State of the Beach/State Reports/MN/Water Quality

From Beachapedia

Home Beach Indicators Methodology Findings Beach Manifesto State Reports Chapters Perspectives Model Programs Bad and Rad Conclusion

Minnesota Ratings
Indicator Type Information Status
Beach Access66
Water Quality66
Beach Erosion3-
Erosion Response-4
Beach Fill4-
Shoreline Structures3 4
Beach Ecology1-
Surfing Areas35
Coastal Development{{{19}}}{{{20}}}
Sea Level Rise{{{21}}}{{{22}}}

Water Quality Monitoring Program

The Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act (BEACH Act) signed into law on October 10, 2000, amends the federal Clean Water Act (CWA), incorporating provisions intended to reduce the risk of illness to users of the Nation's recreational waters. The BEACH Act authorizes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to award program development and implementation grants to eligible States, Territories, Tribes, and local governments to support microbiological testing and monitoring of coastal recreation waters, including the Great Lakes, that are adjacent to beaches or similar points of access used by the public. BEACH Act grants also provide support for development and implementation of programs to notify the public of the potential exposure to disease-causing microorganisms in coastal recreation waters. EPA encourages coastal States and Territories to apply for BEACH Act Grants for Program Implementation (referred to as Implementation Grants) to implement effective and comprehensive coastal recreation water monitoring and public notification programs. CWA section 406(i) authorizes appropriations of up to $30 million per year to develop and implement beach programs. Unfortunately, only about one-third that amount has been authorized each year since the program's inception. In recent years, the total funding available for BEACH Act grants has been about $9.5 million. Funding beyond 2012 has been in jeopardy, since EPA's budget requests for this program in FY2013 and FY2014 were ZERO (money for testing in 2013 and 2014 was ultimately allocated as part of Continuing Resolutions to resolve the Federal Budget impasse) and there was also no money for beach testing in the FY2015 budget. Again, it was restored at the last minute as part of a Continuing Resolution. It is very discouraging to have to fight for this basic funding to protect the public's health at the beach every year. Thankfully, there is a growing movement to provide stable funding. Unfortunately, in 2017 the situation is even more dire. If available, funds are allocated to the states and territories based on a formula which uses three factors that are readily available and verifiable: (1) Length of beach season, (2) miles of beach and (3) number of people that use the beaches. Minnesota was eligible for a $196,000 grant in fiscal year 2016.

Minnesota is a member of a Coastal Swimming Beach Monitoring Program for coastal recreation waterways, funded by a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant. Lake Superior is Minnesota’s only coastal recreation waterway, and 2003 was the first year monitoring for bacteria along the northern shores of Lake Superior. The program is administered through the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), and is a cooperative effort between the MPCA, Minnesota Department of Health, County Health and Environmental departments, local units of government, municipalities, higher education institutions, and private and public organizations along Minnesota’s Lake Superior shore.

The goal of the program is to assure a safe and healthy aquatic recreational environment by informing the water-going public about risk of contracting water-borne diseases from exposure to contaminated waters. The program collects samples from 39 Lake Superior beaches and analyzes those samples for water-borne diseases and human health risks.

The MNBeaches website is a collaborative effort between the Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

The Minnesota Lake Superior Beach Monitoring Program Website has maps of Lake Superior Beaches, a description of their beach monitoring programs, and the capability of viewing local beach advisories using satellite map imagery. Data can also be accessed with the beach bacteria data viewer.

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released their report Testing the Waters, A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches in June 2014. NRDC's report evaluates beach monitoring data relative to EPA's recommended Beach Action Value (BAV). The BAV is a more protective threshold than the national allowable bacteria levels used in previous years to trigger beach advisories. The EPA considers the BAV to be a "conservative, precautionary tool for making beach notification decisions."

NRDC ranked Minnesota 9th in Beachwater Quality (out of 30 states). 8% of samples exceeded EPA's new BAV standards for designated beach areas in 2013.

