slow the runoff of fertilizers. The chemicals have been blamed for the water problems in farm areas.

Lotthammer and MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine said the findings also underscore the need to slow the flow of water from urban areas. Drainage from storm sewers speed up streams and rivers, which destabilize river banks and create sediment pollution.

The report shows that, in many watersheds where farming dominates land use, just half or fewer of the lakes are available to swimmers because of excess phosphorus.

In the southeast, southwest and across a wide band stretching from the Twin Cities to extreme western Minnesota, less than 40 percent of streams and rivers fully support swimming and recreation. The reason for this is elevated levels of E. coli bacteria from human sewage and animal manure.

But trout streams in the southeast, while showing poor conditions for swimming, are better at supporting fish and other aquatic life, the report said.

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Tons of Southern Minnesota’s Lakes and Streams are Too Polluted to Fish or Swim in