Real-Time Data to Estimate Sediment, Nutrient, and Hg Loading from Northshore Lake Superior Streams
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.
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
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
partnership and is comprised of new MS4 stormwater permittees, agencies