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Real-Time Data to Estimate Sediment, Nutrient, and Hg Loading from Northshore Lake Superior Streams (306-08-08)

Real-Time Data to Estimate Sediment, Nutrient, and Hg Loading from Northshore Lake Superior Streams (306-08-08)

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An estimated 720 perennial and 127 intermittent streams flow into Lake Superior including 309 trout streams and their tributaries (>2100 miles) along the North Shore (NS) and St. Louis River (SLR) estuary alone. The topography includes steep bedrock escarpments creating a high density of stream corridors in relatively narrow, forested watersheds with steep gradients, thin erodible soils, and typically low productivity, high-quality trout streams sensitive to urbanization and rural development.

This project was funded in part under the Coastal Zone Management Act, by NOAA’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, in cooperation with Minnesota’s Lake Superior Coastal Program. Additional support came from the Natural Resources Research Institute, Sea Grant College, and Facilities Management Stormwater Program at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, the City of Duluth Stormwater Utility, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency-Duluth, Western Lake Superior Sanitary District, South St. Louis SWCD, and the Cook County SWCD.
An estimated 720 perennial and 127 intermittent streams flow into Lake Superior including 309 trout streams and their tributaries (>2100 miles) along the North Shore (NS) and St. Louis River (SLR) estuary alone. The topography includes steep bedrock escarpments creating a high density of stream corridors in relatively narrow, forested watersheds with steep gradients, thin erodible soils, and typically low productivity, high-quality trout streams sensitive to urbanization and rural development.

This project was funded in part under the Coastal Zone Management Act, by NOAA’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, in cooperation with Minnesota’s Lake Superior Coastal Program. Additional support came from the Natural Resources Research Institute, Sea Grant College, and Facilities Management Stormwater Program at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, the City of Duluth Stormwater Utility, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency-Duluth, Western Lake Superior Sanitary District, South St. Louis SWCD, and the Cook County SWCD.

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Categories:Types, Research, Science
Published by: Minnesota's Lake Superior Coastal Program on Mar 09, 2010
Copyright:Public Domain

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03/13/2010

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Minnesota’s Lake Superior Coastal Program
 Real-Time Data to Estimate Sediment, Nutrient, and Hg Loading from Northshore Lake Superior Streams
 Project Richard AxlerCoordinator:
Natural Resources Research Institute
1
University of Minnesota-Duluth5013 Miller Trunk Highway, Duluth, MN 55811
Project Norm Will
1
, Elaine Ruzycki
1
George Host
1
,
 
Cindy Hagley
2
Investigators:
 
Jerry Henneck 
1
, Todd Carlson
3
Jesse Schomberg
2
Marnie Lonsdale
3
 Gerry Sjerven
1
Chris Kleist
3
, David Stark 
42
University of Minnesota-Sea Grant, Duluth, MN 55812
3
Stormwater Utility, City of Duluth, MN 55802
4
Cook County Soil & Water Conservation Department, Grand Marais, MN 55
 
Project
Jesse Anderson,
 
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Duluth, MN
Collaborators:
 
Tim Tuominen, Joe Mayasich,
 
Western L. Superior Sanitary District, Duluth, MN
 
March 31, 2008
Project No.
306-08-08
Contract No.
A92533
 NRRI Technical Report:
NRRI/TR-2008/09
This project was funded in part under the Coastal Zone Management Act, by NOAA’s Office of Ocean and CoastalResource Management, in cooperation with Minnesota’s Lake Superior Coastal Program. Additional support camefrom the Natural Resources Research Institute, Sea Grant College, and Facilities Management Stormwater Programat the University of Minnesota-Duluth, the City of Duluth Stormwater Utility, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency-Duluth, Western Lake Superior Sanitary District, South St. Louis SWCD, and the Cook County SWCD.
 
