Upper Red River Watershed TMDL Study


The Minnesota portion of the Upper Red River Watershed (URRW) encompasses 499 square miles within the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District (BRRWD) and is the focus of the Upper Red River Watershed Restoration and Protection (WRAP) project. The majority of the watershed lies in Clay and Wilkin Counties, with a small portion of the watershed within Otter Tail County. The URRW is bordered on the west by the Red River of the North (Red River), to the north and east by the Buffalo River Watershed, and to the east and south by the Otter Tail River Watershed. Municipalities within the URRW include Georgetown, Dilworth, Moorhead, Sabin, Comstock, Wolverton, Rothsay, Kent, and Breckenridge.

MPCA has listed 12 reaches within the URRW as impaired for water quality. Ten of the 12 impairments account for the entire stretch of the Red River bordering the western edge of the URRW. The other two reaches are Whiskey Creek and Wolverton Creek. No lakes within the URRW appear on the impaired waters list. The BRRWD and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) are working together with other partners to restore these impaired waters while continuing to protect waters that do meet standards and prevent them from becoming impaired. These efforts are being done under the Upper Red River WRAP project and are driven by the MPCA’s Watershed Approach. Click here to learn more about this Approach.

The Upper Red River WRAP began in 2012 and will end in 2014. Outcomes of the project will include the setting of water quality goals and targets for reducing pollution and the identification of strategies to achieve these goals and targets.

WRAP project Phases / Products

Objectives of the work include:

  • Prepare a Watershed Conditions Report for the URRW, which describes the physical, economic, and social setting and compute various water quality and flow statistics for use in assessing the health of the URRW’s waters; (completed in September 2012 and viewable here).
  • Design and implement civic engagement activities that inform and engage the public in the WRAP process;
  • Work with local partners to identify water quality stressors and priority management areas in the URRW;
  • Use computer models and other techniques to identify sources and causes of water quality impairments;
  • Develop pollutant load allocations and protection strategies within the URRW;
  • Prepare a draft Upper Red River WRAP Project Plan;
  • Prepare a draft URRW Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) document;
  • Prepare a final Upper Red River WRAP Project Plan; and
  • Prepare a final URRW TMDL document, for submission to the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA).

Intensive Watershed Monitoring Results Highlighted in Conditions Reports

As part of the MPCA’s watershed approach, the agency has begun an Intensive Watershed Monitoring (IWM) program to assess the health of the 81 major watersheds across the state on a 10-year cycle, monitoring for both chemical and biological factors. The URRW was among the first to complete this monitoring. The IWM took place during the 2008 monitoring seasons. A map of the sites included in that work is available here.

The IWM included findings that: 1) There are currently no stream segments in the watershed that fully support aquatic life or aquatic recreation.; and 2) Habitat throughout the watershed was observed to be generally in poor condition with concerns over dissolved oxygen levels.

Public Involvement

We need your help! It’s important that those who live in the URRW are involved, because you know the area better than anyone else. We need your insights to identify the places that are important to consider as well as identify solutions that are workable within the community. The current project team includes a group of stakeholders that represents land owners and residents. However, anyone who is interested can join this group at any time or attend any of the public meetings associated with the project. As the project reaches important milestones, such as completing the reports mentioned above, open houses are held to share results and discuss findings. Upon request, the project team will also share developments with local groups. Please watch for your opportunity to participate and come back to this website to find project updates and announcements of public meetings.

Additional Links

MPCA Upper Red River Watershed page
Upper Red River Watershed Restoration and Protection Project Team Participants
Map of the Stream Monitoring Locations in the URRW
MPCA Watershed Approach

Contact Us

Contact us by email to learn how you can get involved, request a presentation, ask a question or provide a comment. Or just give us a call at the BRRWD office, (218) 354-7710


The following organizations and agencies are working with the Watershed District on the Restoration and Protection Project:
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Minnesota Department of Agriculture
Advisory Committee Organization Chart
Buffalo-Red River Watershed District
Houston Engineering, Inc