NRDC's Testing the Waters report for 2012 contained the following program description:

Sampling Practices: The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) monitors beaches from the week before Memorial Day to the end of September, with some beaches not monitored until June due to cold weather. The state determines sampling practices, locations, standards, and notification protocols and practices at the beaches monitored under the program. Water quality at beaches in the Grand Portage Reservation, located on the north shore of Lake Superior near the Canadian border, is monitored in a program separate from the state’s Lake Superior Beach Monitoring Program.

MDH collects samples at a depth of 6 to 12 inches in water that is knee deep, while samples in Grand Portage are collected in water that is 2.5 feet deep. Beaches monitored by the state program are assigned high, medium, or low priority, depending on the potential for impacts from stormwater runoff, bather loads, and waterfowl populations as well as proximity to concentrated animal feeding operations and wastewater treatment discharges.

When an MDH beach is placed under advisory, monitoring occurs daily (Monday through Thursday) until the site meets water quality standards. States that monitor more frequently after an exceedance is found will tend to have higher percent exceedance rates and lower total closing/advisory days than they would if their sampling schedule did not increase after an exceedance was found.

The Park Point Southworth Marsh Beach is no longer monitored due to its increasing unsuitability for water recreation.

Closings and Advisories
Standards and Procedures: The Lake Superior Beach Monitoring Program does not issue beach closings; its policy is to issue advisories only. The Grand Portage Tribe, however, does issue closings. Minnesota applies a single-sample maximum E. coli standard of 235 cfu/100ml and a geometric mean E. coli standard of 126 cfu/100ml for the most recent five samples collected during a 30-day period. When a sample exceeds either the single-sample or the geometric mean bacteria standard, an advisory is issued. Advisories are posted on the Minnesota Lake Superior Beach Monitoring Program website and are available through a 24-hour hotline. Additionally, signs are posted on the beach and news releases are sent to the media to alert the public to health advisories. There is no protocol for delaying or forgoing an advisory when a sample exceeds standards. The Grand Portage Tribe applies the same water quality standards as the state.

Because traditional processes for determining bacteria levels in beachwater take a day to complete, beachgoers don’t know if the water they are swimming in meets quality standards until the following day. Consequently, there is a great deal of interest in techniques that will allow for faster notification of water quality issues. Among these is Virtual Beach, a software package that can be used to develop beach-specific models for predicting fecal indicator bacteria levels in real time based on easily measurable beach conditions such as wind, current, and waves. Previously collected data on beach conditions and bacteria counts are fed into the software to create a model that predicts beachwater quality based on the most important variables.

Minnesota is working to gather the inputs needed for Virtual Beach and to build a model for certain beaches. The Grand Portage Tribe is planning on using predictive models at Grand Portage Bay locations 1, 2, and 2.5. Minnesota has no preemptive rainfall standards but does post advisories after known sewage overflows or other events that are considered likely to result in high bacteria levels. In addition, the public is advised to wait 24 hours before going swimming after rainfall in urban areas.

The Great Lakes Commission (GLC), in partnership with LimnoTech and the Great Lakes states, has developed a free smartphone application that provides convenient, public access to swim advisories and other environmental conditions information for more than 1,800 beaches in the Great Lakes region. Funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the myBeachCast application (app) retrieves locational and advisory data for Great Lakes and inland lake beaches in the eight Great Lakes states. The app also features real-time and forecasted weather and lake conditions (e.g., water temperature, wave heights, wind speed/direction) and nearshore marine forecasts, drawn from the Great Lakes Observing System (GLOS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). myBeachCast allows users to discover local beaches based on the user’s location, view beaches and their status on a map, save favorite beaches, and get driving directions. To download myBeachCast, go to

The Great Lakes Regional Collaboration (GLRC) Strategy identifies coastal health as a priority recognizing the significance of beaches to the economic well-being, health and quality of life of the region's citizens. The GLRC Clean Beaches Initiative is an effort to help encourage the implementation of best beach management practices, including the use of sanitary surveys and actions to remediate contamination sources, as outlined by the GLRC Strategy. The GLRC Clean Beaches Initiative workgroup is comprised of federal, state, local, and tribal partners.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), through its Great Lakes Beach Health Initiative, has been conducting research to advance the science of beach health in the Great Lakes for over a decade. The overall mission of this work is to provide science-based information and methods that will allow beach managers to more accurately make beach closure and advisory decisions, understand the sources and physical processes affecting beach contaminants, and understand how science-based information can be used to mitigate and restore beaches and protect the public. The work consists of four science elements—real-time assessments; pathogens and microbial source tracking; coastal processes; and data analysis, interpretation, and communication.

