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No it's not a sandwich.

 

WRAPS stands for Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies, which doesn't help much in understanding what a WRAPS really is. Consider all the lakes and streams in Minnesota. It would be a daunting task to measure the health of every waterbody individually and then write a report about its health. Instead, water resource professionals sample a selction of waterbodies to get a snapshot of a single watershed to gauge how healthy the watershed is as a whole. This is called the Watershed Approach to Restoring and Protecting Water Quality.  You can see more information on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's website here.

Intensive Watershed CycleIn Otter Tail County there are 10 different watersheds that are at least partially within the borders of the county. Some of these are only a few square miles, where others span over 50% of the county. The largest watershed in the county is the Otter Tail River Watershed. This watershed is dotted with lakes, rivers, and other important natural resources. This watershed enters many counties, including Clearwater, Becker, Otter Tail, Clay, and Wilkin Counties. Each of these counties have different rules and priorities, which can make it difficult to imrpove water resources across the watershed. WRAPS is a state driven process to align all these different counties' goals and actions to protect the watershed.

Otter Tail River Watershed Boundaries

Federal clean water requirements also play a role in the development of WRAPS. Once results from the Watershed Approach to Restoring and Protecting Water Quality are known in watershed (which usually takes 2-3 summers), the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is required by federal law (known as the Clean Water Act) to create a document that outlines what needs to be done in unhealthy waters to bring them back to standards. This is done by estimating how much of a particular pollutant can be added to the waterbody and have it still meet standards.  This is called the Total Maximum Daily Load and is often abbreviated TMDL. The difference in the TMDL and the current load or, amount of pollutant entering the waterbody, is the reduction needed. A large document explaining the monitoring, calculations, and estimates for a TMDL are published before the WRAPS can be written. See the Otter Tail River at 11th Street in Breckenridge Load Duration Curve below for an example of the figures and calculations in a TMDL.

Example Information  in a TMDL

Once the reduction goal is known a plan to reach that goal can be created. Using input from citizens in the watershed, activities planned by local conservation groups, and goals of local Soil and Water Conservation Districts, actions are written into the WRAPS plan. The goal of the WRAPS is to be specific in action, timeline, and budget.  These plans typically cover ten years and can cost many millions of dollars. There is no requirement to fulfill any or all of the actions, but the more a watershed can implement, the healthier the water will be.

Somewhere along the way, someone stopped and thought about the waterbodies that are already healthy. These waters are in great condition and we should be actively trying to prevent them from degrading below the standards. That is what the P in WRAPS is for. Prevention actions are included in the list of actions that will ensure healthy waters stay that way.

This entire process is niether easy nor fast. It typically takes 5 or more years to complete. However, this document can be vitally important for local conservation groups, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and county officials. The actions that can reduce water pollution outlined in the plan will be used by all of these groups to improve water quality or keep it from becoming a problem. To learn more and to see previously completed WRAPS visit here.

Example WRAPS schedule

To make a comprehensive document about the watershed, we need information about the watershed. For many years studies, reports, and projects have been carried out by different agencies in the watershed. However, the Otter Tail River Watershed is very large. There has never been a single site where all this information can be found before. In an effort to create an easy place to store, share, and collect documents about past watershed activities, East Otter Tail SWCD will be creating a website compiling all the known watershed information.  This information will provide the background information about the watershed and be used in the creation of a WRAPS document.

Visit Document Summaries