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Keeping the watershed clean

Brad Frazier started as the Cannon River Watershed Partnership’s executive director last summer. He said the non-profit organization’s goal is to educate people on water quality issues and help landowners take steps to prevent runoff and nutrient pollution. (Republican Eagle photo by Michael Brun) 1 / 2
The Cannon River is one of two main rivers in the Cannon River Watershed, the other being the Straight River. The watershed is roughly 1,460 square miles, including portions of Goodhue County. (Republican Eagle photo) by John R. Russett)2 / 2

Many streams, rivers and lakes in the Cannon River watershed are below state standards for recreation and wildlife — and Brad Frazier wants to do something about it.

Sediment and nutrient pollution has led to fishing advisories, drinking water impairments and potentially unsafe swimming conditions, said Frazier, the new executive director of the Cannon River Watershed Partnership.

“This pollution not only affects the water in the Cannon River watershed but also adds to the problems in Lake Pepin, the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico,” he added.

CRWP, a non-profit, member-based organization, is working to stem the tide of water pollution through yearly cleanup activities and by partnering with landowners to adopt best land-use practices.

Elevated levels of nitrogen and phosphorus from runoff have contributed to algae blooms in area waters, Frazier said. As many as 36 lakes in the watershed no longer support aquatic recreation because of nutrient pollution.

Additionally, high levels of mercury in fish were recorded in 18 lakes and the Cannon River between Faribault and Lake Byllesby, according to a recent report by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Frazier offered the following steps to prevent nutrients and sediment from getting into the water:

•Installing rain barrels or planting a rain garden can help keep water where it falls and prevent nutrient runoff.

•Keeping lawn clippings out of city streets helps prevent algae blooms; leaves and grass contain phosphorous.

•Planting cover crops on agricultural land improves soil health and reduces runoff.

•Restoring lake and river shoreline filters runoff and provides aquatic habitat.

The Cannon River watershed consists of about 1,460 square miles of mostly agricultural land south of the Twin Cities. It includes portions of Goodhue County and the cities of Red Wing and Cannon Falls.

The watershed is home to four designated trout streams as well as the endangered dwarf trout lily and Blanding’s turtle, Frazier said.

The Cannon River — one of the watershed’s two main rivers along with the Straight River — drains into the Mississippi River north of Red Wing.

Frazier started as CRWP’s executive director in July 2015. The Faribault, Minnesota, resident has more than two decades of experience in the fields of aquatic contaminate research and conservation, including jobs with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, River Studies Center at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Minnesota Department of Health.

“In all of my previous positions, I worked on improving and protecting water quality for the benefit of human health and the environment,” he said.

Though he enjoyed his time working for government agencies, Frazier said he jumped at the opportunity to move to a non-profit organization.

“The more I learned about CRWP, the more excited I got about working with individuals, stakeholders and communities to protect and restore the entire watershed of the Cannon River,” he said.

Among the organization’s goals is reaching out to the community through programs and activities.

“We believe that education is present in all of our work, and that informing people about why issues are important, what they can do and how to do it leads to action,” Frazier said.

For more information on CRWP events and ways to help improve water quality, visit www.crwp.net.

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

(651) 301-7875
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