National Ocean Service/National Center for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) has carried out many water quality research projects in Minnesota.

Water Quality Contacts

Cynthia Hakala
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

Margaret Watkins
Grand Portage Environmental Department

Heidi Bauman, Program Coordinator
Lake Superior Beach Monitoring Program
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency – Northeast Region
Phone: 218-302-6607
Toll Free: 1-800-657-3864
TTY: 651-282-5332

Melissa Rauner, Data Coordinator
Lake Superior Beach Monitoring Program
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency – Northeast Region
Phone: 218-302-6645
Toll Free: 1-800-657-3864
TTY: 651-282-5332

Pat Carey, Program Supervisor
Lake Superior Beach Monitoring Program
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency – Northeast Region
Phone: 218-723-4744
Toll Free: 1-800-657-3864
TTY: 651-282-5332

Anne Moore, Information Officer
Lake Superior Beach Monitoring Program
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency – Northeast Region
Phone: 218-302-6605
Toll Free: 1-800-657-3864
TTY: 651-282-5332

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency – Northeast Region
525 South Lake Avenue, Suite 400
Duluth, MN 55802

Beach Closures

NRDC reported:

In 2013, Minnesota reported 92 coastal beaches, 53 of which were monitored. Of all reported beach monitoring samples, 8% exceeded the Beach Action Value (BAV) of 190 E. coli bacteria colony forming units (cfu) per 100 ml freshwater in a single sample. NRDC considers all reported samples individually (without averaging) when calculating the percent exceedance rates in this analysis. This includes duplicate samples and reported samples taken outside the official beach season, if any.

The beaches with the highest percent exceedance rates of the BAV in 2013 were Agate Bay Beach in Lake County (39%), Park Point 20th Street/Hearding Island Canal Beach in St. Louis County (30%), Burlington Bay Beach in Lake County (28%), and Park Point Sky Harbor Parking Lot Beach (22%) and Boy Scout Landing Beach in St. Louis County (20%).

For a bar chart showing a 5-year water quality trend, see NRDC's report.

In June 2013, U.S. EPA released its latest data about beach closings and advisories for the 2012 swimming season. Note that for some states the data is incomplete, making state-to-state or year-to-year comparisons difficult. Here's EPA's BEACH Report for Minnesota's 2012 Swimming Season. EPA no longer publishes this report.

Storm Drains and Sewage Outfalls

Information on the location or number of storm drains and sewage outfalls to Lake Superior in Minnesota was not readily available.

Sewage Collection and Treatment

The City of Duluth sanitary sewers have a total length of approximately 1,831,000 feet (347 miles). The sewer system is divided into 30 basins. The system gravity feeds to Western Lake Superior Sanitary District (WLSSD) interceptors. Forty-three Pump Stations assure the continual movement of wastewater through the system. The system services approximately 26,000 residential accounts, 1200 commercial accounts and 4 industrial accounts. Approximately 18 million gallons of waste water flow through the system daily from the City. Another 25 million gallons per day (mgd) meet it at WLSSD after arriving from Cloquet, Wrenshall, Esko, Scanlon, Carlton, the Sappi Paper Mill (formerly Potlatch Paper), Hermantown, Rice Lake township, the North Shore of Lake Superior and Proctor. The combined flow of about 43 mgd is still well below the plant's peak capacity of about 100-120 mgd.

Significant portions of Duluth's sewer system were constructed in the early 1900s with some sewers dating back to the 1870s. New sewers have been added to the system up to the present time as additional residential, commercial and industrial development has occurred. Sewers are updated as needed and following review as part of Duluth's Street Improvement Program.

