by Nicole Brodzik
The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District has declared Six Mile Creek as an area of interest for a new subwatershed district partnership with the cities of Waconia, Minnetrista, Victoria and St. Bonifacius.
It’s a part of MCWD’s newest initiatives to work with cities as a partner and not just a disciplinary body. The Six Mile Creek subwatershed partnership came about through a committee consisting of project manager Anna Brown, members of the MCWD, one policy-maker from each of the four cities as well as a member of their staff. The committee started meeting last May. Earlier this month, Minnetrista’s city council OK’d a letter of approval for the new partnership, which is the first step according to Brown. Once all of the cities are officially on board, the work will begin.
“We don’t really have any big projects lined up yet,” Brown said. “As opportunities emerge, we want to be able to move forward together. One thing we recognize is that the scale of implementation is more than anyone organization could handle. We’re looking to pool our resources. The process will really be ongoing.”
The area was flagged by the MCWD as one with water resources issues, which Brown believes were caused in large part by bygone agriculture practices.
“I think in this area, and it is a very complicated system, but I think in this area it’s from a lot of historical agriculture,” Brown said. “We’re not as concerned about the active farms in the area, a lot of it is that this area for a really long time before we understood. We’ve heard reports on some of these lakes where farmers used to deposit soil into the lakes and push things out on the lakes in the winter.”
While current farming practices don’t pose as big of a threat to the watershed, Brown said that the old sediment is being brought up, releasing all the phosphorus from decades ago, thanks to a growing population of common carp. The carp feed on the bottom of the lake, stirring up sediment and releasing extra phosphorous into the water from those years of heavy farming. That population and the effect it has on water quality isn’t separate from the rest of Lake Minnetonka, which is why the MCWD is taking steps to try and correct these issues.
“A big reason the district selected the Six Mile subwatershed area is that it really is the head waters of the Lake Minnetonka system,” Brown said. “Carp are able to move really freely through the system and carp will drive a lot of internal phosphorus loading.”
Another historical issue whose consequences are now starting to show up is the degradation of local wetlands.
“Some of them have been drained over time, have been ditched, and so those will make the water pollution worse,” Brown said. “Farmers didn’t know it was bad to drain those wetlands years ago, and they did it to farm them.”
Brown said that while those issues will require lots of work to correct, one of the main goals of this new partnership is to avoid creating more problems in the future. With new developments spreading out into that area of the watershed, Brown said she hopes the MCWD can help make sure everyone is using the land properly and that the waters nearby stay as clean as possible.
“As development occurs in this area, let’s make sure it’s done right the first time,” Brown said. “A lot of what we do is just work with the cities to just assist in the development projects to make sure they are maximizing the water quality benefit as development occurs.”
More information on the Six Mile Marsh Subwatershed can be found at http://www.minnehahacreek.org/comprehensive-water-resources-management-plan/six-mile-marsh-subwatershed-plan