Scientists, farmers argue over L. Pepin sediment

Published 9:32 am Friday, May 13, 2011

By Mark Steil, Minnesota Public Radio News

Flanked by timbered bluffs flecked with bare rock outcroppings, the blue waters of Lake Pepin are visually stunning, even to longtime visitors.

The 20-mile long wide spot in the Mississippi River is a traditional summer destination for tourists, and the spot where water-skiing was invented. But problems are brewing under the surface of Lake Pepin.

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When it rains on the farmlands of southern Minnesota, rivers wash soil and sand toward the Mississippi. When the sediment reaches the slow-moving waters of Lake Pepin, it settles to the bottom, just like too much sugar in unstirred coffee.

A new report from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency essentially blames farmers for the growing sediment. Agency officials say agriculture has transformed the land so that more water flows into rivers, dramatically boosting riverbank erosion and sediment deposits in Lake Pepin.

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