Western Lake Superior Sanitary District's regional wastewater treatment plant at 27th Avenue West and Courtland Street in Duluth treats about 40 million gallons of wastewater from homes, business and industries every day.

The District's Website has information on Sewer Overflows and efforts to eliminate them.

The issue of an aging sewer system discussed above for Duluth is not unique to that municipality. Throughout the state, many sewer systems are 50 or more years old. A 2012 report, Wasting Away discusses this problem in detail and recommends that the state use its bonding capacity to fund projects for the smallest communities with the greatest sewage infrastructure needs. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Project Priority List (PPL) evaluates which projects are of greatest environmental need. More than 300 projects, including more than a dozen in the St. Peter-Mankato area are listed. Projects range from upgrading waste and storm water treatment facilities to connecting towns that have long been unsewered. A major city that has done a good job upgrading its sewer infrastructure and minimizing combined sewer overflows is Minneapolis.

A series of articles in the Great Lakes Echo discuss stormwater and municipal wastewater issues throughout the Great Lakes that are impacting recreational water quality.

Septic Systems

Subsurface Sewage Treatment Systems (SSTS), commonly known as septic systems, are regulated by Minnesota Statutes 115.55 and 115.56. These regulations detail:

  • Minimum technical standards for individual and mid-size SSTS (Chapter 7080 and 7081);
  • A framework for local administration of SSTS programs (Chapter 7082) and;
  • Statewide licensing and certification of SSTS professionals, SSTS product review and registration, and establishment of the SSTS Advisory Committee. (Chapter 7083).

The Minnesota Coastal Nonpoint Program

The Coastal Nonpoint Program encourages better coordination between state coastal zone managers and water quality experts to reduce polluted runoff in the coastal zone. The state received full approval of their program in 2006.

The Coastal Program is engaged in facilitating the implementation of the Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Program through the 306/306A grants, educational programs, and encouraging the incorporation of nonpoint source pollution control planning into local planning.

The Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program document identifies the programs and enforceable authorities that Minnesota uses to control nonpoint pollution in each of six nonpoint source categories, as defined in the Guidance Specifying Management Measures For Sources of Nonpoint Pollution in Coastal Water. The six nonpoint source pollution categories are:

  1. Agriculture
  2. Forestry
  3. Urban and Rural Areas
  4. Marinas
  5. Hydromodification
  6. Wetlands

To better manage stormwater across the state, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) administers the requirements of the federal Clean Water Act in addition to its own State Disposal System requirements. At the MPCA, the Stormwater Program includes three general stormwater permits: the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Permit, the Construction Stormwater Permit and the Industrial Stormwater Permit. Each program administers a general permit (and in some cases, individual permits) that incorporates federal and state requirements for Minnesota stormwater management.

In early 2013 the MPCA unveiled the Minnesota Stormwater Manual website. The Manual is designed to be a user-friendly and flexible document that guides users directly to the information they need, depending upon the question they need to answer or Best Management Practice (BMP) they need to design. This website was developed in an interactive wiki format to make it easy for the user to get to the subject of interest and to move between subjects. Here is the Table of Contents.

Water Quality Contact (Runoff and Outfalls)

DNR Coastal Nonpoint Specialist:
Amber Westerbur
(218) 834-1445
1568 Hwy 2
Two Harbors, MN 55616

MPCA Coastal Nonpoint Coordinator:
Brian Fredrickson
(218) 723-4898 or (800) 657-3864
525 S. Lake Ave., Ste. 400
Duluth, MN 55802

Perception of Causes

U.S. EPA and federal, state and local beach program partners developed standardized beach sanitary survey forms in 2007. These forms assist beach managers with a consistent approach to identify pollution sources, share information, and plan source remediation. The forms were successfully piloted by 61 Great Lakes beaches during the 2007 beach season, through EPA funding. The Great Lakes Regional Collaboration (GLRC) Clean Beaches Initiative is focused on broadening the use of these standard sanitary survey forms throughout the Great Lakes region. Beach managers, cities, tribes, and citizen volunteers are encouraged to use the standard sanitary survey forms and take this first critical step towards ensuring clean and safe beaches.

