Field Notes - River Comeback
Dakota Countys Vermillion River is continuing its comeback as a trophy cold-water fishery. Another 20.5 miles of the river and its tributaries have been deemed clean enough for official designation as a trout stream, the DNR recently announced.
The designation covers a reach from State Highway 3 in Farmington to just east of U.S. 52 in Vermillion Townshipnearly doubling the previously designated stretch from Lakeville to Farmington.
Rated one of the upper Midwests top brook-trout streams at the beginning of the 20th century, the Vermillion became so degraded that by 1959 its waters were judged unfit for any game fish. Industrial and residential wastewater and agricultural practices had taken their toll.
In recent years the Vermillion has benefited from increasing attention. The countys Soil and Water Conservation District, in partnership with private landowners, the nonprofit Friends of the Mississippi River, and the DNR, has undertaken several streambank restoration projects. The Dakota County Farmland and Natural Areas program, funded by a newly passed
$20 million referendum, has identified the river corridor as a priority for protection.
"Not many communities in a major metropolitan area can boast of a trout stream running through them," said Dirk Peterson, DNR fisheries manager. "And its not often we see this type of recovery, from a seriously impaired water to a trophy fishery. This is testimony to the impacts of the Clean Water Act, improvements in land use, and good local planning."
Designation prohibits angling except during trout season (from mid-April through late September) and sets stricter standards for activities that could harm water quality, such as discharge of municipal storm water.
Storm-water runoff is of particular concern in the rapidly urbanizing Vermillion River watershed. As the area develops, land that once allowed rain to soak into the ground is covered with impervious surfaces such as pavement and roofs. Running over these surfaces, water warms up, picks up pollutants, and reaches the stream more quickly, causing thermal and chemical pollution as well as erosion and sedimentation. All of these factors can add up to the demise of a trout stream.
With Metropolitan Council projections of 145,000 more residents in Dakota County by 2030, the cold, clean waters of the Vermillion could be at risk if growth and storm-water management arent well-planned, said DNR trout stream habitat specialist Jason Moeckel.
Moeckel points to Lakeville to illustrate how a community can allow development and maintain a healthy cold-water fishery. During planning and development of an industrial park over the past five years, city and county officials worked with the DNR to implement alternative storm-water management practices to protect the river.
"Its not an either-or situation," Moeckel said. "What it means is cities and developers have to use different approaches to managing storm-water runoff."
DNR information officer