 
1
 Real-Time Data to Estimate Sediment, Nutrient, and Hg Loading from Northshore Lake Superior Streams
I
.
Background:
 An estimated 720 perennial and 127 intermittent streams flow into Lake Superior including 309trout streams and their tributaries (>2100 miles) along the North Shore (NS) and St. Louis River(SLR) estuary alone. The topography includes steep bedrock escarpments creating a high densityof stream corridors in relatively narrow, forested watersheds with steep gradients, thin erodiblesoils, and typically low productivity, high-quality trout streams sensitive to urbanization andrural development. Streams are particularly susceptible to factors raising water temperature andincreasing runoff of water and sediment, such as openings in riparian cover and canopy,impervious surface within the watershed, road crossings and the potential increased frequency of severe storms predicted by climate change models and already in evidence during the pastdecade or so in parts of Minnesota. These streams ultimately discharge into the sensitive coastalzone of ultra-oligotrophic Lake Superior or its St. Louis River Estuary. From 1992-2001, low-intensity development increased 33% in the basin with an alarming transition from agriculture tourban/suburban sprawl (Wolter et al. 2007) as indicated by Cook County’s 24% populationincrease from 1990-96. Stream fish, amphibians, and the invertebrates that sustain them arebeing adversely impacted by increased temperature, excessive peak flows, turbidity andsuspended solids, road salt, organic matter, and nutrients from increased development (MPCA2003); 11 of the 27 major North Shore trout streams are now Listed as Impaired (303d-2008)primarily for turbidity, temperature and fish-Hg (including Miller, Amity, Lester, Talmadge,Knife, French, Poplar, and Brule). Implementing effective TMDL-based watershedimprovements and making informed, sustainable land use decisions to protect these high growthwatersheds requires in-depth knowledge of current status and trends in stream and watershedcondition, along with habitat and their biota to develop accurate predictive models for managingthem. This requires water quality data during base flow, storm and snowmelt runoff for use indeveloping pollutant budgets, load estimates, and accurate predictive models to link toassessments of habitat and biological communities over a wide range of conditions. To date, allof these data have been relatively sparse, discontinuous, and/or inconsistent in regard to requiredsampling and analytical methodologies and QA/QC.
 DuluthStreams.org
was created in 2002 by an EPA (Environmental Monitoring for PublicAccess & Community Tracking) grant as a partnership among the City of Duluth, U. of MN(NRRI & Sea Grant), WLSSD and MPCA, and re-christened
 LakeSuperiorStreams.org
in 2005.The project has a primary goal of enhancing public understanding of aquatic ecosystems andtheir connections to watershed land use by illustrating the nature and consequences of degradedstormwater and its real costs to society (Axler et al. 2006, 2003; Lonsdale et al. 2006).Automated water quality monitoring data from five (5) Duluth-area St. Louis River Estuary andNorthshore tributary streams are fed into a website linking the data to GIS, land use, and currentand historical water quality and biological databases. Interactive data visualization tools andinterpretive text visually engage citizens and students and encourage the use of environmentaldata in local decision-making. The Regional Stormwater Protection Team (RSPT) grew out of the
 DuluthStreams
partnership and is comprised of new MS4 stormwater permittees, agencies
 
 
2
and organizations (now ~26) seeking to develop a unified watershed-level approach to educatingthe public and businesses about their role in nonpoint source pollution, prevention, and cures(Granley and Lonsdale 2005, 2007).Minnesota streams draining into the Lake Superior coastal zone and St. Louis River Estuary aretypically sensitive, low productivity, high-quality trout streams. Some (Miller, Amity, Lester,Talmadge, French, Poplar, Brule) are currently listed on the MN Clean Water Act (303d) List of Impaired Waters - most commonly for turbidity and Fish-Hg (MPCA 2008). Steep topographyand thin, erodible soils make these streams particularly sensitive to development. Effectivemanagement and remediation of these streams requires an understanding of their physical,chemical, and biological characteristics, which can only be obtained by monitoring, particularlyduring storm and snowmelt runoff events, when the most dramatic impacts occur. These data arecritical for developing and assessing BMPs, particularly in the face of increased development inthe high growth watersheds along the North Shore of Lake Superior (e.g. Anderson et al. 2003;MPCA 2000; IJC 1999). MPCA initiated long-term monitoring of 6 critical streams along theNorth Shore in 2002. However, MPCA has lacked the resources to install automated waterquality sensors, which are needed to capture critical pollutant loading events during high flows –important for developing cost-effective remediation and mitigation strategies.FY 04/05 funding from the MNLSCP, MPCA, Duluth, NRRI/Sea Grant and WLSSD allowedthe website to expand to include all RSPT communities, a site design toolkit, contractor trainingmaterials, new educational sections, and a northshore section (leading to renaming the website
 LakeSuperiorStreams.org
; Axler et al. 2006).The Weber Stream Restoration Initiative fundedsensors for the Amity Creek station in 2005, and in 2006 additional MNLSCP funding allowedus to install water quality sensors at the Poplar River long-term station. Preliminary analyses(Sea Grant/WLSSD funding) by NRRI-UMD for three Duluth streams indicated that near-continuous stream turbidity and conductivity data could be related to total suspended sediments(TSS), phosphorus and salt during differing flow regimes using regression models. Further, arelationship between TSS/turbidity and total mercury (THg) concentrations was found for Duluthstreams in summer storms as previously found for the Poplar River (Anderson et al. 2003).The project has included issues associated with too much runoff such as flooding, with a keyissue in the region being sanitary sewer overflows from infiltration and inflow (I&I). Theseevents have imposed risks to public health and environmental risks to the coastal zone of LakeSuperior and the Duluth-Superior Harbor, and are requiring costly programs to reducestormwater flows from key neighborhoods and construction of large storage tanks for temporarystorage of stormwater enhanced sanitary sewer flows. The consequences of excess water andpeak flows have also included excess sediment and turbidity, and potentially excess nutrients,pathogens, and contaminants. High salt concentrations for significant periods in late winter andearly spring runoff from winter road and parking lot de-icing can present additional stress totrout and their prey. Increasing impervious surface and direct and indirect removal of riparianvegetation increases peak temperatures, especially during base flow periods creating additionalperiods of stress to cold water species with the additional potential stress of lowered dissolvedoxygen.

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