In Grand Marais, a small town on the slopes of Lake Superior, rain storms routinely flooded the downtown area two to three times each summer, causing public safety and water quality concerns. Many areas of the community also suffered from severe erosion problems. The town was worried that the existing problems would only worsen as the community grows. With funding from Minnesota's Lake Superior Coastal Management Program, Grand Marais was able to develop a storm water management plan to address their concerns. Using their new storm water plan as a guide, the town's multi-agency storm water committee was then able to prioritize projects to improve Grand Marais' storm water management system and restore water quality. Not only has the plan established a defined process to implement further runoff control efforts, but it promoted cooperation between city and county government, two groups that had not worked together closely in the past. Having a storm water plan in place and prioritized actions has made it much easier for the town to develop and fund other storm water control efforts. Grand Marais received almost $350,000 in funding through the Great Lakes Coastal Restoration (GLCR) Grants program administered through OCRM and the Minnesota Coastal Program. With this additional funding, they were able to implement two priority storm water restoration tasks in areas prone to flooding and severe erosion identified in the storm water management plan.

Stream assessments are prepared for the U.S. Congress under Section 305b of the Clean Water Act to:

  • estimate the extent to which Minnesota waterbodies meet the goals of the Clean Water Act and attain state water quality standards, and
  • share this information with planners, citizens and other partners in basin planning and watershed management activities.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) compiles a list of the state's impaired lakes and stream segments. Updated every two years, Minnesota’s draft 2012 TMDL List (also known as the 303(d) List) contains 2171 impairments that require TMDL studies; 511 of those impairments are proposed new listings. The Inventory of all impaired waters now totals 3,638, which includes impairments in need of TMDLs, those with completed TMDLs that have not yet been restored, and impairments due to natural sources. Water bodies can be listed for more than one pollutant or reach. A water body is removed from the list only after it has been restored and meets all state and federal water quality standards. The proposed 2012 Impaired Waters list and methodology for listing are available on the MPCA Website. Only a fraction of Minnesota's waters have been monitored and assessed so far for impairments. The MPCA has initiated or completed water monitoring in 21 percent of the state's 81 major watersheds. The state is on track to monitor all of the state's watersheds on a 10-year schedule.

In March 2017 Governor Mark Dayton and Republican legislators were battling over a buffer law originally passed in 2015 and set to take effect in November 2017. The law requires 50-foot strips of grass and other perennial plants on farmland along waterways to filter fertilizer and soil runoff that is a significant cause of diminished water quality in Minnesota. Several northern Minnesota counties are on record opposing the buffer law in its current form. One legislative proposal that concerns state officials and environmental groups says that unless 100 percent of the cost of establishing buffers is covered by state or federal funding, a landowner wouldn't need to comply with the law. More on this.

Plans are moving ahead for a copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota, a type of mining new to the state, but in other parts of the world similar mines are polluting rivers and lakes. More Info

An article in the Great Lakes Echo in December 2012 discussed many of the water quality problems in the Great Lakes, including bacterial pollution, algal blooms and invasive species.

Great Lakes Restoration

In June 2009 President Obama appointed Cameron Davis, president of the Chicago-based Alliance for the Great Lakes, the first-ever Great Lakes “czar.” Mr. Davis coordinated federal programs on the lakes, including efforts to clean up contaminated sediments, reduce existing pollution sources and work to stop the spread of invasive species. The position was part of a $5 billion, 10-year restoration plan Obama released during his 2008 presidential campaign. Davis' official title is "Senior Advisor to the Administrator" Lisa Jackson at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Congress approved legislation in late October 2009 that included $475 million to restore the Great Lakes by combating invasive species, cleaning up highly polluted sites and expanding wetlands. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) includes:

  • $146 million for cleaning up pollution in sediment in feeder rivers and harbors before it flows into the Lakes.
  • $105 million to protect and restore habitat and wildlife.
  • $97 million to stop "nonpoint" pollution, such as farm fertilizer and oil runoff, that closes beaches and leads to fish kills.
  • $65 million to evaluate how the Lakes and wildlife are responding to cleanup efforts.
  • $60 million for combating zebra mussels and other invasive species.

