Elk River Watershed TMDLs

elk river tmdl mapThese TMDLs focus on Mayhew Lake (about eight miles northeast of the city of Sauk Rapids), Big Elk Lake (just northeast of the city of Clear Lake), and a stretch of the Elk River (between Big Elk Lake and the St. Francis River. Mayhew Lake and Big Elk Lake are impaired due to excess nutrients, primarily phosphorus. The Elk River reach is impaired due to excess turbidity and bacteria, primarily E. coli. Elk River watershed is located in the southeastern portion of the Upper Mississippi Basin, within the Mississippi River-St. Cloud watershed.


The Elk River Watershed Association (ERWA) and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) began working on TMDLs for Mayhew Lake, Big Elk Lake, and the Elk River late in 2008. Since that time the ERWA has completed the rigorous collection of water quality data to support the program, held a series of public meetings which took place at different stages of the program, and completed a draft TMDL Report and corresponding Water Quality Cleanup Plan.


In 2011, the draft TMDL underwent a 30 day public comment period. During this period it was noted that not all wasteload allocations were discovered. Necessary edits were completed and the draft TMDL underwent an additional public comment period in February and March of 2012. A draft Implementation Plan was constructed and sent out for peer review. The TMDL was then sent the the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) where it was given final approval as of June 2012. The corresponding Implementation Plan was reviewed and approved by the MPCA.


Final TMDL Report

Final Implementation Plan


Grant applications to address the bacteria impairment have been submitted. Some of the potential programs to reduce pollution include:

  • Livestock exclusion from waterways
  • Improved timing of manure application (no winter spreading)
  • Riparian buffers
  • Failing/leaking septic system low interest loans
  • Lakeshore buffers


More information can be found on the ERWA website as well as the MPCA website.