This initiative will use outcome-oriented performance goals and measures to target the most significant problems and track progress in addressing them. EPA and its Federal partners will coordinate State, tribal, local, and industry actions to protect, maintain, and restore the chemical, biological, and physical integrity of the Great Lakes. The Initiative builds upon 5 years of work of the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force (IATF) and stakeholders, guided by the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy. The IATF included 11 cabinet and agency organizations, including: EPA, the Council on Environmental Quality, and the Departments of State, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Homeland Security, Army, and Health and Human Services.

The IATF developed a Plan for the $475 million budget, including over $250 million in grants and project agreements aimed at achieving the long term goals: safely eating the fish and swimming at our beaches, assuring safe drinking water, and providing a healthy ecosystem for fish and wildlife. A companion Agency Actions document describes proposed accomplishments for each Agency pursuant to the Initiative.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative website provides additional information on the progress of this initiative, including the award of grants for specific projects.

The FY2010-FY2014 Great Lakes Restoration Action Plan was released on February 21, 2010. This Plan provides information about how the GLRI will address specific high profile, basin-wide issues (for example, aquatic invasive species) as well as critical but more localized issues (for example, contaminated sediments). EPA and the IATF used this plan to guide the overall direction and focus of GLRI and laid out the goals, objectives, measures, and actions to help track federal efforts from fiscal year 2010 through 2014. Great Lakes Restoration Action Plan II for FY2015-2019 was released in September 2014 and builds upon the work of the first GLRI Action Plan. More information on the action plan can be found here.

The report State of the Great Lakes 2016 contains discussions on each of the Great Lakes and the current and planned restoration projects.

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition consists of more than 145 environmental, conservation, and outdoor recreation organizations, zoos, aquariums and museums. Their member organizations represent millions of people who share a common goal of restoring and protecting North America’s greatest freshwater resource, the Great Lakes. The coalition reflects a growing public awareness of the urgent need to restore the health of the Great Lakes, which are essential to the economic and cultural identity of our region. The coalition’s mission is to secure a sustainable Great Lakes restoration plan and the funding needed to implement it. The coalition seeks to:

  • stop sewage contamination that closes beaches and harms recreational opportunities;
  • clean up toxic sediments that threaten the health of people and wildlife;
  • prevent polluted runoff from cities and farms that harm water quality;
  • restore and protect high quality wetlands and wildlife habitat that filter pollutants, provide a home for fish and wildlife, and support the region’s outdoor recreation economy;
  • prevent the introduction of invasive species, such as Asian carp, that threaten the economy and quality of life for millions of people.

In March 2017 the Trump administration proposed a 97% cut in funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

In February 2014 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the award of a $250,000 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant to the City of Duluth to fund green infrastructure projects to improve water quality in the Lake Superior Basin. Duluth is the first of 16 cities to receive funding in the initial round of EPA’s new Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Shoreline Cities grant program. The grant will be used for green stormwater management projects at three locations: the Lake Superior Zoo, the Atlas Industrial Brownfield Park and Chambers Grove Park. The State of Minnesota, the City of Duluth, the Duluth Economic Development Authority, the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, and the U.S. Army Reserve will provide contributions totaling $250,000 to supplement the EPA grant.

Some progress is being made in restoration of habitat and improvement in water quality. Here are some Minnesota success stories.

Cladophora Algae and Harmful Algal Blooms

Excessive growth of the filamentous green alga, Cladophora sp., was one of the most obvious symptoms of eutrophication in the Great Lakes between the 1950s and 1970s. During the latter part of this period, a large amount of research was conducted to determine the causes of excessive Cladophora growth. While various factors, including nitrogen, phosphorus, temperature and irradiance were found to influence Cladophora growth, phosphorus appeared to be the key factor responsible for excessive growth, and phosphorus abatement was seen as the most effective method of solving the problem. This approach appeared to be validated by the decline in the abundance of Cladophora and other algae in the 1980s following the removal of phosphorus from detergents, improved phosphorus removal by sewage treatment plants, and changes in agricultural practices designed to reduce phosphorus runoff from land – actions that resulted from a 1983 amendment to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

In the past five to ten years, excessive Cladophora growth has re-emerged as a management problem in parts of the Great Lakes. This has resulted in public complaint, generally related to the decline in aesthetic conditions near the lakeshore. Other negative impacts include human health hazards (e.g. Cladophora mats may promote the growth or retention of pathogens), the clogging of water intakes (including those of power plants), the loss of recreation opportunities, and declining lakefront property values. In addition to direct impacts on humans, excessive Cladophora growth may have significant impacts on ecosystem functions and properties such as nutrient cycling, energy flow and food web structure. More info.

A June 2006 report Something’s Amuck, Algae Blooms Return to Michigan Shores by the the Michigan Environmental Council has more on this problem and what can be done to solve it.

A presentation by Michael Evanoff of Michigan DNR Bay City State Recreation Area, Muck Management Uncensored examines the history of "muck management" at this location.

An article Green Disposal of a Green Menace was published in the Great Lakes Echo on July 30, 2013. This article discusses options for disposal of Cladophora algae, including composting and possibly using it in the production of biofuels.

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and Michigan Sea Grant have produced a brochure The Beach Manager's Manual - Harmful Algal Blooms.

The NOAA Center of Excellence for Great Lakes and Human Health (CEGLHH) is hosting a series of Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Stakeholder Workshops in Great Lakes states. The purpose of these workshops is to bring together public health, water, beach/natural resource managers, and tribes to discuss and assess the HAB issue in the state. For additional information on these Workshops, please see:

In February 2008, the Alliance for the Great Lakes issued a press release criticizing the state's draft 2008 305(b) report of impaired waters for failing to document a dramatic increase in algae blooms in Saginaw Bay and along Western Lake Erie.

Invasive Species

Several invasive species threaten threaten the ecological health of Lake Superior and inland lakes, including the spiny water flea. Spiny water fleas disrupt the food chain because they compete with small fish for plankton. Another invasive species of concern are zebra mussels. More info on invasive species.

Public Education

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has information on Low Impact Development.

Low impact development (LID) is a stormwater management approach and site-design technique that emphasizes water infiltration, values water as a resource and promotes the use of natural systems to treat water runoff. Low impact development is a way to mimic the natural process and to avoid water pollution. Low impact development principles complement, and sometimes replace, traditional stormwater management systems, which historically emphasized moving stormwater off-site with curbs, pipes, ditches and ponds. The primary goal of LID is to design each development site to protect, or restore, the natural hydrology of the site so that the overall integrity of the watershed is protected. This is done by creating a "hydrologically" functional landscape.

The Metropolitan Council and Barr Engineering Co., with guidance and support from the City of Minneapolis, City of St. Paul and others, has prepared in 2001 an Urban Small Sites Best Management Practice (BMP) Manual to provide information on tools and techniques to assist Twin Cities municipalities and Watershed Management Organizations to guide development and redevelopment. The manual includes detailed information on 40 BMPs that are aimed at managing stormwater pollution for small urban sites (less than five acres) in a cold-climate setting. The goal of the manual is to support the principles of smart growth by accommodating growth while preserving the environment.

Also see the Minnesota Stormwater Manual which:

  • Serves as a valuable resource for professional stormwater managers
  • Welcomes newcomers to the stormwater field
  • Provides practical stormwater management practices that are reviewed and edited regularly

In 2013 the Minnesota Stormwater Manual went digital in a user-friendly wiki-format website.

In September 2006, the Minnesota Lake Superior Coastal Program and the South St. Louis Soil and Water Conservation District coordinated a 3-hour bus tour of nonpoint source reduction sites in the western Lake Superior Watershed. The tour was designed to educate attendees of the Minnesota Waters 2006 Conference, Lake and River Association Members, engineers, local planning staff, and area natural resource managers about effective stormwater control practices for the region. Over 40 people participated in the tour, which highlighted innovative stormwater treatment devices including rain gardens, biofiltration basins, underground stormwater storage, grass swales, and open space preservation. Discussion topics at the tour sites included engineering and design aspects of innovative stormwater practices, owner perspectives, future monitoring needs, and important lessons learned.

Blue-green algae is a type of harmful algal bloom that can occur in lakes in Minnesota during the summer. MPCA has information on blue-green algae, including a fact sheet, photos, and technical reports.

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and Michigan Sea Grant have produced a brochure The Beach Manager's Manual - Harmful Algal Blooms.

The interactive website Lake Superior Streams provides real-time water quality data from regional streams and incorporates the data into community information, classroom curricula, and case studies. A site design toolkit for reducing stormwater impacts is geared toward a broad audience that includes contractors, developers, and local government decision makers.

DNR's Restore Your Shore is a powerful multimedia program for shoreland owners and professionals to use in implementing shoreland restoration and protection projects. The Restore Your Shore online program guides property owners through the process of protecting a natural shoreline or restoring a degraded shore with a natural buffer zone.

Minnesota Sea Grant extension educators and communications team provide information on such things as aquatic invasive species, coastal community planning, water quality, fisheries and aquaculture, and maritime transportation.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) maintains a website, Water Resources of Minnesota. This site is a valuable source of information including current projects, online reports, publications, maps, real-time water conditions, and educational outreach material for teachers and students.

Minnesota Project WET (Water Education for Teachers) is an international, interdisciplinary, water science and education program for formal and non-formal educators of K-12 students.

Plastics and other litter, abandoned vessels, and derelict fishing gear have been a long-standing problem for the Great Lakes. In order to begin to address this problem, the Great Lakes community worked together to produce the Great Lakes Land-based Marine Debris Action Plan. The action plan provides scientists, governments, stakeholders, and decision makers a road map for strategic progress to see that the Great Lakes, its coasts, people, and wildlife are free from the impacts of marine debris. It centers around a mission to combat debris through an increased understanding of the problem, preventative actions, reductions in impacts, education and outreach, and collaborative efforts from diverse groups.

In May 2009 the 8th Biennial Lake Superior Youth Symposium was held. The symposium, held every two years at various locations along Lake Superior, brings together 8th through 12th grade students and teachers from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ontario to learn about Lake Superior, its ecosystems, and cultural history through hands-on field trips and classroom sessions. The Minnesota Lake Superior Coastal Management Program sponsored this year’s symposium along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The 54th International Conference on Great Lakes Research was be held on the shores of Lake Superior, in Duluth, Minnesota in 2011. During the conference, NOAA Marine Debris Program staff presented a poster titled, “NOAA Protocols for Marine Debris Monitoring and Assessment in Coastal Surface Waters of the Great Lakes.” Staff also participated in a site visit to Radio Tower Bay along the St. Louis River. This site is within one of the Great Lakes Areas of Concern and has received funding from NOAA Great Lakes Habitat Restoration Program through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to remove marine debris.

The International Joint Commission (U.S. and Canada) has a Beaches and Recreational Water Quality Workgroup that has developed a Beaches Fact Sheet and several other documents evaluating sources of recreational water quality contamination and reviewing best management practices.

General Reference Documents and Websites

EPA has compiled several NPS (Nonpoint Source) Outreach Products that are a selection of television, radio, and print products on nonpoint source pollution that have been developed by various agencies and organizations around the country. They are good examples of outreach in the mass media. Also see What You Can Do.

NOAA, in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, International City/County Management Association and Rhode Island Sea Grant, has released an interagency guide that adapts smart growth principles to the unique needs of coastal and waterfront communities. Smart Growth for Coastal and Waterfront Communities builds on existing smart growth principles to offer 10 coastal and waterfront-specific guidelines that help manage development while balancing environmental, economic, and quality of life issues.

State of the Beach Report: Minnesota
Minnesota Home Beach Description Beach Access Water Quality Beach Erosion Erosion Response Beach Fill Shoreline Structures Beach Ecology Surfing Areas Website
2011 7 SOTB Banner Small.jpg